Frazey Ford struts down the back lanes of East Vancouver in sequins and dances on the street in lamé in her video for “Done,” which immediately went viral this spring.
“I’m sorry that you don’t like your life,” she croons languidly, adding, “My joy takes nothing from you.”
The co-founder of the Be Good Tanyas-turned-solo artist plans to bring stories of pain and strength to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, which runs July 17 to 19. She’s sewn herself a gold lamé dress for her first solo appearance at the festival.
While the Be Good Tanyas are often filed under alt-country, Ford’s most recent album, Indian Ocean, combines a more soulful feel with the singer’s silky voice and horns from the Deep South.
Obadiah, Ford’s 2010 album, focused on her family history and recent breakups, while her new album was influenced by her collaboration with the Hi Rhythm Section in Memphis.
Music historian, author and documentarian Robert Gordon heard Ford’s Obadiah song “If You Gonna Go” on the radio and it reminded him of Al Green. He phoned the station to learn the name of the song’s artist, looked Ford up on Wikipedia and then contacted her, matchmaking Ford with the Hi Rhythm Section, which worked on Green’s 1974 hit “Take Me To the River.”
Her connection with the music veterans who experienced highs in the 1970s and personal struggles in the 1980s and have sojourned on was powerful.
“I’m bringing forward some songs about abuse or it’s about death… No matter what you play, they bring this level of joy to it,” she said. “That’s just kind of a bottom line of everything that they do. Music is here to uplift. It’s not there to take you down even if it’s very sad and you’re talking about really difficult things. It’s going to be uplifting and healing. Part of me knew that, but it was really kind of driven home in my experience with them.”
Indian Ocean’s “Season After Season” deals with abuse Ford experienced as a child.
“Maybe there’s no one to blame, but I would like to give you back your shame,” she sings in the slow number.
Ford felt anxiety about including the ballad on the album, but she did so to spark an honest conversation about something that’s all too common to girls and women. She’s not interested wallowing in pain or broadcasting anger, but in learning how to let go.
“It’s about reclaiming these aspects of yourself so that you don’t carry forward with the confusion and the haze and the fog that allows you to be a victim or vulnerable,” Ford said. “Until you own that rage, you never have your body back.”
She came up with the album’s title while looking out to the Indian Ocean from a porch in Indonesia and feeling a longing ache.
Making the album, released by Nettwerk, gave her solace.
“When the album was done there was just this warmth and soothing quality that came through to me,” she said. “That overall message of the ocean and the time it takes for things to wash over you and change and the things that you can let go of that you never could imagine that you could let go of.”
Ford has engaged in art therapy for years and considers becoming a therapist as a potential career option.
Being a musician wasn’t what a teenaged Ford dreamt of. At 16, she wanted to be a doctor.
“I was a bit of a Type A character and I accidentally got put into [a music] class,” she said. “I kept going back and doing sciences and then I’d take a year and just write songs. It was just always a strong force.”
“I feel lucky that I didn’t need it as an ego thing,” she continued. “It was just a part of my almost spiritual life.”
The Hi Rhythm Section won’t join Ford in Vancouver — one of the three Hodges brothers in the group has died since they recorded with her — but she’ll be backed by other musician buddies, replete with horns and lamé.
The 38th annual Folk Fest features roughly 60 acts from more than 14 countries performing on multiple day and evening stages at Jericho Beach Park. Other performers include Angélique Kidjo, Richard Thompson and Hawksley Workman. Admission for children 12 and younger is free when accompanied by an adult. For more information, see thefestival.bc.ca.