INTERVIEW: MICHAEL FERRIER of FATHOM LANE
An Interview with MICHAEL FERRIER of Fathom Lane
Led by acclaimed songwriter Michael Ferrier, Minneapolis folk rockers Fathom Lane return with their first album since 2017.
IN THE DRIFTLESS is a poetic and nuanced blend of country, folk, pop, and rock with lyrics exploring themes of loss, isolation, addiction, discovery, and ultimately: redemption. Ferrier’s songs transport listeners across a variety of musical settings ranging from the open spaces of the Midwestern prairies to the dark solitude of a hidden bedroom.
The record also features imaginative covers of songs by the legendary Tom Petty (“You & Me”), and Minnesota transplant country rocker Mary Cutrufello (“Sad Songs & Waltzes Revisited”).
With Ferrier on acoustic guitar and vocals, Fathom Lane also features a cast of fellow artists. Ashleigh Stillhaunts with her breathtaking harmonies and keys, producer and singer Matt Patrick layers in electric guitars anything else necessary, Shane Akers breaks hearts with his lap steel guitar, bassist Paul Boblett lays a groove built for a melodic approach, and drummer Alex Young sets the tone for exploration.
IN THE DRIFTLESS builds on the success of Fathom Lane’s previous record ASILOMAR, delving even more deeply into their signature cinematic blend of folk noir and country rock. Ferrier’s lyrics take the listener on an inner journey of discovery, suggestive of shared dreaming and relationships found and lost. How do we tell love from obsession? How do we relate from vast distances? How do we survive these times? How do we find ourselves again after loss?
We caught up with MICHAEL FERRIER to discuss In The Driftless, his inspiration, process, and future plans. ⏬
Tell us a bit about your new album: IN THE DRIFTLESS
It’s our first full-length album in six years, which is feels like a very long time. I think we can cancel out about three of those years, due to the pandemic, but it’s great to finally get it out there into the world and hear what other folks think of it. Honestly, I had kind of lost perspective on it! It gathers the singles we released over that timespan and puts them back in the context of the entire album. “In The Driftless” lives in a world of folk music, rock, country music, and poetic lyrics but it’s not a “genre” record, per se. I think our sound blurs the lines between all of those genres we play in and finds its own little world.
What was your creative process/concept with this new album?
We took a unique approach with each of the songs, depending on what we felt the song was asking for. Some of the songs, like Eye Oh Way and The Queen of All Hearts, we tracked all together laying down live tracks. Other songs, like Fire Under Water and Surviving, were based off the acoustic guitar and vocal and we built on that foundation. Ultimately, the album is about loss and pain and then finally redemption. I don’t want to get too specific, because I like it to be very open ended. Each listener can take what they want or need from the album, and hopefully relate it to their own life and experiences.
What did you learn about yourself when writing and creating your new album?
I learned that I don’t like to work slow. This record has essentially been complete for about three years, but because of the Covid shutdowns, etc, it’s been sitting. And that drove me crazy! So I’m really glad that it’s finally getting out to our audience and listeners after such a long time away. I also really tried to focus on keeping everything simple. There’s such an elegance in simplicity, but it takes effort and work to strip things back to their essential elemental purpose. It’s easy to play a ton of notes, when one will do just fine.
Sounds like you have been though a lot of change since your last album and during 2020? How has this impacted your new album….can you expand more on that?
It definitely impacted the album, contributing to the long time it took to get it out. The entire musical landscape has changed so much since 2017. Also, personally, I dealt with some kind of self-inflicted wounds as I went through a divorce and moved out of the city of Minneapolis. I had lived there for decades, so that was a huge transition. On top of all of that is what we all experienced–albeit in our own personal ways—with the pandemic. I feel like I’m still peeling away layers of that fog that descended on us all. All of it also affected the material in the album, reflecting the loss and heartbreak and then ultimately feelings of hope and redemption. I think that’s the journey this record takes, from bleakness to hope and light.
What single is your favorite track off your new album and why?
Oh wow, that’s like trying to choose between children! I love them all equally! HA! Seriously, though, it’s a difficult question to answer. Each of the songs is so unique to me and has a special corner of my heart. I will say that one of my favorites to play live is “The Lookout”. It has a sexier, groovier, dirtier feel than just about every other song I’ve written so it takes us in new and different directions at our live shows.
The record also features two very creative covers one by the legendary Tom Petty (“You & Me”), and Minnesota transplant country rocker Mary Cutrufello (“Sad Songs & Waltzes Revisited”). How did you end up picking those two artists and why those two songs? Tell us more about that?
Tom Petty was really a big spark for me at the beginning of Fathom Lane, I was really getting into his lesser-known albums and songs and the simplicity of what he did was so inspiring. So the first song on our first album is a Tom Petty cover that we really tried to make our own. The cover on the new album is actually the third of his tunes that we’ve put on record. The song “You & Me” sounds do lovely and pleasant on the surface, but if you dive in you realize the complexity of it. We made it into a duet, with Ashleigh and I singing lines back and forth, and it brings a new dimension to the lyrics. The characters are admitting their flaws, see them in each other, and still commit to being together “wherever that wind might blow”. It was a message perfect to close out the album. With the Mary Cutrufello song, that was one I discovered when I met her at a songwriters showcase. She played it, and I thought THIS SONG IS ABOUT ME! So I asked her if we could cover it on our next record and she was excited. The line that she wrote: “I’m gonna buy me a pickup, and pick up my pieces” really resonated with me and where I was at when I heard it. It was so simple, but so empowering.
What is next for Fathom Lane? Any big plans?
I’m ready to get back into the studio and make another record! And the big plan is to keep writing songs forever and ever.
FATHOM LANE “In The Driftless”
1. How is Begins 6:02
2. Surviving 3:22
3. Fire Under Water 2:50
4. Sad Songs and Waltzes Revisited 4:22
5. The Lookout 4:51
6. Laurelee 4:44
7. Eye Oh Way 6:09
8. The Queen Of All Hearts 5:10
9. The Stranger in Me 4:53
10. You And Me
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