by Mary Moore
Photo by Ryan Hodges Photography
Mary Moore is a supporter of the arts. She’s a giver of sunshine and a purveyor of the whimsical as well. She also loves music. Especially music of the local variety. She used to host both local and touring musicians at her home in the town of New Haven, Indiana. “House shows” as we like to call them around here. My wife and I even went to one years ago. It was local music maestro Mark Hutchins with Michigan-based Small Houses. It was a lovely time.
Mary recently took a shot at feature writing and her subject was Fort Wayne-based singer/songwriter D Ferren of D Ferren and the Sad Bastards. She was looking for a place to publish her piece and I thought what better place than right here at Backseat Mafia? So here we are. Grab a cup of coffee, take a seat, and read on. – J Hubner
Sometimes our heroes are armed with guitars, lyrical dexterity, and a compelling band of compatriots. I find fascination in any artist’s or hero’s journey, and was pleased to interview and get to know Midwest musician Dwane Ferren of D Ferren and the Sad Bastards. Ferren shared his story of the trials and dusty trails that lead us to the release of his upcoming album Something Like Forever.
Ferren hails from small-town Indiana and his musical road map trails Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and the surrounding smaller communities. Ah, the lesser-known parts of the Midwest, where singer/songwriter Damien Jurado once remarked at a Fort Wayne, Indiana B-Side show, “I like coming to these types of towns. People outside of Chicago and Seattle like good music too!” Fort Wayne is also where local music producer, creator, and longtime Dwane Ferren music collaborator Jason Davis gets us to the final product via his Off The Cuff Sound recording studio, but not before lending a “practiced listening ear” and suggestive instrumentation. This is where lessons about pluck and a driven form of musical madness come thanks to a Ferren’s musical compatriot named Jethro Easyfields.
Ferren’s sound is self-described as “alt-country” when he is pressed to do so. His vocal lilts recall the most earnest versions of Social Distortion and Love Spit Love performances. The arrangements of the songs feel at times like dead-slow-rock-n’-roll with a twang for good measure, or straightforward indie rock, and purposefully walks the line between the best of 70’s and 90’s buzzy singer/songwriter guitar-driven ballads. The straightforward-meets-coy songwriting style matches up with Ferren’s conversations about music and the world. Songs on Something Like Forever are genuine expressions of sentiments and discursions in the life of Dwane Ferren. On the title track to the album, he declares, “I say ‘sorry’ if I mean it and look guilty if I really am.” But before we can understand the songwriter, we must understand the man.
Our protagonist grew up in Summitville Indiana, plucking on an acoustic guitar as a pre-teen. His rock-n-roll spirit prevailed after he quit his stodgy music shop guitar lessons, and blessedly amplified when he received an electric guitar for high school graduation. He fell into the songwriting lifestyle soon after. At the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ferren met a group of musicians called The Jesters. This young band of cohorts sold original music to fund special education programs. One member, a resident advisor, would record the musicians on a 4-track recorder in exchange for guitar lessons. The group’s less conventional unofficial music preserver, Jethro Easyfields, hid a recorder in his room to ensure that late-night genius in the form of spontaneous collaborations would not be forgotten. Ferren, being encouraged to write and perform so often stirred his desire to “serve the song” and find his own musical mission.
Saint of Life and the Morning After Cavalier was Ferren’s first solo album, recorded with his friend Jason Davis (the same Jason Davis of Off the Cuff Sound and frontman/driving force in the band Streetlamps for Spotlights.) Songs were written in the raw moment about death, divorce and reaching one’s breaking points. “Probably,” Ferren admits, “if I went to therapy, I never would have written those songs.”
As a happier person now, Ferren has the challenge of writing in earnest without the immediacy of tragic life events that had formerly projected his sorrow-driven pen across paper in prose. For Something Like Forever he had to make himself write in a stream-of-conscious method or he used tricks and techniques from other songwriters he admired such as Elvis Costello. The appreciation for past transgressions and emotional aches provides depth and a karmic equality for new songs about balance, concepts of family roles, and musical compulsions.
Nowadays, Ferren’s aim for his music is to win you over with what he has to say. “If I was removed from the world now, I’m hoping people could listen to the songs and say, ‘Okay. This is what this guy was about. This is what he was going through.’ I try to have great songs that have substance.” He supposes that not everyone may like his “unconventional” voice and sound, then charmingly edges his way in by acknowledging that anyone who seeks out original music is in the venue for the same reasons he is. He hints at the possibility of side projects with the likes of prolific songwriter Mark Hutchins, Midwest record store tours, and dreams of recording with writer/musician J Hubner. A more immediate goal is to share the experience of his journey within the realms of Something Like Forever.
Something Like Forever comes out on September 30th, 2016 and will be available through Bandcamp, CD Baby, and Spotify digitally. CDs will be available through Bandcamp, or buy one directly from D Ferren at one of his shows.