When Frazey Ford’s name is mentioned, it’s usually followed by “founding member of the Be Good Tanyas,” the Canadian all-female folk trio that wowed the world with its engaging brand of alt-country.
But the Be Good Tanyas disbanded almost 10 years ago, and Ford has been hard at work growing her own music project since then. When asked if she gets tired of being attached to a group that hasn’t been around for a decade, Ford says definitely not—she’s proud of the work she and the other members—Samantha Parton, Trish Klein and Jolie Holland—did, and credits the band for launching her music career.
“It was a beautiful project,” Ford says. “I really value that experience and those artists.” Still, there’s a part of her that’s always ready for the next thing, she says.
“It’s been a natural thing for me to move forward and expand in different areas,” she says, “but I’m still really moved by the music we did … There was a period [where] I needed to distance myself from it to better define myself, but I feel very proud of that era.”
Now an acclaimed solo singer-songwriter, Ford has two albums under her belt. Her solo debut, Obadiah, released in 2010, saw her blurring the line between folk and soul music, drawing comparisons to Dolly Parton, Ann Peebles and Feist.
In 2014, she released Indian Ocean, then spent the next two and a half years touring the album, which features the Hi Rhythm Section, which is often credited with creating the Memphis soul sound as Al Green’s band.
After touring Indian Ocean, Ford took eight months off to decompress and explore other creative passions. She sewed, painted, did pottery, and focused on raising her teenage son.
“I was just sort of forgetting about it all for a while,” she explains.
A multi-dimensional artist who likes to experiment with creativity in all its forms, Ford finds that in order to move forward artistically, she needs to let go of who she has been.
“It’s important to let go of the story of who you are to a certain degree, in order to be open to who you may become next,” she says. “You don’t want to be too attached to who you’ve already been. As your art cycles into the world, you don’t want to confuse that reflection back with who you are now.”
When Ford is in a songwriting cycle, she writes consistently. When she’s not, she walks away until the muse strikes. When it comes time to put together an album, there are generally songs that have been “percolating,” but for the most part, she writes specifically for an album.
Ford’s newest tune is a cover of Funkadelic’s, “Can You Get to That.” It’s a somewhat unexpected choice for a folk-pop songstress, but Ford makes the song her own. She was inspired by memories of planting trees as a youngster—something she describes as a right of passage in British Columbia.
“I used to listen to music out in nature, doing hard labor under a hot sun,” she says. “Sometimes you’d have these mystical experiences where it’s just you and the labor. It becomes a potent moment.”
One of those experiences was listening to “Can You Get to That,” and Ford decided to create her own version. It’s the first single from an album she’s currently recording at Afterlife Studios in her hometown of Vancouver.
While working on the album, Ford is going to the beach, playing shows, raising her son and walking her dog. It’s all part of her attempt to stay true to her own process and not get caught up in expectations around her art.
“You have to let go of the persona you embody as a public person or performer,” she says. “You have to forget about who you think you are in order to get back to the pureness of creation.”
Frazey Ford will perform at 9 p.m. on Sunday, May 27 at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $18/adv, $20/door. 423-1338.