Home > Around Town > D Ferren: Rusted Melodies
D Ferren: Rusted Melodies
By EA Poorman
Fort Wayne Reader
Earlier in the year I was going through a rough patch. Jobs weren't hitting the inbox like they used to. Some ghosts from the past began haunting me once again, and the headaches that make everything seem fuzzy and jagged were keeping me up all night. I was pacing the floor and listening to way too much Joy Division till 3, 4 am. I was in a bad spot, let's put it that way. So one day, in a pain-driven, sleepless stupor I went down to Neat Neat Neat Records and starting meandering like the living dead. As I looked for something, anything, to take my mind off of my rather pathetic situation I came across a rather odd looking album cover. Two marionettes, a man and woman, lying in a tiny looking bed. The 'man' marionette was hold a pistol. Looked like a six shooter. The name on the CD was D Ferren. The album was called For Glare & Gun.
To avoid any embarrassing moments, like me passing out in the Calhoun Street establishment, I bought the CD and got back to my apartment and put this strange looking album in the CD player. 10 songs later and I'd seen the light. How in the hell had I not heard of this guy before? This was an alternative country classic. It didn't sound like a local fella recording on the weekends and in-between dad activities. This sounded like some tortured soul, drinking way too much and putting his demons to tape.
But alas, the former is true. Dwayne Ferren, aka 'D Ferren' is a family man with a 9 to 5 that pays the bills. He's a semi-local native. He grew up an hour south of here in a speck on the map called Summitville. He played in the bands Hipnoses and Sockmonkey before doing the solo thing with Saint of Life and the Morning After Cavalier with local studio guru Jason Davis at his Off The Cuff Sound recording studio. After more than 10 years, he reunited with his studio muse and recorded For Glare & Gun, the long-awaited follow up to Saint of Life once again at Off The Cuff.
"Jason and I recorded demos for seven songs that were basically acoustic and vocals," says D when I asked him about the recording process for For Glare & Gun. "Three of those songs I had a good idea of how I wanted produced, so the other four we took a look at more closely to see which direction we could take them in. Some of those were well thought out with the guest musicians in mind. Others we would lay down a track at a time to see what worked and what didn’t. I knew that I wanted Felix Moxter, Andrea Harvey, and Quincy Sanders on the record and Jason had worked with Bob Craven before, so I definitely wanted to put him on a couple of songs. I had an idea of what kind of album I wanted, but I always leave room for it to grow or expand as we go along. Ultimately, I think we held true to serving each song as a ‘stand alone’ thing, trusting that they will work together. or we would make them." Ferren laughs at that last remark, though I think he's serious about strong arming those tunes to make them work.
A big part of For Glare & Gun is its sound. Jason Davis has been D Ferren's co-conspirator in the studio for over 10 years. He makes Ferren's songs into warm, living and breathing animals courtesy of his analog studio Off The Cuff. I wondered how these two guys got together. "I met Jason in 2000. I was playing in coffee shops around town very inconspicuously. I always played my own stuff mixed in with covers that I thought no one else knew. Every once in a while somebody would come up and say ‘I loved that version of ‘Euphoria’ by School of Fish” (laughs)…..I don’t remember if Jason saw me playing or if he heard the songs on a boom box tape. I do remember giving him one. He called me about a week later and said “We need to work.” He was pretty persistent, which kind of freaked me out. We recorded the album Saint of Life and The Morning After Cavalier in 2000-2001. Jason is a song fan, so we get along marvelously. He has been one of those few people, from my early days of songwriting, that has always been a fan. He tells me when I have a song that is a turd. He cares, which is rare to have in a close friend that is also a musician. Most songwriters seem to want to talk about themselves, but I never got that vibe from Jason. And I definitely don’t have that attitude myself. I think that everyone is better than me", he says laughing. "So I opened up a whole can of heartache that was to become the Saint album. Deeply personal stuff and I trusted him with it."
I had to ask D about the song “Elephant Tears” off of FG&G. It's an odd tune, but odd in the best way. "I love the use of words, and generally speaking, my songs are intended to slap the listener in the face in some way or another. It could just be a sadness or revealing something intimate about myself. Even if it’s not real evident. With 'Elephant Tears' I wanted to write about something and not really reveal what it was about. So the listener had to decide…what the song is about to them. It was the weakest song from the original demo, so we knew that we had to work it hard. Jason had faith in it. I wanted Quincy to play the solo because Jason had layed down this fat jazz beat. Its hard to believe that I almost didn’t record it. Andrea is pretty fierce on that one." Indeed Andrea is fierce on that one.
Being a singer/songwriter AND a husband, dad and full time clock puncher can make promotion difficult. I wondered how D Ferren handles that. "I’ve played a few shows since the release. A show at CS3, one in Indianapolis and one in Chicago. Playing live is a funny thing for me. I do enjoy it, but working in the studio is much more enjoyable. I get a lot more out of making records. That’s how I fell in love with music, by listening to records. It is a very solitary thing to go to the record store, bring the record home and enjoy it on a level to where I would convince myself that it was recorded just for me. And you can listen to it anytime. Virtually no restrictions. You could listen to it in the morning, late at night, during breakfast or sex. Live shows are a fixed time and it only happens within that time, which reminds me of a job."
In regards to local interest Ferren says, "Most of the interest and sales has come from outside of Fort Wayne, I think that there is a fantastic original music scene here , but up until recently, it has primarily been a ‘live’ scene. Artists have been putting out local records for quite some time, but I think that within the last few years, those records have gotten so much better, that it’s hard to tell what’s local anymore."
D Ferren even got some love from a former 'trucker'. "I got a nice email from Jason Isbell. He downloaded “The Ballad of Gram Parsons” on itunes. That made me feel good."
How's work coming on a follow-up? "I am writing the next record now, and so far it is shaping up to be a more intimate and revealing collection of songs. Jason has always said that I write “sad bastard songs”, and even though For Glare & Gun is a more upbeat album, I have a feeling that this next one might take a left turn. I write the songs alone and then in the studio, Jason and I will talk about each one before we proceed. Some of those conversations can get extensive. (laughs). Cigarettes and chocolate milk."
Rufus Wainwright? Nice.
So, D Ferren is just another sad bastard writing sad bastard songs for other sad bastards. That's a good thing, cause there's plenty of us out there. Let's hope he continues to do so, cause I'm digging these sad songs he keeps writing.
Make sure you pay attention to dates and times, as D Ferren is cooking up some live dates for possibly December or January at the Dash-In. Maybe even a show at the Brass Rail if Heaven's Gateway Drugs gives up the stage for a weekend.
Grab a copy of For Glare & Gun at Neat Neat Neat Records on Calhoun Street. Now.