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Kristen Ford Q&A

Kristen Ford Q&A

I interviewed Kristen Ford for recently.

Kristen Ford knows no genre. Her new album DINOSAUR is an intelligent collection of songs encompassing reggae to pop to country to folk and everything in between. Recently, she took time to discuss DINOSAUR, her influences, and her upcoming tour.

Who are your musical influences? Perhaps I’ll move chronologically, as there are so many great artists it’s hard to choose! Blink 182 was the first band I fell in love with- music blasting, jumping around the room singing along with air guitar. I bought an electric later that year and started playing. At an Ani Difranco concert when I was 15 or 16, I decided this was what I wanted to do for a living. She just had the whole audience in the palm of her hand- such power with a voice and an acoustic instrument. One woman. I had never experienced such a feeling. Radiohead creates sonic textures and feelings I feel are unmatched anywhere. I do enjoy Phoenix. Audrey Ryan is a local Boston hero, a mentor and friend of mine. Recently I discovered The Oh Hellos and Typhoon. I dig them both. Oh and the Beatles! They need some press bad.

Who would be a dream songwriter/band to collaborate with or tour alongside? I would just die to open for Ani Difranco on a tour. I would love to have something produced or co-written by Jon Brion. It would be fun to do some co-writing with Kasey Musgraves, she’s really taking country music in a new direction.

How would you describe your music? Indie Rock. Everyone seems to think I can’t pick a genre, which is true. I really love country, disco, EDM, folk, hip hop, reggae, distortion and rock n roll. I can’t stand it when a band launches into their live set and the first 2 songs sound exactly like all the other songs. I always want variety and to push the envelope musically in terms of what I can comprehend and what we can play as a band. For example “El Camino” on the new album, we worked with Auto-Tune very obviously in the verses- sort of a nod to 2014 pop songs and hip hop today. On “Internet”, we wanted to make an electronic dance tune- working with live instruments and creating loops, with super polished modern Tegan and Sara style harmonies. It was all very fresh and challenging. That’s why I play music, to be a child again and create and make mistakes and find the joy in it all.

What is your creative process like for songwriting? Usually it just pours out of me. I’ve got a moment and some space and the words and music happen with the guitar in my hand. Sometimes I’m on my bike and have to pull over and sing into my phone and record the melody and try to piece it together with accompaniment later. I’ve also played with the same band for the past couple of years. They are very helpful. I’ll bring them a verse and a chorus and they’ll help with tempos or finding a good way to get from section to section. I have to trust them when they say “ this is just like another song you wrote”, and they have to trust me when I say “No, give me this feeling” or “Make it faster, dance bitches!”.

What inspires your songs? Life. I see so much in the world I want to talk about, I want to change, I want to understand. I also know you can’t make anyone do anything they don’t decide on their own. When you call someone a faggot or say the N word, as a bi-racial lesbian, I’m very offended! Just saying “Hey!” doesn’t do anything. But you’ve got a song like “Zeda” that I wrote, and I’ve heard people tell me it’s made them cry or feel very intensely. That’s the power of music. I’m also inspired by my life, at my own ability to make a complete mess of things, and not see it coming. Music is my way to release and see myself out of it.

Is there a lyrical theme that tied DINOSAUR together? I would say DINOSAUR is about my journey to Wyoming and back last year. I learned so much and got out of my comfort zone…my little Boston hipster, liberal bubble. It’s about falling in love and struggling to make your living and learning to laugh through it as you make your way in this world.

How does DINOSAUR differ from The Grindstone? DINOSAUR was a very different project from the Grindstone. I’m older now, with at least 400 more shows under my belt. I worked with Producer Jesse Ciarmataro on DINOSAUR, where The Grindstone was self produced. The Grindstone was made in a homemade studio, mixed in LA where I made edits across the country, and on a fraction of the budget we had on DINOSAUR. I felt the funds we had raised through a grant and Kickstarter donations, made it possible for me to work in the studio of my dreams, be very involved in the mixing process, and work with great people every step of the way. I hope this will be the project to put me on the map in a bigger way. I’m very proud of it, proud enough to move into a van, quit my 3 jobs and tour full time to promote it.

A lot of indie artists are opposed to giving away music for free, but you’ve given away entire albums. What is your reasoning for giving it away? I may be changing the free music format soon, at least on the new stuff. However, less and less people are paying for media. TV shows, music… you can find it for free. If you stream my music on Spotify, I need 1,000,000 streams to get $400. So far I think I’ve been paid 30 cents over the past couple years from Spotify. If you rip it from YouTube the sound quality will be terrible. I’d rather you download off of Bandcamp free of charge, share your email address, then we can connect on a tour, or on my next crowdfunding campaign. I would rather gain a fan and lose out on a couple of dollars on an album that’s already paid for, than hoard an album and have no one hear it.

What is your favorite song to perform? Why? I like “Ah Ooh Ooh” because it’s so fun and dancey. At Northampton Pride we had a sign language interpreter, and it was fun watching the sign for “Ah ooh Ooh” which is a made up sound.

What is coming up for the remainder of 2014? Living in a van, touring the country. Notably I’ll be playing on the mainstage at National Women’s Music Festival in Wisconsin on June 26th. I’ll be experiencing Michigan Womyn’s Festival as sound crew, which should be a trip. Then we’re headed back to the dude ranch in Wyoming. This should be a busy summer and super fun fall. If the van is still running, we plan to head to the south and west coast in early 2015. You can follow the travels of me and my girlfriend at

For more information about Kristen Ford, check out her website

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Friday 5: Katie Davis

Friday 5: Katie Davis

Originally posted May 18, 2012

Katie Davis is an amazing singer­-songwriter from Seattle who I’ve been a fan of since the early days of Rubyfruit Radio. Her songs are a mix of melancholy and emotion (in a good way!). Add her brilliant voice and you’ve got something truly special.

Recently, Katie started creating greeting cards as a way to finance her music. They’ve gotten rave reviews and are selling like crazy. Go to and check out them out. Zooey Deschanel loves them, shouldn’t you? Also, check out her website where you can download one of her EPs for free.

What was the first concert you ever attended?

I think the first show I went to was Sweetwater at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. I was maybe a freshman in high school. The theater had seats, and my ticket had my seat number on it, so even though there were empty seats up front, I stayed in my seat in the back because I thought I would get in trouble if I moved up.

If you could form a band with 3 other people in it, who would those 3 people be?

Okay, the choices are overwhelming me, so I’m forming a random band:
Mick Jagger, Carrie Brownstein, my sister

THIS BAND IS AWESOME. Also, in this imaginary band, I would like to suddenly know how to play drums.

You have an Etsy shop and your “I Like You and Naps” cards have become quite popular and have been blogged about in countless places. You’ve expanded the selection quite a bit recently. Do you plan on continuing making cards and coming up with new ones? What’s the inspiration behind them?

“I like you and naps” was a simple expression of how much I like naps.
I put up a handful of cards on Etsy, and suddenly I had so many sales I broke my printer and had to shut down my shop for a few days. It turns out naps are very popular.

All my cards are simple expressions of my self or inspired by my friends. “I do not like jobs.” “Love is weird.” “You drink too much.” I just wanted to make something I liked. It makes me happy that other people like them too.

I will definitely continue to make cards! The money I make selling cards helps me to support my music.

Sad songs seem to be your signature. Why sad songs?

I love sad songs. They are my favorite.
I like sad songs that say something beautiful or honest. I like sad songs with hope.

How do you approach your songwriting and where does your inspiration come from?

I think maybe writing songs about things is how I let them go. I write without really thinking about it. I’m not sitting down with a guitar like, “I will write a song about this thing.” I’m just playing and something comes up. I feel like I’m trying to remember the words. I’m always trying to say it more simply, more honestly.

A few months ago, I woke up singing a song from my dream. I rolled over in bed and sang the chorus right into my phone.

Songwriting comes and goes for me. One season, I write a bunch of songs. The next season, nothing comes. When it comes, I get caught up in it. I will play a new song over and over all night.

Buy Katie’s Music from Amazon

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Friday 5: Sam Shaber of The Happy Problem

Friday 5: Sam Shaber of The Happy Problem

Originally posted May 11, 2012

When I first about The Happy Problem, I noticed that Sam Shaber was the lead vocalist. Sam Shaber? In an indie punk band? Yes, that Sam Shaber, the same Sam Shaber who spent several years on the folk circuit where it was just her and her guitar. I took one listen to her new project, The Happy Problem and was hooked. It’s a departure from her singer-songwriter days, but it’s still amazing!

What was the first concert you every went to?
Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” Tour at Radio City Music Hall, 11th row. After the Beastie Boys opened for her, they came and sat right next to us! I was traumatized and fascinated – life has never been the same since.

Who are your musical influences?
My influences run the gamut from Nirvana to Duran Duran to No Doubt to
Nine Inch Nails to Green Day to the White Stripes and beyond. But while those are the bands I most learn from musically, when the moment comes to start working on a song, the inspiration can come from anywhere. This week I’m working on something kickstarted by the 3D documentary PINA about the avant garde choreographer. There’s one scene with dancers making the most out of an on-stage, man-made lake, accompanied by this joyful, funky rap music about getting stoned, and all of a sudden I was sitting in my seat with an idea!

You were a solo folk singer and have now transitioned into a much heavier sound. What was behind the change?
I just got really bored with myself. I wanted to make a bigger sound, a bigger impact, and share the making and performing of music with a full,cooperative rock band. I’ve never been a Dylan or Baez person, so I was always on my own wavelength a bit with the folk stuff. It’s a wonderful community of artists, venues and audiences, but I was ready for something totally different. Besides, I’d never be Simon LeBon at that rate, eh? 🙂

What is your songwriting process like now as the Happy Problem compared to your songs from your solo career?
Songs are usually started by me – either just a riff, a full section, or almost the whole thing – and then I bring them to the band and we play with it, flesh it all out, turn it up and finish it. I spend a lot of time at the studio alone making weird noise before I bring something for people to hear. Tony Cortes and I then add drums to the mix and see what happens after that. I hate writing without drums – a song completely changes once you put that in the mix.

With my solo stuff, I was the lone writer and the whole song had to be playable alone on an acoustic guitar. Some artists find that “pure” and “freeing,” but I felt very limited. I get stretched as an artist by thinking about the song as a whole collage of sound, adding all the other parts and heads in. I guess if you’ve always worn a costume, it’s refreshing to strip it down, and likewise, I was always stripped down, so now it’s refreshing to dress it up!

Do you think you’re ever go back to your folk roots?
I actually feel like my roots are in the music I’m playing now, as though I’ve only just found myself after all this time. So I think I’ll keep moving further in this direction as I explore rock, pop, punk and indie more. I never really had roots in folk music – I was always listening to Prince and Green Day while other people were talking about Mary Chapin Carpenter or Johnny Cash. So this feels more natural to me and I’m inspired now in a way I don’t think I was before. But I’m also terrible at looking at the past – I never like what I did before! So who knows? I can say that I love just writing a really good song, so that’s what I hope will never change, regardless of the label or coating that gets put on it!

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Friday 5: Sagit Shir of Hank and Cupcakes

Friday 5: Sagit Shir of Hank and Cupcakes

This was originally posted May 4, 2012

I first heard Hank and Cupcakes 2 years ago while looking for some cover songs for a show. I stumbled upon their version of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” and I was mesmerized. I still think it’s one of the most brilliant covers I’ve ever heard. To me what sets Hank and Cupcakes apart is their live show. H&C features Sagit aka Cupcakes on drums and vocals with her husband Ariel (aka Hank) playing bass and looping everything else. What you get is two people creating an enormous sound. Words fail me on how fantastic their live shows are (check out a video below).

Their new album “Naked” will be dropping in June and I can’t wait. The new songs I have heard have all had a fantastic energy to them and in a word are amazing. Be sure to check out the new album and do not miss them when they go on tour.

I had the chance to ask Sagit Shir aka Cupcakes, a few questions.

Where did the name Hank and Cupcakes come from?

The name H&C is a consequence of the fact that we are both big Charles Bukowski fans. If you’ve read a Bukowski book, you know who Hank is. Cupcakes is actually one of Bukowski’s real life lovers. The idea for the name came up while we were watching a documentary about him called ‘Born Into This’ which we highly recommended

How do you approach your songwriting and where does your inspiration come from?

Songwriting for me is a daily routine, something that needs a lot of discipline and consistency. I try to start every morning with song writing – While my mind is still relatively uncluttered- The best songs come to me when I’m not being judgmental at the moment of writing and I just let the ideas flow out without putting any pressure on myself to deliver. When I manage to be in that open place, inspiration can come from absolutely anything.

You are a classically trained pianist. What prompted you to pick up the drumsticks?

My mother used to play rhythm games with me when I was very young so I might have had an early taste! But I truly fell in love with drums at a beach in Tel Aviv which I discovered when I was 18. It was a kind of hippie beach and every Friday they would have a huge african drums jam, playing into the sunset. I stumbled upon one of these jams and was immediately hooked. I came back to the beach every night that summer and learned to play with people who were always hanging out there jamming.

Recently in the comments for Liquid Mercury on YouTube, there were a bunch of people on there saying that you were copying Lady Gaga. How do you deal with critiques and criticism like that?

Truthfully, it makes us smile and even a little happy because it means that our music is expanding and reaching new people beyond our circle of fans and that is always a good thing. We encouraged our fans to respond to the comments but it was all in good humor. We’re very confident in our music and don’t feel threatened by this kind of criticism. On the contrary, if ‘Liquid Mercury’ reminds people of Madonna or Lady Gaga we take it as a compliment.

What can we look forward to in 2012 from H&C?

We’re hustling & bustling at the moment getting our new album -’Naked’ – ready for print and will be releasing it in June followed by a U.S and later European tour. We’re already hard at work on our next music video for the song ‘See Through’ and have started writing new material for our next album!


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