Kristen Ford is a songwriter calling Nashville home these days, but for a while there you could have said it was the road. Kristen has 5 albums under her belt with the latest being eleven tracks comprising questioning and a life on tour aptly titled “Travel Songs.” Kristen, one could say, was built for the road. When you move around a lot as a kid it is “great training for life on tour.” Which she told me in a conversation we had about life on the road, the new album, and more importantly what it is like to be a woman in an industry dominated by males.
Kristen grew up in Massachusetts with her brother, whom she says is “one of the best humans I know” and her dad who was “an amazing singer.” She said she always felt like there was a lot to live up to with these two. She had a proud moment when last year her music brought her to Germany where her older brother now calls home and she simply said, “So great!” Early on in young Kristen the music was forming within her. When, as a youngster she would wake up with melodies in her head and sing them to herself. She thinks as early as 4 years old. Then as kids do, wandering around playing pretend and singing songs, which this eventually lead into a “major scandal” in elementary school. She did not give many details about said scandal but from what I was told Kristen was given the lead in the elementary musical in 4thgrade. This was the scandal why? Because the school musical was for 6th graders! She pulled through the scandal and said she was hooked on performance after that “like a junkie and I haven’t stopped.” She has done well for herself. Even if the industry is mostly dominated by men, whether it be the lead singer with a guitar, or the person running sound.
I asked Kristen a couple questions about being a woman in music, and her candor I am grateful for. What at the time seemed like a great simile in retrospect now is more of a tip of the cap now. I would rather not paraphrase her words and let her tell you.
Moose: I am mostly curious as to how it feels to be a woman in sort of a male dominated craft such as music?
Kristen: I don't know how it feels to be anything else in this industry! I have eventually hated every other job I've had, and music fills me up. It's my calling and I was born to do it. At times, it can be frustrating seeing the lack of women in the industry, particularly on the technical side of things, or playing instruments and not being the lead singer.
Moose: Or do you even feel like that is a thing anymore, is it going away little by little, or is there still some inequality that you have experienced or witnessed?
Kristen: It's definitely still a thing. I think sexism is similar to racism, classism, ageism, any ism, where we all make split-second judgments on people without knowing a damn thing about them, we may not even be conscious that we are doing it. I wish that women could be judged first on their music and not first on their appearance. Look at any famous female artist and you'll see the opposite is true. Nobody cares what Tom Petty looks like! The man writes and performs GREAT songs. I dream of the day that can be true for everyone. I also know I'm extremely privileged. I'm biracial but I have light skin and blue eyes. I think of it every time I have an interaction with a police officer. I'm young, I'm athletic, I'm healthy, I've got a lot going for me. Life isn't fair and it's never a level playing field. I am openly queer, I love my LGBTQ community, being supported by "the family" has been such a blessing. However, sometimes there is a nagging thought, if I was more feminine, had longer hair or showed more skin, if I was more easily sexualized by men, would I be further along in my career? I have had so many sexist interactions there's no need to list them off here. I do think the world is changing and I'm grateful for it.
With these five records completed one could say she is at least trying to offer her two cents into the changing of this world. “Travel Songs” is the latest of those releases and it is eleven songs at 39 minutes long of songs that can be melancholic, but real, questioning yet trying to figure things out, and this underlying narrative of hope. She told me “I think I'm trying to express how we must strive, we must grow towards the sun, even when it's hard. I think there's hope in trying at all. Half of the record is being unsure; the other half is trying to talk myself into going for it.” She went for it on this record, also. What was supposed to be an “easy acoustic guitar record” turned into her enlisting her community for help. She enlisted that help by offering meals, beers, coffees, or co-writes. Trying her hardest to keep to a “no budget” vibe, and I think she achieved a rawer sound with the instrumentation she enlisted. From: banjo to horns, violin, and guitar bass and drums, she achieved sound to weave the melody around her stories, and vice versa. This makes for a listen that, for me, strummed the proverbial chord that resides within me, which was a pleasant surprise. Listening to all of her songs as well dating back to her 2009 release called “Filthy Nasty” which is a little more rockin’, and then to this year’s “Travel Songs” merely showing growth as a human being and as an artist.
We finished our conversation with the question I like to everyone why music? But before that she said something I liked for an artist maturing and trying to figure things out when it terms of tour life. She said “I love touring and I owe so much of my financial independence as a musician to hitting the road and gigging day in and out. I am turning a new page and trying to taper off my road trips, to focus on the Nashville scene.” You can check out Kristen at kristenfordmusic.com for shows and what she is all about. I will let her close this out with her answer to my question why music, of all things to pursue, or want to achieve in why this?
Kristen: I don't think I had any choice. I love music so much. It's why I'm here.