There’s good talent, there’s great talent, and then—every once in a while—there’s a singular presence. Someone so gifted that listening to her puts you in touch with why you love music. That’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking singer-songsmith Meredith Fierke. This artist’s resonant timbre, wry phrasing, and taste for sardonic lyrics distinguish her as one of the strongest on the local scene.
At times, she’ll put you in mind of, say, Lucy Kaplansky. (That’s not to understate Fierke’s originality: everybody, in some way or other, brings somebody else to mind.) The Procession, her recently-released album with superb cuts like the title song and “Make You Real,” whets a serious appetite to catch her in person—as in-the-know locals have done at hot spots like Minneapolis’s Varsity Theater and St. Paul’s Station 4. Her melodies are inventive, and her poetic lyrics are a cut well above. “Russian baby you are, bleak as snow/ Down to your dirty Junes/ Your knuckles and hands, desolate bones/ But I will cut you out, of paper thin, you’ll be paper bare/ I’ll wind you back to a happy tune/ and I will find you back in there/ I’ll make you real, I’ll make you real again.”
Folk at her native Northfield stomping grounds knew what they were doing when they named Fierke, in the Northfield Entertainment Guide, Best Female Musician. She’s also listed as a Top Ten Minnesota Artist by BroadJam.com. On the Internet, check out myspace.com/meredithfierke and mfierke.com. She’ll be officially releasing her new album at an August 8 hometown show at Northfield’s Grand Theater.
You’re on the Pachyderm compilation So Large We Ran Out of Room. Was that your recording debut?
Not really. I have been recording for a while now. I probably started around age 18—I’m 26 now—with little projects here and there. [The Procession] is my first actual album so, in a way, the Pachyderm compilation is the first time getting my music to a larger audience.
How did it come about that you took part in that project?
I recorded my album with Paul Marino of Xeojax Production Studios and it was actually his suggestion. He does work with Pachyderm from time to time.
“PJ Harvey, Chan Marshall, Nina Simone, Tori Amos, Leonard Cohen, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell. Anyone who sings a good phrase or strikes me in the right way.”
Your lyrics have a lot of imagery. Anybody you’d care to name among your influences?
PJ Harvey, Chan Marshall, Nina Simone, Tori Amos, Leonard Cohen, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell. Anyone who sings a good phrase or strikes me in the right way.
What about your music writing? Those are interesting melodies you come up with.
Again, those would fall into pretty much the same categories. PJ Harvey, Chan Marshall, Elliot Smith, Neko Case and Gillian Welch, to name a few. Oftentimes simple is the better choice for my songs, as far as instrumentation.
How did you go about selecting what to put on The Procession from your repertoire?
I chose songs that had similar themes but also songs that seemed to fit together “texturally” (if that makes any sense). We chose many interesting recording elements that reoccur through the album, such as the bells and the Juno, that tie [the album] together as a whole. Also, I wanted songs that made sense together but were distinct from one another. I tried to make it “not boring.”
How’d you pick the musicians?
Paul Marino was a great help in that department. He knows so many wonderful musicians that I barely had to do a thing! It was important to find the right players for the parts, but Paul had it all covered.
How satisfied are you with the end result?
Very. The songs have taken on little lives of their own. This whole experience has been awesome, and I am ready to do it all over again.
Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.