(Soundbite of song, "The Littlest Birds")
THE BE GOOD TANYAS (Music Group): (Singing) Well I feel like an old hobo. I'm sad, lonesome and blue. I was fair as a summer day. Now the summer days are through. You pass...
GUY RAZ, host:
The folk trio the Be Good Tanyas caught the attention of American fans a decade ago with this track you're hearing. It's called "The Littlest Birds."
The band is credited with being part of a bluegrass and Americana revival, even though, I should add, they're Canadian. Anyway, one of these amazing voices is that of Frazey Ford.
She has a new solo record out. It's called "Obadiah," and a lot of it is about her journey into motherhood. On it, you'll still hear her signature folk style, but there's another side of Frazey Ford, a little touch of Memphis soul.
(Soundbite of song, "Firecracker")
Ms. FRAZEY FORD (Singer): (Singing) Hallelujah, the sparks flew up to heaven. They saw my smile, I was laughing so hard.
RAZ: This is the first track off the record. It's called "Firecracker." And Frazey Ford is in the studio with me. It's great to have you.
Ms. FORD: Hi.
RAZ: There's a review I read and it said, you know, this is a different sound from Frazey Ford - and I'm quoting here, more Memphis than mountain music, a more soulful sound. Would you agree?
Ms. FORD: I would. Yeah. And that was a part of my musicality that was not so much a part of the Be Good Tanyas. So it was exciting to take this project in both directions.
RAZ: And I think you can really hear that soul sound on the track "I Like You Better."
(Soundbite of song, "I Like You Better")
Ms. FORD: (Singing) And I keep going. And I keep going. I can't think no more, I can't think. I can't use my brain. I can't think no more. I can't think no more. I can't think. I can't use my brain.
RAZ: You know, I hear this, and I think this wouldn't sound out of place on a Marvin Gaye record or something that Dusty Springfield would have done. Frazey Ford, you took a break from the Be Good Tanyas - and actually, you have split up now, right?
Ms. FORD: Yeah. I mean, we that band was together for 10 years, and we're all kind of gypsy souls. And 10 years was a long time for us to be committed to each other and to a project.
RAZ: Do you think this had to be a solo record for you to achieve this sound?
Ms. FORD: Yeah. I think that band was a cross-section of where all of our musical tastes - I mean, the band started almost as like a nerdy focus group, where we would sit around and play all these old songs that we loved. So when you're working in a band, it's not all about you. It's all about what you have in common.
So yeah, there was - definitely, limitations to that sound. For me, anyway.
RAZ: Frazey Ford, you brought your guitar with you, and we don't always get to meet our artists in the studio. Sometimes they're in far-off places across the country. But you are here in Washington with me. Can you play something for us?
Ms. FORD: Yeah, I'm going to play a song called "If You're Going to Go."
(Soundbite of song, "If You Gonna Go")
Ms. FORD: (Singing) If you gonna go, then do it. If you're gonna leave, then let me be 'cause I know that a person, well sometimes, just has to be free.
I tried to give you all of me. I thought that was what love was for. I tried to be your way, everything, and I guess I lost myself.
You know I'll be all right without you. I can learn to be alone. When everything shatters, the only thing that matters is an open heart.
So if you're gonna go, then do it. If you're gonna leave, then let me be 'cause I know that a person, well sometimes, just has to be free, well sometimes, just has to be free, well sometimes, just has to be free.
RAZ: That was just beautiful.
Ms. FORD: Thank you.
RAZ: That's Frazey Ford, performing a track from her new solo album. It's called "Obidiah." And that song is called "If You Gonna Go."
You entered motherhood. You had a child. You raised a son. It wasn't really, I guess, until you got that break that you were able to sort of come up with the concepts for this record. What was that change like for you?
Ms. FORD: Stepping in to being a parent is the most life-altering change that I think anybody can go through. It changes your perspective completely. You are no longer about yourself; you're about guiding another human being.
You spend a lot of time seeing the world through their perspective, and I think that that affected my whole perspective on the world. Particularly with writing, I found post having my child, that I began to be able to write from other people's perspectives.
RAZ: Frazey Ford, talk a little bit about your background. Your parents were Americans who went to Canada during the Vietnam War, right?
Ms. FORD: Yeah. My dad was an activist, and he chose to avoid the draft, and they escaped into Canada in 1969, I believe. That's actually where my sister and I were born. My brothers were born in the States, and my sister and I were born in Canada.
RAZ: And I understand that your mother makes an appearance on this record, in the song "Lost Together."
Ms. FORD: Yeah, she does. It was really hard for her. I mean, this song is talking about they were young, and they were poor, and they were living illegally. And it was hard on all of us. There was a lot of dysfunction.
"Lost Together" speaks to that. And so when I asked her to sing on the song, she it was difficult, but she came around. And it actually ended up becoming a real healing thing, I think, for everybody involved.
(Soundbite of song, "Lost Together")
Ms. FORD and Ms. DIANE WILLIAMS(ph): (Singing) But I forget this was for making love and making my beautiful babies.
RAZ: And that's your mom, Diane Williams, in that song.
Ms. FORD: Yeah.
RAZ: I noticed - I mean, it's hard not to notice that this record is really, it's so much about motherhood. It's about your experience. It's about your mother. And then there's this song about your grandmother, called "Mimi's Song."
(Soundbite of song, "Mimi's Song")
Ms. FORD: (Singing) Tell them about me. Tell them everything after I'm gone.
Ms. FORD: I felt like she wanted to be remembered as beautiful and fun and amazing. But the main point that I felt like she wanted to get across -that if it weren't for the beauty and the magic between her and my grandfather, and particularly this one evening, that none of us would be here. All of my millions of cousins, we wouldn't exist if not for her.
(Soundbite of song, "Mimi's Song")
Ms. FORD: (Singing) I sit outside smoking, I was elegant and young.
Ms. FORD: I think it's a sentiment about death, and it's okay to pass on to the next world, but you want generations to remember you well and to honor you, and think about how hot you were back in Texas at a barn, meeting this handsome, swarthy man from Houston.
(Soundbite of laughter)
RAZ: Well, it's a really beautiful way to end this record. That's Frazey Ford. Her new album is called "Obidiah." She dropped by NPR Music recently to perform a Tiny Desk concert. You can see that video now at nprmusic.org.
Frazey, thank you so much.
Ms. FORD: Thank you very much.
RAZ: And do you have one more song for us before we let you go?
Ms. FORD: I do. I have a song called "September Field" that is brand new, not even recorded, just a little ditty I've been playing lately.
(Soundbite of song, "September Field")
Ms. FORD: (Singing) You'd better get up for your mama. You'd better grab the best of your life. I know you're ready to get over ...
RAZ: And for Sunday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. My colleague Audie Cornish will be here next weekend. Until then, thanks for listening, and have a great week.