Sierra Ferrell

Shoot For The Moon Tour

with Meredith Axelrod

Thu, September 12, 2024

State Theatre

Doors: 7:00pm - Show: 8:00pm - all ages

$45 advance

Buy tickets in person (without fees) at the State Theatre box office Fridays 10am-5pm, or the night of any State Theatre show starting 1 hour before doors. Please note that ticket prices may fluctuate based on demand.

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Sierra Ferrell

One of the brightest young luminaries in roots music today, Sierra Ferrell brings a dose of beautifully strange magic to everything she touches. Since the arrival of Long Time Coming (her acclaimed debut LP for Rounder Records), the West Virginia-born singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist has earned the Emerging Act of the Year prize at the Americana Honors & Awards, collaborated with the likes of Margo Price, the Black Keys, Shakey Graves, Zach Bryan, Diplo, and Old Crow Medicine Show, and enchanted audiences all over North America and Europe with her high-spirited and dazzling live performance. On her new album Trail Of Flowers, the Nashville-based artist expands her sound while deepening the urgency of her songs, often revealing a wealth of wisdom within her wildly imaginative storytelling.

Her first full-length album since Long Time Coming—a 2021 release that drew praise from outlets like Pitchfork, Paste, Pop Matters, and No Depression—Trail Of Flowers came to life with producers Eddie Spear (Zach Bryan, Brandi Carlile, Chris Stapleton) and Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss, Dwight Yoakam, Gillian Welch) and with such esteemed musicians as Chris Scruggs. In keeping with a musical upbringing that included playing everywhere from truck stops to boxcars to New Orleans street corners, the album journeys from freewheeling bluegrass to heartrending old-time music to fantastically gritty honky-tonk and beyond, endlessly changing shape to accommodate the immense scope of Ferrell’s eccentric musicality. Mainly recorded at Sound Emporium Studios and featuring guest appearances from singer/songwriters Lukas Nelson and Nikki Lane, Trail Of Flowers ultimately fulfills her longstanding mission of making music that transcends all barriers of time. “With this record I wanted to make a fuller sound with bigger drums, but still stay true to the stripped-down feel of old-time music whenever it felt right,” says Ferrell. “I wanted to create something that makes people feel nostalgic for the past, but excited about the future of music.”

The album-opening “American Dreaming,” supplies instant proof of Ferrell’s extraordinary capacity to merge timeless musicianship with lyrics as it explores decidedly modern concerns. One of several songs co-written with her friend and frequent collaborator Melody Walker (Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, Della Mae, Lindsay Lou), the world-weary yet soul-stirring track speaks to the struggle to build a good life in a culture consumed by capitalism. “Sometimes when you’re working long and hard to try to live that American dream, you forget what you’re doing it for,” says Ferrell. “In my situation, I end up being out on the road so much that I don’t get to spend a lot of time in my own home, taking care of my cat and dog and watering my plants and cooking meals on my stove. I’m always so excited and thankful to play music for people, but sometimes it feels hard to be gone all the time.” As “American Dreaming” unfolds in so many lovely details (moody banjo riffs, swooning steel guitar, lush piano melodies, shimmering celeste), Ferrell conveys her frustration with equal parts tender confession and incisive self-reflection (from the second verse: “I’m losing touch with all my friends, the ones who remind me who I am/If I could just get back home to pick up where we left off/I’d take better care of myself, I’d stop drinking from the bottom shelf/But my old wheels keep spinning and I cannot make them stop”).

Another song informed by her singular outlook on the modern world, “Fox Hunt” takes the form of a furiously stomping epic driven by galloping rhythms and some feverish fiddle work from Ferrell and fellow musicians Geoff Saunders, Joshua Rilko, and Oliver Bates Craven. “That song’s my ode to how people had to survive back in the day, before you could go out to the supermarket and grab what you need—back when you had to preserve food, tend your garden, go hunting and bring home an animal and respectfully use every piece of it,” says Ferrell. “It’s my tip of the hat to where we came from, compared to where we are now.” Later, on “Rosemary,” Ferrell delves further into her old-time roots and delivers the album’s most haunting moment: a stark but spellbinding story-song graced with ethereal organ tones, infinitely shifting tempos, and a few bars of soulful yodeling. “The way that song came together was a funny thing,” she recalls. “I was eating some rosemary bread with good olive oil and I thought, ‘I love rosemary bread so much that I have to write a song about it’—so then I wrote a murder ballad. It’s got a lot of minor chords, which is sort of a nod to the time in my life when I was hitchhiking and bumming around on trains, because so much of the music out there in that realm has got that minor sound.”

A profoundly gifted vocalist, Ferrell often captures an entire world of feeling in just a single line, a talent on full display on the swinging but wistful “Dollar Bill Bar.” “It’s a story about a woman who’s at the bar with a guy she’s got a crush on, and her feelings are strong but she’s telling him, ‘Don’t look too close at those dollar bills or you’ll see my name’s on this wall a whole lot,’” says Ferrell. “It’s kind of a warning, her way of saying that she’s hoping to find a partner but it never seems to work out.” Featuring background vocals from Nikki Lane and Kristen Rogers (Lori McKenna, Shooter Jennings, Reba McEntire), “Dollar Bill Bar” finds Ferrell cycling from longing to regret to devil-may-care attitude with impossible ease, even as her lyrics embody a breathtakingly intricate poetry (e.g., “We were spinning ’round so silly-drunk, the green was just like rippling leaves/In a forest full of promises, a hundred thousand broken-down dreams”).

One of the most joyful moments on Trail Of Flowers, “I Could Drive You Crazy” serves up a harmony-fueled and singalong-ready love song that’s both self-effacing and gloriously fun (from the sublimely catchy refrain: “Well, I can’t hunt and I can’t fish/But I can drive you crazy, yes I can”). “I was hanging out with some friends and we had an idea for a song where you’re telling someone, ‘I’m not good at this and I’m not good at that, but one thing I can do is drive you crazy,’” she says. “We decided to put in some audio of my New Year’s Eve crowd at the end, so you can hear them howling on there. I always love getting everyone to howl at my shows—it’s a good, free feeling.”

While much of Trail Of Flowers offers an up-close glimpse into Ferrell’s wondrous inner world, the album also includes tracks like “Chittlin’ Cookin’ Time In Cheatham County”—her hypnotic and harmonica-laced take on a 1930s tune from old-time musician Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith. “It’s about how enslaved people would always get the last of the meat, including pig intestines, which meant they had to learn how to cook and eat them,” Ferrell explains. “I wanted to cover that song because I think it’s important to acknowledge what’s happened in the past and make sure that it doesn’t happen again. And as someone who spent a lot of time in New Orleans and who gets a lot of influence from the blues music I heard there, I wanted to show my appreciation for the roots of that music and the history behind it.” In her ongoing effort to educate herself on the musical traditions that inspire her, Ferrell also became infatuated with the fiddle during the making of Trail Of Flowers. “In a way it’s one of the first forms of trance music in North America—you’re playing the same thing over and over and it takes you to another place, almost like an out-of-body experience,” she says. “When I’m playing these old-time songs that have carried on for hundreds of years, it literally pulls tears out of my eyes. It’s a very unforgiving instrument and I feel like that will be a neverending battle until I pass on, but I’m more than okay with that.”

In selecting a title for her latest body of work, Ferrell chose to reference her deep love of flowers. “I’ve always got flowers around me and sometimes I’ll put them in my hair,” she says. “They always fall out and end up all over the place, so people who know me are always saying, ‘Sierra’s here, there’s a trail of flowers.’” As a listening experience, Trail Of Flowers provides a similar sensation of all-enveloping and off-kilter beauty—one that Ferrell hopes might lift others into a more charmed state of mind. “I’m just trying to put words and melodies together and build it into something people can pour their feelings too, all their happiness and sorrows, so that it changes their reality a little bit and gives them some comfort,” she says. “To me music is like medicine. Whenever I write a song and it feels healing to me, I know it can heal other people too.”