Name: Kristen Ford
Instruments: Vocals, Electric & Acoustic Guitar, Live Looping, Drums, Beat Box
Genre: Live Looping, Indie Rock, Folk, Blues, Reggae
“If you want a filtered, processed product, there is an abundance of it out there. But with Tighten it Up, you get me – a dyke with tattoos and short hair using my arms and legs to make as much noise as possible and singing about the world as I experience it,” says Boston multi-instrumentalist Kristen Ford, whose forthcoming fifth full-length album Tighten it Up will be released as a live multi-camera video album – an in-the-flesh performance that best captures what Ford has to offer: “I think there is a lot of personality that can come through videos, which is one of my strengths. Perfection is not.”
Ford plays a one-woman mix of genres constellating the indie-rock/dance-pop of bands like Mister Wives, Phoenix and Walk the Moon, her upbeat delivery belying confessional lyrical content deeply rooted in her personal experiences – the observations, concerns and aspirations of an all-in, full-time touring musician.
With this album, Ford found herself writing more with an eye toward exploring the format of looping vocals and guitar riffs, specifically writing for the sum of her moving parts: loopers, drums, vocals and stringed instruments. Within the constraints of that technology, a stacked and ambient vibe emerges, underpinning Ford’s ability to be acoustically brooding one moment, explosive and epic the next.
Long before hitting the road full-time, Ford was making music in Boston – she spearheaded an open mic, acoustic music series and ran a queer music party. (And she further solidified her Boston bonafides by singing the national anthem at Fenway in 2013.) She honed her live chops with a residency and endless local gigs, playing solo and with a band. “Loads of Boston musicians are music school graduates or teachers themselves – it’s a small, incestuous but very supportive music community,” says Ford.
Ford herself came from a charter arts high school, where she could play a song instead of writing a book report. She began working as a dishwasher at 14 to save up enough money for her first guitar. Although left-handed, she opted for a right-handed guitar when she discovered that the southpaw versions were too expensive, which perhaps explains her dynamic and expressive rhythm hand, which is central to her ability to push acoustic songs into the realms of dance, rock and reggae.
She went to the Institute for Musical Art’s (IMA) Rock n Roll Girls Camp at 15, and returned on and off until the age of 21 when they recorded her first full-length album. Ford’s parents steeped her in music early on – her father in a barbershop quartet, conducting vocal groups and delivering gospel solos at church; her mother a folkie of the 60s and 70s, playing guitar and spinning the likes of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Simon and Garfunkel records around the house. This mix of African American and classic folk roots are amply represented in Ford’s own songwriting.
Ford’s upbringing also lent itself to an unusually high level of comfort with the nomadic rhythms of touring, as her father’s employment in college academics brought on numerous transfers and cross-country moves. Says Ford, “I’ve gotten really good at making friends fast, and any time I’ve been in one apartment or city more than a few months, I start wondering what else there is, how things might be different elsewhere.” She’s parlayed her wanderlust into CATvsOWL, a travel blog developed alongside her tour schedule to document her adventures (named after a friend’s pajama ensemble of cat bottoms paired with an owl top, which struck Ford as the most hipster combo ever).
Kristen Ford’s last album, 2014’s DINOSAUR, was named one of the top 10 records of the region from the Worcester Telegram, and her song “El Camino” was voted one of the top 214 songs of 2014 by the Boston Herald. In 2013, she won the Iguana Music Award for songwriting. Ford and her band have opened for artists such as Melissa Ferrick, Erin Mckeown, Allison Weiss, Naia Kete and Grammy Nominee Matthew Santos. She’s performed at such festivals as Parihaka Peace Festival in Auckland, NZ, National Women’s Music Festival, Southern Maine Pride Festival, Hudson Valley Pride, Lady and the Amp Festival, Mass RockFest, Rockfest, Boston Pride, Northampton Pride, Fort Wayne Pride and Harvard Mayfest.
Tighten it Up was written and produced by Kristen Ford, engineered and mixed by Dan Cardinal (Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive, Ray Lamontagne) at Dimension Sound Studios in Jamaica Plain, MA and mastered by Ariel Bernstein, with video production by Cable Line Entertainment. Tighten it Up will be released on March 19th at the CatvsOwl SXSW day party, with the video album available on Pivotshare and an audio release on CD and digital formats.
Kristen Ford Tour Dates