Archived Arts & Entertainment

At the End of the Rainbow: A conversation with Sierra Ferrell

Sierra Ferrell. Sierra Ferrell.

Musician extraordinaire. Freelance sniper. Dancer.

Those are the occupations listed by rising singer-songwriter Sierra Ferrell. Sitting in the dimly lit backstage area at the Albino Skunk Music Festival in rural Upstate South Carolina, she leans back into her chair and puts her boot up on the bottom rung of the nearby porch railing.

With a voice as timeless as it is mesmerizing, the West Virginia-raised songbird is a haunting presence, this staggering blend of old-time folk, blues, jazz and country music. 

And it’s her distinct voice that’s become the talk of Nashville, the town she currently calls home, more so since she signed with Rounder Records — a storied label that isn’t looking for a “flash in the pan” act, but actual artists to develop for decades to come.

In person, Ferrell is this whirlwind of curiosity and passion. It’s almost as if she’s more intrigued by those in the audience than they are in awe of her once-in-a-generation talent. It isn’t that she’s unaware of her prowess, Ferrell simply doesn’t take any moment, interaction or gig for granted — for it’s all a dream we dream, don’t you know?

For someone who bounced around America in her formative years, homeless and living out of her van while busking and honing her craft, Ferrell seems to just be happy to be along for the ride — this continuing trajectory upward and towards the unknown melodic horizon of unlimited possibility.

Related Items

Smoky Mountain News: Aside from the chaos of everything during the shutdown, what was your big takeaway, as an artist and as a human being?

Sierra Ferrell: Well, I would say, as an artist, I was really prepared to just get on the road [in 2020]. Because, when you’re touring, it’s definitely a state of mind. You have to be prepared or it’ll eat you up. I had already wired myself to be prepared, to be traveling and be on the road.

Then, of course, Covid put a wrench in the tire and I just had to figure it out. I had some really bad anxiety in the beginning, the uncertainty. A positive thing I took away from it, is that I have a bunch of new songs, so that makes me happy. I’ve been working on some new stuff and I have a different band right now — to try something different. 

SMN: You were on this fast trajectory and then everything was paused. Did you look at that pause as an opportunity to reevaluate what you want out of this?

SF: I definitely know I’m going to be playing music until the day I die. 

SMN: So, that’s solidified?

SF: Yeah. I’m going to be doing that no matter what. And if I can go along and other people do the marketing stuff for me? Awesome.

SMN: What do you think about the fact everyone is focusing on you all of a sudden? Does that affect your personal expectations? How do you deal with that?

SF: I just go with it and hope I don’t get too weird. [Laughs] But, it is heavy. And, you know, I do suffer from some mental instabilities. I’m sure everyone does. But, I’m super aware of it. It’s something people need to talk about more because mental health is so important. Like, I feel like a lot of kids aren’t told they should exercise more.

SMN: Or admit it.

SF: Or admit it. Or admit that you’re wrong, especially Americans. It was pretty eye-opening. I’ve never really made as much money as what I have been making since I have this [marketing] team and stuff. And I’m definitely aware, especially being an addict as I have been before in the past, [now] having all this money at my disposal. 

I mean, I’m just going to keep doing my thing. I hope I get to keep working with amazing musicians, because I feel they’ve opened that door for me. 

SMN: Is your lack of an online presence on purpose?

SF: You know, I’ve never really liked the internet. We’re not supposed to experience [all of] that. We’re not supposed to be connected to 20 million people. We’re supposed to be interacting hands on, communicating [face-to-face]. 

The internet pisses me off, to be honest. I just get frustrated with it and I can’t work it. Of course, these days I’ve progressed. I do love Instagram now, that kind of started when I first moved to Nashville, to document things. 

SMN: Do you have other expectations?

SF: You know, I just want to be able to do good and finally get to be around my mom, take her somewhere nice. She’s in West Virginia. 

The one thing that I really do love about West Virginia? I lived in the Charleston area a lot, and I love that it’s a river town and it’s all tucked away. You’re always surrounded by these rolling hills. There’s always a hill. You feel cradled. You feel safe. And there’s this river.

Then, I started hobo-ing it up. [Laughs] I just wanted to see America. And I learned a lot. I learned about what I need, what I didn’t need. 

Now I have a [home and] a garden [in Nashville]. I love spending time alone. And I love spending time with the people I choose to be around me. I have to maintain this — for my mental health and for me to progress forward. I’m in a really good place.

Want to go?

Rising singer-songwriter Sierra Ferrell will hit the stage at 8 p.m. Friday, April 22, at The Orange Peel in Asheville.

Timbo will open the performance. Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 day of show. The concert is ages 18 and up.

For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to theorangepeel.net and click on the “Shows” tab. For more on Ferrell, go to sierraferrellmusic.com.

Leave a comment

Smokey Mountain News Logo
SUPPORT THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND
INDEPENDENT, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALISM
Go to top
Payment Information

/

At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.