Take a listen to Something Fierce, the fourth album from Alaskan singer-songwriter Marian Call. Call is a hard-working artist who recently crowd-sourced over 63,000 dollars for the album and a European tour to visit her fans. Subjects on the new album include Jane Austen, tech support, avocados and sea urchins.
“Two topics inspired Something Fierce,” Call tells American Songwriter. “Traveling around the continent and returning to Alaska. It’s a record about going away from home and coming back. Both travel and Alaska have changed me mightily; I used to be a timid person, afraid of doing new things, crippled by a need for approval. Alaska is not just the setting for my story, it’s a character, and knowing Alaska has made me stronger, bolder, and better able to step over my fears (which are still and always with me). It’s helped me to travel and take risks. It’s made me more honest. So I’m fascinated with it. I wrote a lot of it while on my fan-powered 50 State Tour in 2010, in which I played 133 shows all over North America (yes, one in every state, and in most of the provinces too).
“Something Fierce was recorded in Seattle, Anchorage, Brooklyn, Austin, and Los Angeles. Some of it happened in large expensive studios, some in my living room. It was easier for me to travel to all my musicians than for them to come to me, so the record spans the continent, and it has my whole music community on it, all the voices of people I love and love to play with.
“Because fans funded this record, I had the luxury of time while I worked on it, and I’m very grateful for that. I got everything I wanted, really — when a song wasn’t working, I went back and redid it, or I hunted down the extra instrumentation, or I took the time to fix it. It has all the extras that fans ask for like extensive liner notes and nice packaging. It’s a big, thorough piece of work that took two years. And fans will hear all the extra blood, sweat, time, and money that went into this record; it sounds totally sincere, truly committed, and very much the way I wanted it to.”
Make sure to listen for a distinctive percussion instrument.
“My family has a cat — a cat who was not especially dear to us in life — he was neither clever nor affectionate, and he drooled all over our hardwood floors, which we feared might break somebody’s neck,” says Call. “His name is Zippy. Once he died, my parents used his ashes in a tin as a gag gift at the church office White Elephant Christmas gift exchange. Each year he started reappearing at that same party, until he became a bit of a community celebrity, and poems and songs began appearing in Zippy’s honor. Gradually his ashes became our favored family pet; he came with us in a tea tin on family vacations, and he was at our weddings, graduations, holidays, and important coming-of-age events.
“Since I include the rest of my family on my recordings, it was a natural choice to invite Zippy to participate. He can be heard as a shaker on all of my albums, and I took him on my 50 State tour, so he’s been all over the U.S. and Canada — from Miami to Barrow, Alaska. Currently he’s staying with my brother in Seattle, since I had the privilege of Zippy’s company for so long. My fans have become very fond of Zippy and they look forward to seeing him when I do bring him on tour.”