Our Purpose Here – Ferron

Song: Our Purpose Here
Album: Testimony
Performer: Ferron
Writer: Ferron
Year: 1980

Ferron is a well respected songwriter from Canada. She is credited as influencing many female songwriters including Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco. Her music had been on my musical discovery checklist for quite awhile and I came across this song first.

The first thought I had when I heard this song was “Wow. This is a woman who is living the life of a traveling musician. She’s independent, she has built her life around making music, and she’s telling that story.” I immediately connected with the song because it was the first time I heard a woman who was directly writing about life as a rambling musician that I idolized so much in male musicians like Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie.

In fact, her writing style in this song is not dissimilar to the lyrical style of a lot of Bob Dylan’s early music. The song is written as a series of verses which connect seamlessly together to tell a story. Her delivery is very close to the cadence of everyday speech. The arrangement of the song is soft spoken and leaves a lot of room for the strong melody and expression of Ferron’s voice. It includes a few layers of acoustic guitar (a light strumming rhythm guitar, a featured finger picking rhythm, and an acoustic guitar solo in the middle of the song) along with light drums and electric bass. The chord progression is repetitive and utilizes descending bass. The prevalence of descending lines adds to the overall sorrowful mood of the song.

The story in the song is Ferron grappling with a dedication to music (requiring late nights and a lot of time away from home) and trying to make an intimate relationship work within those parameters. I feel like that’s a narrative we don’t get so often from a female perspective. Me being in a relationship with a traveling musician and being a traveling musician myself, that struggle is very relevant. I often feel like I’m on both sides of the relationship – feeling both the loneliness of being home by myself and the loneliness of being away.The opening of the second verse captures those emotions very strongly:

There’s a secret in this solitude
As my love unfolds I find it’s often crude
I call you late and my words intrude
And I falter
But the miles don’t shrink by telephone
The crackling wire becomes our home
I tell you I’m okay alone
And then I wonder

And we get the uniquely female perspective on the experience later on in that verse:

It’s a woman’s dream this autonomy
Where the lines connect
And the points stay free

I feel like I often struggle to maintain autonomy in my romantic relationship but when you both have careers that require solitude and sometimes extended time apart, autonomy becomes essential. This feeling can also be applied to just being gone from home for extended periods of time. It can be isolating and has sometimes made me question the validity of my aspirations when my heart aches to be home as opposed to a gig in Kentucky or a random Quality Inn in Virginia. I’ve even wondered on occasion why I’m living in Nashville if I miss being home so much. Ultimately, I’m drawn back to my fantasy of making a living playing music and doing what I truly love, but it’s hard to balance and nurture multiple loves that all require a lot of time and energy. I think Ferron did an incredible job articulating from a female point of view the struggle and sacrifice that can come with the life of a musician.

-Kori Caswell

If you want to check out all the songs featured in the “Women in Music” section of this blog, check out this Spotify playlist: