As the founder and principle songwriter of Fern, Rachel Fowlie-Neufeld sees herself foremost as a poet. Rachel has found herself splitting the divide between the poet she was and the musician she’s become. As such, Fern’s new EP Strange Fingerprints, set to drop at her release show on April 26, is reminiscent both of prairie-grown poetry and melodic tenacity.
Fowlie-Neufeld describes the start of her musicality as more imitation than origination. “When I first started putting words to music I felt like I was writing poetry and setting it to music,” she says. “In a poem repetition is still part of it, but it has do something for the rest of the poem. Whereas with music if people can sing along you can repeat something for two minutes.”
Fern began as a solo act, with Fowlie-Neufeld playing open mics and jamming with friends. She grew as a folk singer-songwriter under the influence and support of the friends whom she played with, and eventually felt the urgency to begin recording her music. Rachel self-produced a bedroom EP to share online as Fern in 2012. “I recorded them all like on a one track, one take kind of thing,” says Rachel. “If the first take wasn’t good, I’d just do it all again.”
Since then, Fowlie-Neufeld has acquired an ensemble of musicians for recording and onstage performance. In January of 2013, she approached her friend and collaborator Josh Robinson of The Sound & Silence Collective to record a four song EP and to shoot a music video for one of those songs. The EP was then recorded over the summer of 2013 with assistance from SaskMusic’s Investment Program.
Fern’s music video, set to the single “Prairie Skies”, is appropriately descriptive of the colourful Saskatchewan highway montage from which Fowlie-Neufeld draws influence. The video was created entirely by students at the Recording Arts Institute of Saskatoon, including production by Ryley Konechny, Taylor Collison, Calvin Boehr, and Brendan Dahl. Editing was by Taylor Collison.
Fans of Fern might wonder what’s in store for the mild-mannered folk act, as does Fern for that matter. “I don’t really know what people want to know,” says Fowlie-Neufeld. “Definitely tour… before anything. I’d definitely like to release something full-length and continue to collaborate with local artists.” Fern embarked on a short reach earlier this year into Saskatchewan venues outside of Saskatoon, but plans to hit up rural Saskatchewan and beyond in the upcoming months.
Fowlie-Neufeld wrote her first EP on a semi-worn redwood Albarez, though since Fern’s serious foray into recording and performing, she has played a Martin DCPA5K. Fowlie-Neufeld also owns an electric Ibanez hollow-body that she would like to explore within the scope of her folk project. “It’s not that I’m bored…” she says, “there are just so many places I haven’t been with music.”
The inception of Fern as a full band is indicative of Fowlie-Neufeld’s exploratory nature, a sign of her need to fully express and devote herself. “With adding other instruments in I wanted to make more noise,” she says. “I love writing folk music [solo], but at the same time, the appeal of being in a band with other people is hard to ignore.” With the entrancing rhythms Fowlie-Neufeld is producing through Fern, fans will inevitably swoon over whatever comes next.