.Feelings Parade: Vulnerable Songs from the Deep Heart’s Core

Feelings Parade, the Morgan Bolender-and-Scott Ferreter duo, worked on their debut album, Let It Move You, for 18 months. During that time, they lost their home and lived in seven locations, setting up home studios in each place, slowly honing the arrangements they created for the record. The songs the duo write, alone and as a couple, deal with difficult feelings—the fear of mortality, political dysfunction and the difficulties one often faces, even in intimate relationships. Along the way, Bolender had a seizure that sent her to the UCSF Neurology Center. She eventually had an operation to remove a small growth in her brain, but it didn’t stop them from completing the record.

“As we were working on the album, the people closest to me noticed that I was zoning out in an uncharacteristic way,” Bolender said. “In hindsight, a lot of things that we’d accepted as personal quirks turned out to be from the cavernoma in my brain. While I was in the hospital the first time, Scott slept in our van in the UCSF parking garage. Due to Covid, he couldn’t visit me, so we sent voice messages back and forth. We wove some of them into the album as interludes. They feel like a deeply honest depiction of what we were going through as we birthed this music.”

“When we play live, we like to connect with the audience and be as vulnerable as we can be, on any given night,” Ferreter said. “Including the memos was a way to do that with an album, to let people know what was going on for us and where our hearts were, and invite them in.”

Despite the large cast, the music on Let It Move You has a warm, intimate glow. The sound of distant ocean waves and strummed acoustic guitar chords opens “The Tides,” a song that urges us to surrender to our emotions, even at their most frightening. Swooping, ambient guitar tones complement the duo’s forlorn harmonies. Bolender sings lead on “Too Much.” Hushed washes of pedal steel, violins and a female chorus support a lyric that balances the joys of being embodied with the discomfort women often feel, even in supposedly safe situations. “In Defense of Sadness” celebrates the strength that’s found in giving in to frightening emotions. It starts quietly, with Ferreter singing lead in soft tones. The mood becomes more fervid as the arrangement opens up with jubilant, gospel-tinged flourishes supplied by Bolender’s harmonies, sustained chords from a Hammond organ and an exhilarating sax solo. It sounds like a perfect therapy session set to music. The album closer, “Oh Momma,” is a universal love song that could be about Scott’s mother or Mother Earth. He sings it quietly, with an open-hearted sincerity, acknowledging the rewards and challenges of family life and the blessings it can bring. Bolender’s harmonies are heavenly.

The duo said they couldn’t imagine their work as The Feelings Parade taking shape anywhere outside of the Bay Area. “We allow our audience to inform what we bring to the stage,” Ferreter said. “We’ve toured the states and Europe, but the Bay Area tends to have the most capacity for going deep and staying deep. A magical string of serendipities brought me here and, in hindsight, I realized I was seeking a place where I didn’t have to force people to go deep with me. No matter what you do here, you can find five people who do it better. There’s a concentration of passion and talent that encourages us to not try to be the best at anything, but to just be ourselves.”

“The fact that you’re a good musician is not the focal point in the Bay,” he added. “What you do with what you have is more important than your talent. Living here let us put down deep roots and gave us the space we needed—creatively, musically and personally—to move through the world with honesty and integrity.”

The Feelings Parade will play an album-release party for Let It Move You with a full band on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at The Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley. The singer, songwriter and San Francisco poet laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin will complete the bill. Show begins at 8pm. 510.644.2020. [email protected]

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