So much of jazz singer-songwriter Samantha Fierke’s world was not as it appeared as they worked on their debut album in the midst of the pandemic. Still a teenager at the time, Fierke had not yet been diagnosed as autistic and was “finding their place in the world through their queer identity,” all while fear, economic uncertainty and civil unrest gripped the US. Writing poignantly about the contrasting feelings of hope and despair amidst chaos and turmoil, Fierke composed the resonant lyrics to the arresting “Mirage,” the title track to the acoustic jazz vocal album produced by Loyd Warden receiving its national release on November 18.
When they began crafting “Mirage” in 2020, Fierke had deferred their first year at Berklee College of Music and also had to push back recording the album due to pandemic restrictions. The delay afforded Fierke’s music time to mature, songs that explore the pain they endured while masking their autism in an abusive relationship; fantasizing romantically about a woman; express the rage and power of their generation in response to the politics of our times; the pain and anger of betrayal; and emerging from darkness with hopeful anticipation.
As restrictions eased last year, Fierke entered bassist Mickey Jamieson’s home studio in Columbia, Missouri where they recorded live accompanied by a trio comprised of Jamieson, keyboardist Samuel Luetkemeyer, and Warden on drums and percussion.
“Mirage” opens with a tribute to Chick Corea on the astutely rhythmic “Kick It Loose.”
“Chick died as I was still writing it and immediately, I knew it was for him. It is a song for the musician’s soul, to remind us that we are not simply a commodity to be bought and sold. Music is not between audience and performer, but among a communal group,” said Fierke who released a five-song EP of standards in 2018 titled “Sam.”
The haunting and unsettling “Mirage” is the session’s centerpiece. The track varies in tone and tempo, propelling the experience along.
“When I began writing ‘Mirage,’ it became clear how heavy it was. This song wrote itself and I simply uncovered it. I cannot explain it properly other than to describe it as desperation and perseverance. In the process, I saw my songwriting solidify into something that felt more authentic and sacred to me than anything I had ever written. Though the words were simply revealing themselves to me without much literal understanding on my part, I knew what it was about. I knew the feeling of the mirage. It is a reflection on the desperation to hold onto hope. It is a timeless feeling but writing it during this momentary ‘falling apart of our world’ felt so heavy. The song speaks of a journey through a desert that seems to never end even as the lyrics beg to keep going. It is simultaneous hope and despair. Once I felt how this song lingered in my stomach, I began to build an album around it — some old and some new tunes, but all my own songs. Even still, I’m connecting the dots that my intuition already put together, linking all the songs together back to the center of ‘Mirage.’”
During the “Mirage” recording and arranging process, Fierke received guidance from Grammy nominated jazz vocalists Gretchen Parlato, Jane Monheit and Oleta Adams as well as Grammy winner Taylor Eigsti, mentors and role models who have taken an interest in the promising singer-songwriter. Last June, Fierke finally shared the album in two cities: their hometown (Columbia, MO) and Boston where they’re now a college sophomore. Another Grammy winner, Brother Paul Brown (The Waterboys), got hold of the collection and submitted the album for Grammy consideration in five categories (Jazz Vocal Album, Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, Album of the Year; Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals; and Best New Artist). Encouraged by the buzz and critical acclaim in Fierke’s two homebases that was growing organically, a plan came together to take “Mirage” national.
Two days after “Mirage” drops, Fierke will perform at The Jungle near Boston on November 20.
“Mirage” contains the following songs:
“Kick It Loose”
“I Remember Butterflies”
“Mirage” (Mickey music with)
“Sweet Girl” (Loyd music with)
“When People Speak”
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