Script for January 2007 QMH

Tret Fure Interview

photo by Jane Weldon

Tret Fure - Spread It Around (2005)

This is Queer Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and welcome to my seventh anniversary show. I'm celebrating with what I think is a very special show, honoring the work of Tret Fure. Now, she should not be a new name to you, as she's been recording since 1972, and has broken her own new ground in a number of ways. And one of the ways that impresses me is that in the early 1970s in L.A., when she was making her musical beginnings, she also realized that she needed more control over her sound, and became one of the first women sound engineers in the US. That led to her working with Olivia Records and with a number of artists, including Cris Williamson. They became musical and life partners and were almost the poster children of gay relationships, until Tret again needed to go her own way. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Stick around and you'll hear Tret talk about her career and her music.

And the music starting the show came from her latest CD, "Anytime Anywhere," from 2005. We'll be back to that album later in the show. I got a chance to sit down with Tret early last November, prior to seeing her in concert in Houston.

How did you get your start in music?

My actual start in music? I started playing piano when I was 5 years old, and by the time I was 6 I was writing music that my piano teacher would have me play for her older students. When we left Iowa my parents sold my piano, never got me another one, so by the time I was 8 I picked up the violin. And I played violin for 4 years, or 3 years…actually I played violin for 5 years. After playing violin for 3 years, where I was quite good at that too; I was first chair in the high school orchestra when I was starting junior high…ah, my brother came home with a guitar, as age 11, so I picked up the guitar and that was it. It was like…mine. Give me that guitar. And I started playing, I started listening to folk music, I started singing, which I never thought I could actually do. And by the time I was 13 my older brother and I were a duo, a folk duo, in town, in Marquette, Michigan, where I spent junior high and high school. And I've never stopped playing, so it's been 44 years now, of being a singer/songwriter…not a singer/songwriter, a folk guitarist, singer, and I started writing songs when I was 19

You got some really great exposure very early in your career, with Spencer Davis, could you tell us about that?

Well, I had recently moved to L.A., trying to find my fame and fortune, and I had met and was partnered with June Millington, who at the time was the guitar player for a group called Fanny. And Fanny was the first all-women rock & roll band, in the early 70s, and quite well established, and I moved in with June. We lived up in the Hollywood Hills, and right around the corner from us was where Spencer Davis lived, and he knew the keyboard player, the piano player from Fanny, and was looking for a guitar player. So I auditioned for him and he hired me on the spot.

He wasn't intending on hiring a woman, but he loved the way I played, and he was…at the time he was doing… wasn't doing the old Spencer Davis Group rock & roll stuff, he was doing blues, and acoustic blues. And at the time I was playing a lot of 12-string slide, Ledbelly style, finger picking, 12-string slide, 6-string slide. And he just loved the way I played, so I worked with him. I brought in a bass player who was a friend of mine. We became a trio. I wrote some stuff that he recorded, as did the bass player. And I worked for him…I want to say about a year, I think, at which point I…the manager of Fanny saw my talent, working with Spencer, and took me on as an artist, and got me my first record deal, with MCA records.

And so I stopped working with Spencer. I did work with him again in the mid-70s. He was doing a retro band, a retro rock & roll thing and I played guitar with him again, but it wasn't as much fun. I was having to sing songs like "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm a Man." Singing backup on "I'm a Man" was a little trying for me, but it was great exposure and it was good work for me

In 1972 Spencer Davis released an album called "Mousetrap," he recorded one of your songs, and I believe you played and sang backups on it, though that's not credited on the album

It's not? Well, who knows, in those days they weren't as meticulous about crediting stuff. It really was…in a lot of ways it was almost a duo album, but it was never set up that way. But I wrote the single for the album, and I did all the guitar work and the backup singing

I should have phrased it as harmony singing, because the vocals were very strong

Yeah, exactly. Yeah it was more than just backup vocals, right. It was harmony because we sang together through all the shows and all the stuff we did

That album contains one of your songs, "Rainy Season." That song also appears on your own debut album, in 1973

A very interesting song. I was one of my first, not my first songs, but one of my first songs that I thought had some potential. I don't even know where it came from. You know, I listen to those old songs and I think, oh my God, do I ever want anyone to hear them again?

It sounded different on your album

It did, and when I did it with Spencer it was more of country kind of a country folk piece. And then when I did it with Lowell George, who produced my first album, he took it in a whole different direction, a la Little Feat, and it was much, much hipper, much more avant guard than the way it was done with Spencer, so there are two totally takes on the same song. And to me it's not one of my best songs. It's not something I would listen to.

Well, for historical purposes, let's hear just a bit of both versions of the song "Rainy Season"

Spencer Davis & Tret Fure / Tret Fure - Rainy Season (1972 / 1973)

Are there any songs on that album you really like?

Yeah, I do. The song "Laughing Holidays" I think is a really good song. I actually have played that through the years, from time to time, when I want to bring something back from that first album I play "Laughing Holidays." I think that's a nice little poetic piece

Tret Fure - Laughing Holidays (1973)

I understand you were one of the first female sound engineers. How did that come about?

Well, I was working on my second solo album. I was working with a company called Heritage Music. It was…Johnny Mercer's son had started a record company, and I was working with a producer called Morgan Cabot, whose claim to fame was the Captain & Tonille. He had produced their first album, their first big hit album. I was working with a young engineer who turned out to be my mentor, and a great friend, but when I first started working with him he had the attitude that a lot of engineers have, a bit of arrogance, like "you can't possibly understand what I'm doing, and I'm not going to explain anything that I'm doing to you, because this is my secret," and I don't like working that way.

So I said, "you know, I don't like feeling ignorant, I'd like to learn a little bit more about what's going on in the studio." So the studio owner gave me a book called "Modern Recording Techniques," which was like the Bible of recording in the 70s. I took it home and read it, and I understood it, and I came back the next day and I started explaining things to Randy, my engineer, and he was like "Whoa." Now he was a musician who came at engineering from a musician's point of view, as I pretty much did. But I could explain things to him that he did instinctively but didn't understand, so he said, "you want to work as my second engineer?" And I said, "Absolutely." So when we weren't working on my album, I was working with him on other projects, and we worked 18-hour days, seven days a week. For a year and a half I worked with him. Through that time my album was sold to United Artists, but it was never released, because Untied Artists decided…or Transamerica Life Insurance, who owned United Artists, decided to get out of the music business.

So my album got dropped, and fortunately I had the background of engineering to fall back on while I was struggling to get another deal. And I spent the next 5 years, pretty much, in the studio, supporting myself as a recording engineer, and using all my profits on my income at…disposable income on bands, putting bands together and showcasing all over L.A. trying to get the next big deal. So it was really fortuitous because, you know, so many artists have to do, have to wait tables, have to work as a clerk in a supermarket, whatever to make ends meet so you can get your next big break. I never had to leave…once I started I never had to leave the music industry and I became a pretty well-known engineer. It was hard, because of the 70s of course…you know, women couldn't possible know what they were doing in the studio, and every session I did, every new client I had I had to prove myself. I had to prove that I knew what I was doing, that I knew more than they did, and it was always a struggle but I never lost a client because once people started working with me they realized that I had a good ear and I had a good temperament, and I was easy to work with.

On your first album there was involvement with Bonnie Raitt, Van Dyke Parks, the Millingtons, Lowell George of Little Feat...that's pretty heady stuff

Yeah, they were all friends of mine, we were all hanging out in the early seventies. Lowell I met through June, and when it was time, when I got my deal with MCA I wanted him to be my producer. They balked at first, but they went for it, because he had a good strong name, and he had, I believe I was his first outside production, outside of Little Feat, and he was a friend of Van Dyke's, and I met Van Dyke through him, and we became friends. And Bonnie…also through June. We all hung out in those days. There was a lot of great…in the house where I lived there was a lot of music going on. Crazy Horse used to rehearse down in the basement, Neil Young's band, Bonnie would come over, and Lowell would come over, and played music, and Freebo would come around, and Joel Tepp, harp player. There was so much stuff going on in those days. Danny O'Keefe, we were all good friends, we all played music together. I remember singing one night…Maria Muldaur, Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie and I were singing backup, just like hanging out at a party, just singing. And I used to play fiddle, a little bit in the early days, and Maria always encouraged me on my fiddle playing. So those were really, really great, heady times, you know, and it was a great time to be in music. That's when record companies pretty much, some record companies, supported artists, took artists on to let them mature and grow, and give you a one-shot deal, so there was, you know, there was great stuff going on in those days.

Tell me about your early connection with June Millington

Well I met her, I met her in 1970, I had just moved to L.A. I went to New York to find a manager, when I dropped out of school, and I decided that I was going to pursue music. I went to New York, to play the Village, play the hoops, see if I could find a manager and I met this woman, Maggie Corey, who was Professor Irwin Corey's daughter, and her claim to fame though was that she was an ex-partner of James Taylor's, and that she knew everybody in the business, and she wanted to manage me. So I said, sure, let's try it, and I immediately moved to L.A. And she had just gotten to know Fanny, can't even remember how, I think it was through a studio and through a man named John Fishbeck, who was a friend of James' and she brought me over to their house one night, and I met June, and we started playing guitar together, and that was it, I never left. We just kind of fell in love musically and personally and that was really my first, my first lesbian relationship and we ended up spending two and a half years together. And didn't really play music together, because it was all about Fanny, in those days, and we would play acoustic guitars together when we were home, but she mostly wasn't home. She was mostly on the road, which was why I eventually left, because I never saw her, she was always gone. But through her I met a lot of people, and went on to have my own career.

How did you make the transition from the big labels like MCA and UNI to Olivia?

Well, I got pretty frustrated. The music industry is very political and also it's a very sexist industry, it always has been, and it is, more so you see it in Nashville now than in L.A. but, you know, I lost my deal with UNI through politics. The president who brought me into the label was fired and all the artists that came with that president were dropped, had nothing to do with talent. It had all to do with who you knew and/or who you were sleeping with. And then when I lost my deal with United Artists through the label folding I was really getting tired of it, and I hooked up with June Millington again, after several years of absence, I decided I would produce her next album, which was called "Heartsong." And I sold it to Olivia Records, and I met the women from Olivia and they offered me a contract, and I realized that, even though I didn't want to be pigeonholed to something called Women's Music, here was a ready-made audience of at the time thousands of women who were hungry for women artists, who appreciated everything you did. And I could have total creative control over what I did. And I didn't have to sign any kind of long term agreements.

So it was a natural progression for me, and I hooked up then with Cris Williamson through June and I became her opening act, which later evolved into a duo act, but at the time I was her opening act, and it was…you know I was really the first sort of rock & roll singer on Olivia. I was actually on Second Wave, because Olivia was trying to stay pure, women-only folk-based artists, and they started Second Wave Records to bring in more, other kinds of music, and women who might have worked with men, and all that kind of stuff. So I was the first artist on Second Wave Records, but it was just…it felt like a natural progression. There was such beauty in those rooms, and such energy of thousands and thousands of women at the time just loving the music. And they didn't always love my music, because my music was a little loud for a lot of the women. You know, they'd just say, "we want Cris, get off stage, you're too loud," and I'd say, "you're going to have to listen."

Your second solo album, "Terminal Hold," was released in 1984 on Olivia Record's Second Wave label. From it please tell me about the song "As If By the Wind"

Well, "As If By the Wind," that was the time of…that was the early 80s, and I love the way that song starts, cause you hear that intro in just about every third song in the 80s, the way the guitars build. It was a love song that I had written for somebody I had known in the 70s, working in the studios. It was a relationship that wasn't supposed to be happening. It was one of those things that just happens. My songs are all very personal, they come from different places in my life and different places I've been, and I've been in a lot, a lot of places, romantic situations, a lot of environment situations, I've been all over the map and that's all through my music.

Tret Fure - As If By the Wind (1984)

What to you is womyn's music?

Well, you know, it's changed over the years. It's…at the time, you know, I came into it in 1980, which was sort of when the separatist part of women's music was…separatism was sort of fading a bit. But to me at the time it was women having the ability to record music that was about women, about women's issues, and that was produced and engineered and performed by women. I think it's changed over the years, as women in the industry have, you know, at the time there weren't that many women in music. Now there's a lot of women in music, and I think now the definition is…it's still women making music, but I think it has to do with a sensibility of women dealing with women's issues, dealing with songs from the heart, songs of politics, songs that really have to do with the heart of a woman

Is there less of that now?

No, I think there's more of it. I think there's more of it. I think there's not as defined, and there's not the groups because we're so, we've been integrated into the mainstream so much that you don't find women's culture as much as you used to. But, my God, there's ton of artists that are doing fabulous work that are calling themselves folk/women artists. The still survive in the women's world and they survive in the folk or the rock world. You can see it just through the festivals that are still alive and thriving, like Michigan Womyn's Music Festival and National Women's Music Festival. There are so many younger artists that are coming through the ranks and they want to play these women events

Do you think they have a sense of history? Those are all wonderful artists.

I think a lot of the ones that are coming through now do. I think there was a period of time of about ten to twenty years where there was no sense of history, and people did not want to be identified with women's music, because it pigeon-holed you. I mean, I'm still pigeon-holed. You know, it's funny because even though, even like being gay is considered okay now and the artists that came out like Melissa, like kd, never lost their footings really, the artists that were initially in the lesbian movement are still pigeon-holed. But that's not as true anymore and I think that women are owning their history again. Yeah, there's artists like Ember Swift, there's artists like Alix Olson, Pamela Means and Natalia Zukerman, and these are women who are very proud of being in women's music that know the history and appreciate the history and follow the path of the women who have come before

Those are all wonderful artists

They are wonderful artists, you bet.

Your fourth solo album came out in 1990, called "Time Turns the Moon," and one songs that really caught my attention from it is "The Girls All Dance"

Well, that…that was from my high school years, you know, growing up in a small town, in Northern Michigan, going to the Beriga Dance every Friday night, and the boys never danced. They'd just stand around in a big circle and so the girls all danced with each other, and I thought, when I started writing this song, this is perfect. The lesbians are going to love this because we all do dance now, but it came from a place in high school where…and it was always amazing to me, rarely did you see a boy on the dance floor. It was okay to dance with girls. There was nothing…there was nothing wrong with that in high school, because you were just dancing. And it's been a great song, women love that song.

Tret Fure - The Girls All Dance (1990)

I hear a touch of Cajun or Zydeco in some of your songs…where does that come from?

Oh, just influences from music that I hear around the world…I don't do as much now, because that was more when I was working with bands, and working with keyboards and drums. I've always loved Cajun music, and again I think my influence in that was from attending a lot of…performing at a lot of folk festivals, especially the Canadian folk festivals, you hear a lot of more Zydeco-flavored music

Tret Fure - The Working Poor (1990)

There was that touch of Cajun I was thinking of. The song was "The Working Poor," also from Tret's album "Time Turns the Moon."

I want to give you an opportunity to talk about your time with Cris Williamson, because that was such a very public part of your life and music career.

Yes it was, it was. We were together personally and professionally for 19 years, and as I mentioned we started, I met her as an engineer on her children's record, "Lumiere," and became her producer over the next 19 years basically. We started…I started as an opening act for her, I'd play on her sets, she'd play on my sets. Through the course of that first decade we didn't really talk about our relationship. We sort of kept it private, but it became more and more public and by the early 90s people knew that we were a couple.

Our music became more and more closely aligned. We started writing more together. I was doing…I was going less rock, more folk, and she was going from folk to a little more rock. And so it was a nice blending of styles and talent and our voices were so beautifully matched that sometimes you couldn't tell one from another. And that was something that people loved and we loved. But the more our relationship became public people sort of fell to us as role models, and comes a point I think in anyone's professional life where if you become too identified with someone else you lose your own identity. And I felt like I was starting to lose my own identity and my own creative control by being just a duo with Cris. Because it was always "Cris and Tret" and I was feeling like "And Tret" more than I was feeling like Tret.

And I just had to step away, but it was one of the hardest decisions that I have ever made personally and professionally. Because I knew that there would be a lot of backlash. I knew that I would not have the following that Cris would continue to have, and I knew that people would be resentful. And they were. I mean, I struggled for…the first two or three years were really hard. It was hard to get work. People were nasty to me, not everybody but certain elements but I would get emails from people saying, "you cant leave, you need to stay together for us, you're our role models," you know, or "you're the perfect couple, how could you leave…"

You were on a relationship pedestal

Yeah, exactly, the poster children for co-dependency, and it just was wrong, it shouldn't have…we never should have put ourselves out there so much like that because it just made it very difficult to move on. But it was a great run, it was a great 19 years. We had a great relationship, both professionally and personally but it had run its course in my life, and I had to move on. There's still people who won't come to my shows, because they take sides, and there should have never have been a side, there shouldn't be sides

Do you currently have much contact with Cris?

Yes…I mean, not much. We see each other at events. You know, we were both at Michigan last year, I as vendor, her as a performer, and I saw her recently in P-town. But we don't have a lot of contact…it's interesting because most lesbians when they break up they remain friends, well that's not the case with Cris and I, probably will never be. I think it's still too hard, and it's harder on her, I think. So we don't have a lot of contact but…and I don't think we will do any kind of reunion show like people always want. It's just not…it's not where I am, and it's not where she is either

One more question about when you worked together. How did you work out the creative process, who sang lead, who recorded?

Well, when we first started writing together I would write more of the music and she would write more of the lyrics, because I am naturally much more music inclined, and she is more lyrically inclined. She would have a piece of lyric and I would say, "oh, I've got the perfect melody for that." And a lot of the earlier stuff, either she would sing the lead, or we would sing it together, or we would share verses, or we would alternate verses. Lot of the stuff we did, like "Helen's Fields," "Stones from Helen's Fields," stuff like that, we would alternate verses. As we continued to write, we started writing more integrated. We would share lyrical ideas, we would share musical ideas. And we were teaching songwriting a lot, and the more we would teach songwriting, we always ended up writing songs that…the lessons that we were teaching…we'd end up writing great songs ourselves. And those songs were probably more closely aligned in terms of having an equal share in the whole creative process of music and lyrics. You know, it's hard to say who took the lead. I guess it depended on who felt more closely aligned to the lyric and to the feel of the song.

Of the three albums that you did together, are there any songs that stand out that you're particularly proud of?

Ah, boy, I think "The Stones from Helen's Field" is a great song. Boy, "Radio Quiet" was one of our favorites, always, those are two that really stand out to me, "Stones from Helen's Field" and "Radio Quiet"

Let's take a break and hear a little of their song "Radio Quiet." It's the title track from their 1998 album.

Cris Williamson & Tret Fure - Radio Quiet (1998)

Has your relationship with any of your earlier songs changed since you wrote them?

Oh, always, you're always, I think you're always reading new nuances into the things that you write, and finding new ways of recreating it. You know, to keep a song alive, you must. And it takes on…it takes on new definition I think as we age and mature…the songs that I continue to do. They'res songs that I look at and I would never…you know, wouldn't see the point of singing again, except people you know for historical reasons or people who insist on hearing "Tight Black Jeans" over and over again. That song doesn't hold that much, you know, emotional charge for me but I occasionally bring out the electric guitar and play it because people love that song.

Well, I like that song as well, and can't resist sharing with you a little of the song "Tight Black Jeans." It's from Tret's third solo album, "Edges of the Heart," from 1986

Tret Fure - Tight Black Jeans (1986)

I've had artists tell me they've grown into some of their songs

Yeah, that's true, I mean, "That Side of the Moon" is one of my classic songs and I don't do it very often because it's a piano song, and I don't travel with a piano, and I need to figure out how to play it on guitar, but when I do perform it, it always is fresh for me, because it's dealing with the issue of trust, and I think you know, we're always dealing with our hearts and dealing with trust, and trusting each other and trusting ourselves. So I can always find a fresh way to approach that song. And one of my love songs that I wrote in the late 90's, "Everyone To Me," is a song that…I'm always searching for why I wrote that, where that song came from in my heart, because it has a lot more to do with where I am now than where I was then. And I think that's interesting because I think sometimes we channel, you know, we channel what might be coming in our lives.

The song "Everyone To Me" was from Cris & Tret's "Radio Quiet" album, but here's a bit of a live version of it, and the introduction is quite bittersweet.

Tret Fure & Cris Williamson - Everyone To Me (1999)

That song was released in 1999 as part of a various artists compilation called "NWMF Silver." The CD celebrated the 25th anniversary of the National Women's Music Festival.

This show is about Tret of course, but I don't want to gloss over the wonderful collaborations she and Cris did on the three duet albums, and one example I like shows their harmonies. It's from their 1996 album "Between the Covers" and is called "Please Say"

Cris Williamson & Tret Fure - Please Say (1996)

Part 2

Tret QMH ID

And this is a good time to invite you to check out my website. If you visit it while you're listening you can see the playlist and follow along, while looking at photos of the artists and recordings. I've always considered our music history as a visual as well as an audio experience. Again, that's at www.queermusicheritage.com, Also, for more very queer programming, please listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Friday night/Saturday morning from 1 to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude.

You don't record a lot of material by other writers, but you and Cris made an exception with "Carolina Pines"

Oh, yeah, yeah, well, you know, we loved Kate Wolf, and Nina (Gerber, the producer) was doing a great thing, recording Kate's work. And we wanted to be very much a part of it. We, Cris and I worked with Kate shortly before she passed away, and she was such a powerful influence in the world of folk, that we wanted to be a part of that project.

Cris Williamson & Tret Fure - Carolina Pines (1998)

That was a little of the song "Carolina Pines," written by Kate Wolf. She died in 1986 and in 1998 a various artists tribute album was released called "Treasures Left Behind: Remembering Kate Wolf." And again, I wish I could play full versions of all the songs on this show, but hopefully this will give you a taste of the music in Tret's career and you'll seek out her releases.

Since your break-up with Cris you've released three excellent solo albums. The first, in 2001, was called "Back Home." From it please tell me about "All Over Town"

"All Over Town," well that was the song I wrote right after, as I was leaving, pretty much as I was leaving Cris. And it was, it was a song of hope that we could get to a place where we could see each other, ah, "I'll find you in the school yard, I'll pass you in the underground, and wonder how we ever" you know "found our way back home." And my hope is that we could find our way back to really what was the basis of our relationship, which was a very strong friendship. And we have that friendship, but we just, it's not a, it's a very distant friendship right now. And just the phrase "all over town" was that it was. Everybody was talking about it. It was on the streets before I even knew. People, oh, something's up. Some people came up to me and said they knew when we recorded "Radio Quiet," that something wasn't quite right. You know, people had their senses that something was wrong even before I realized that something was tragically wrong with where I was at in that relationship. And I think it's a neat song.

Tret Fure - All Over Town (2001)

So, "All Over Town" was about the breakup, from the same album was the song "This Train"

That was my leaving. That was my metaphor…well, I always say, that was my first, my return to folk, my true return to folk and you can't do a folk album without a train song, and that was my train song. But it really, I wrote that as I was leaving the West Coast. I lived on the West Coast for 30 years. I was in L.A. for 17 years. I was in Oregon for 13 years. And I decided to come back home, come back to the midwest. And in doing so, I drove a truck, a Ryder truck across country with taking basically just my studio and a few things I owned and pulling my car, and it was about leaving, leaving the West and never turning back, and it's a song about moving forward and never turning back.

Tret Fure - This Train (2001)

That was "This Train" from the "Back Home" album, and your next album, "My Shoes," had an important title track.

That was a song I felt I had to write. I really, really was tired saying that I blythly walked away from a relationship, and how could I have done that, and not realizing how difficult it is. And I, you know, it is the most difficult thing. It's as difficult to be the one who leaves, as it is to be the one who's left, and I always say that, and it's true, you know, and people know it. But people tend to judge you, and it's a song about being judged, and that you should not judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes. And it's been a very powerful song for me. It's really turned people around to say, "oh my God, this must have been hard for you." Hello? You know, and part of the problem was when I left, Cris and I had a whole spring tour, and she got the tour, and I had no work. So she was out there talking about what happened from her point of view, and people could only hear one side of the story, and I said, this is crazy, I'm writing my side of the story, of what it's like to be the one who has to leave.

Tret Fure - My Shoes (2003)

I think "My Shoes" has been an important song for me in terms of…and for other people in terms of the recognition of how difficult it is to be a person who leaves a long-term relationship. It's helped a lot of people, I think, through the process of dealing with that breakup and also that song has been used a lot in therapy and divorce therapy and other kinds of therapy. I think it's a very well-done song.

What is your writing process?

It's very instinctual. I don't, I don't sit down and write every day. Something might hit me, a phrase might come to me, and I'll write it down or I'll record it. I used to write music to words, always, cause music was always first, and now I write more words to music. I have a lot more to say, as I mature I find more things to say, and I can say them better now than I think that I have in the past. So I often will write an entire lyric, or part of a lyric and then I'll pick up the guitar and see where it takes me. But the best songs are the ones that just come through me, still, and I've got a couple new ones that are that way, and they're just…I just find it remarkable. It's like, wow, where did that come from. They come in five minutes.

Some other artists have told me that as well

Yeah, when you're a conduit, it's yeah, you're a conduit and it's amazing. I don't know where it comes from…you know, to have the facility to take whatever that is, and be able to express it, that's phenomenal.

Also from the CD "My Shoes," please tell me about "How In The World"

Ah, that's basically about, you need to follow your heart. I wrote that song about my partner Jane, and how do you find, how do you find a partner. You know, it's, the timing is never necessarily right, the place isn't always right, but we always have to look, we always have to look for that person. We can't live without love, we have to follow our hearts.

Tret Fure - How In the World (2003)

I love "The Wedding Song"

Yeah, I wrote that for my nephew, it was in 2002 I wrote that song, cause I was, no, 2001, it was my 50th, it was my 50th birthday and Jane had taken me up to Brian Head, Utah, for a yoga retreat, and I had an assignment to write a song for my nephew. He was getting married, and he loved my music and he wanted me to write a song for his wedding. And I did, but it's really about, it's really about my life, and the way I feel about in my heart, for my partner, but it's something that I translated to his situation and his love. I've actually, he's just remarried and I've written him a new song. He asked me to sing at his new wedding, and the title song of the next CD is a song called "True Compass," which I wrote again for his wedding. But "The Wedding Song," you know, it's turned out to be…I called it something different for their wedding, I called it "The Love We've Found," but it's "The Wedding Song," and I have sung it at many, many weddings. I've sung it at my oldest brother's wedding. I've sung it at two different women, two couples that have gotten married, one in Hawaii, one in Canada. I've sung at many commitment ceremonies. People ask me all the time if they can use the song in their ceremony and I say, "Absolutely." It seems to be the definitive wedding song. You know, but they're really…you can't write a love song…I say you can't write a love song unless you're really in love. You can't write a good love song unless you're in love, and it does come from my own heart.

Tret Fure - The Wedding Song (2003)

The song "Hawk and the Dove" is a very powerful song.

I wrote that on September 12th, 2001. I was at Jane's parents', my inlaws, the day that, on September 11th, and just feeling devastated and feeling helpless, and what can you do in a situation like this, what can I? How can I help? And I just…I took my guitar and went outside where I could be alone, and that was a song that came right through me, and it was spurred by the events of September 11th, and it was my prayer for, my prayer for hope and my prayer for peace. And actually I did that two days later…I drove to…I had a show…because I was driving I could do my show, I had a show in Maryland, and it was the night of the candlelight and everyone went outside to hold candles, and the people that had come to see me at this church, we all went outside just as the President's…the Airforce One and his entourage was flying overhead. It was pretty powerful, and that was the first time that I performed that song. But it's on several different compilations. It's on a compilation called "Amaze Me, Songs in the Key of Peace," which was used to raise funds for "Democracy Now," and Women Against Military Madness, and several other organizations, and it's also on "Peace from the Porch, Volume 2," yeah, so it's doing its work in the world.

Tret Fure - Hawk and the Dove (2003)

How has your music changed over the years?

Oh, it's gotten, I'm much more folk-influenced that I ever, well, except for my early years, I came from folk. I moved into pop-rock, I moved from folk rock to pop rock, there was a couple years of punk, and new wave in there as well, but I've just mellowed, and I've mellowed back into the acoustic guitar. You know, some of it is survival. You can't travel these days…if you're going to fly you can't travel with a lot of instruments, and I can't afford to travel with a band. My first and most important instrument is the acoustic guitar, and it's just a natural place for me to be.

So I write only these days on the acoustic guitar and the more I travel in the folk world, which I'm doing a lot more these days, the more I find that my influences and my inspiration comes from other folk artists, other story tellers that I love, because I go to the national…I go to the North American Folk Alliance every year, which is a huge folk conference. But it's become the highlights of every year, and I hear new folk artists, and I learn, things from other players and singers and I find that it, it takes me back into myself and where my roots were and where I started. I write a lot of story songs. I write a lot of love songs. But they're really more folk-influenced than anything these days.

Has your audience changed?

Well, my audience grows with me. My audience is aging as am I. I have…younger people do come to my shows, I'd like to see more, because I think that my music is ageless. I call my music rock and aggressive folk, because there's an edge to a lot of the stuff that I do, and I think that younger, and I think that a younger audience appreciates that, but I just, I know, I think my music is timeless. I hope it's timeless. But I look out, and my audience is graying right along with me

To me the writing seems wiser, and I like that it's from an older perspective

Yeah, definitely, yes, especially the title song of my latest CD about being over 50, and still having it.

When you perform what song gets the most audience reaction?

Right now, "Anytime Anywhere," which is that song, cause people say, "Yeah, I'm over 50…" yeah that really, really gets a great response.

Tell me about that song

Well, that song actually came from an experience that I had. I was at the National Women's Music Festival three years ago and I was talking to Alix Olson, and Pamela (Means) and Ember (Swift) about joining the union, because as I've said, I'm vice-president of Local 1000, which is the first non-geographically based local of the GF of M. And the thing that's great about this union is that for the first time ever traveling folk musicians can look forward to a pension. We have an amazing pension, and as a travelling musician you've never been able to get any kind of pension. So it's a great, it's a great union. And I just believe in this union for many reasons, and I was trying to get younger women into the union, especially women because women historically have not had pensions, have not taken care of themselves, unless it's been through their husband. You know, and a lot of women don't, they still don't think that way, they don't think about retirement. And I want more women in this union because it's still mostly over-50 white male.

So, and I was talking to them about pension and I realized that they were just, their eyes were just glazing over and, they weren't really…listening, they weren't thinking about pension plans, and I said to them, I said to them "I know you're not thinking about pension now, but believe me, it seems like only yesterday I was in my 20s and I'm 52." And Alix Olson kind of turned to me and said, "You're 52? You're hot." And I just, well, how do you do it? And I was, well, "what does that exactly mean?" You can't be hot over 50, and that was the way I took it, and she assures me that's not what she meant, but it spurred me to write that song, and I would say, I'm now 55 and I'm not dead. It's about, you know, just because you're over 50 doesn't mean, one, you're not having sex, you can't be hot, that you're not, you know, you're not out there, that you're not passionate, that you're not emotional, that you're not always working on looking your best and being the best that you can be. And women love that song, and men, both love that song. It's a great song.

Tret Fure - Anytime Anywhere (2005)

Of course that was the title track from Tret's 2005 album "Anytime Anywhere"

The most political song from your latest album is "Eyes of God"

Very much so. That's basically about the arrogance of this administration, and the arrogance of Bush, and how dare you talk from the point of view that you know God, or that you are speaking for God, that you're doing God's work. Ah, I just find that kind of arrogance unbelievable.

Tret Fure - Eyes of God (2005)

I love the song "Drivin'," can you tell me about it"

Oh, I wrote that for Jane. We were driving…for five years she took a haitus from the work that she does which is hospital administration, to travel with me, to be my booking agent, to be my manager, to be my publicist, to travel with me and sell the clothes and CDs and it was a great run. But she was ready to go back to the work that she loves. But we would drive endlessly, and we would put 50,000 miles on a car per year, for four years, plus flying and renting cars and…that was just our personal car we put 50,000 miles on…And we would get in that car and we would go. And we were…she had bought me a Baby Taylor so I could write songs in the car, because we were always in the car and I needed to write. So she bought me a little guitar so that I could actually play, you know, without hitting her in the head with the neck of the guitar. And we were driving through the night, and we were going from…we wre just passing from Ohio into Kentucky, and I was working on a different song that just was not happening. And I was just about to put the guitar away when I just kind of was noodling around and I found this chord, I found this sequence. I looked up at the sky and there was a plane flying and this beautiful, beautiful night was like a paris blue sky, and I just started singing this song. And she goes, "What was that?" And I said it was a new song. I just wrote it and it was a five-minute song, and it's all about her travelling with me.

Tret Fure - Drivin' (2005)

What is ahead for you in your music?

Well, I'm going to start another CD in 2007. I just started fundraising, which I still have to do. Every independent artist I know has to raise funds to do the work. I hope to start recording in May, and have it out by the fall of 2007. I've written most of the material. I've got a couple more songs to write. I've come back into a creative space, so I think that I've got some more songs brewing that will round out the album. And that will be out in the fall, so I'll have to be touring that. I'm actually trying to tour less, because the older I get the more I love to be home and I've got a wonderful home life, a wonderful partner, animals and my store. So I'm sort of touring, trying to tour two weekends out of a month, six shows a year or so, and that's working out pretty well for me right now. And that's what I will continue to do. I love touring, but I don't want to be out there all the time. And I'm hoping that, as you know, as the internet grows, and as web grows, I can tour less but still be able to survive making my music.

I'm down to the last song, but before I get to it I want to thank you all for listening, and I want to especially thank Tret Fure for the wonderful interview. And as I had expected, the interview was so good that I could not fit all of into the radio version this show, so my internet listeners can hear an extended version with a lot more comments and additional music. That of course can be found at www.queermusicheritage.com. And, as always if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston.

To find out more about Tret and her music please visit her excellent website at www.TretFure.com.

I'm going to end this segment with one of my favorite of Tret's songs. It comes from the "Radio Quiet" album from 1998.

One of your songs is called "Tomboy Girl" and you've made sort of your own cottage industry out of that idea.

Yes, I have. Well, I always, you know, when that song came out, women responded to it, women related to it, cause so many of us grew up as tomboys, and you know, so many of us still own that title, and proudly so. And so when I wrote that song, about my own life growing up as a tomboy, with, growing up with three brothers I wanted to do a t-shirt, and in 2000 my partner Jane and I decided, well, let's try it, let's do a t-shirt and see how it sells. And women loved it. And then we did a hat, and then we did a tanktop. And then we started a web-business, and we would say, give us your requests and we'll see what we can do. And it turned into a line of clothing. I took on another partner, a good friend of mine in Massachusetts who because a very active part of the company. And Jane's dream was to start a retail store and Carol's was as well, so we eventually opened up a retail store in Madison.

And now it's a retail business, a web business, I sell a lot of clothes at my shows. It's also my production company, I mean the name, it's so tightly related to me now that my record company is Tomboy Girl Records, my production company is Tomboy Girl, our festival…we did Tomboy Girl Fest for a couple of years. It's just a name that's very closely associated with me, which is great. And the funny thing…you know, the interesting thing to me is, you know, on the road I sell a lot of clothes to my audience but in my store, in Madison, I sell mostly to middle-school girls, and straight girls, and mothers come in with their daughters, and the daughters want…they love the clothing because they can…they love the name, they can own it now. There's no onus attached to it anymore. It's something to be proud of. You know, since Title 9 more and more it's okay to be a tomboy. It's okay to be in sports. And girls these days, they're all soccer champs, and baseball and softball and they come in, they buy the clothing and wear it proudly and it's great, it's nice to see.

Tret Fure & Cris Williamson - Tomboy Girl (1998)