What's In a Name
When I started performing as Fern around 2011, I was in a pretty fragile state. I had just graduated from University, moved out of my parent’s house, ended a long term relationship and overall, made some very poor life decisions. I was broke, teetering on the soft edges of alcohol abuse, in constant crisis. Music was coping, it was life. I’d stumble home from Lydia’s (RIP) and wake up the next morning with bruised legs from my guitar case banging against them on the walk. It was the best I could do.
At the time, I was very against performing under my given name. I wanted a magical, safety blanket moniker, and that came to me in the form of Fern. My initials re-arranged. Still me, but safer. With my mind still full of University course material, I wrote esoteric songs about depression and dead relatives. I thought I was clever, but I also couldn’t write a love song. That was ok with me. I thought love songs were for weak people.
I continued writing, performing and recording music as Fern, releasing a lo-fi EP in 2012 and a more polished effort in 2014. I was slowly getting my life back together after the literal shit storm that was 2011. I was making progress with my mental health struggles and trying to be more accountable for my actions. I was finding words for my feminism and cementing friendships with amazing women who have had my back in so many ways. I was in a new relationship. Things were getting better. I was doing things.
I released Strange Fingerprints as Fern in 2014; however, I was starting to feel like the moniker was a weight on my shoulders. I’d put so much of my time and money into the EP that the boundary between Fern and Rachel had become even more blurred. My peers called me Fern, hell some of my good friends in the music scene started calling me Fern. I was uncomfortable, even if I didn’t show it. I felt like Fern was a concept, but I was a person who happened to be a songwriter. Maybe that would be exciting to some people, but given my life-long history of being called the wrong name, I was getting tired of saying, ‘You can call me Rachel.’
Side note: There are also many Ferns on the internet, including a children’s performer. The competition is stiff, let me tell you.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the things I accomplished as Fern. I’ve grown immensely as an artist over the past years. I’ve worked with some amazing people and put a lot of effort into my career. I’ve also realized that Fern represents some things that are just not ‘me’ anymore. I rarely drink, I sometimes write songs about love (ew) and I have no interest in pretending that my art is completely removed from the intersections of my identity. I know I don’t need to take up more space as a cis, white person, but I do feel the need to take up space as a femme/inist artist who is not always as able-bodied as I look. I have more to say on the able-bodied thing, but in the meantime I don’t really want to talk about it with strangers or acquaintances. Please respect this boundary.
This is a short history. It might seem excessive, but luckily I have enough delusions of grandeur lurking in the back of my mind that I think you might want to hear it. I’ve been really lucky this year. I received grant funding to write (just write!) an album and was able to quit my job for a few months this Spring. I knew I wanted, needed, to change my band name and felt that the timing was right.
So here I am! Writing songs that are exciting to me, even the love songs, under a name that feels good.