TRS: You start singing in church?
MF: No. No, everyone told me I couldn’t sing, so I didn’t sing for a very long time. I started singing shortly after I moved to New York City. I tried to sing a little in North Carolina when I was learning to play guitar, but it didn’t seem like the right thing to do. People didn’t seem to like it. So, I moved to New York City and I found other people who couldn’t sing, but sang amazingly at the same time.
TRS: I had heard you were into electronic music before moving to NY. What was that, like DJing?
MF: I would say DJing. I like breakdancing a lot.
TRS: That’s right, and you moved up here to dance.
MF: Yes, to dance.
TRS: You were living in Charlotte, and were like, “I’m gonna move to New York City and be a DANCER!”
MF: I was dating this girl at the time, and she wanted to move to NYC. I wanted to move to Boston for a summer program. She told me how bad Boston was and that if you wanted to dance you had to move to NYC. So, I followed her here. I danced here for a little while.
TRS: Doing what kind of dancing?
MF: I was part of the professional training program at Merce Cunningham. He danced with Martha Graham, his partner was John Cage. John Cage and Merce Cunningham, they were avant-garde artists. They hung around with the Velvet Underground, and people like Warhol at the time.
TRS: How did you get started dancing in North Carolina?
MF: I went to a performing arts high school, and you could either do art, chorus, band, or dance. So, I tried dancing; seemed kind of hippie-ish.
TRS: All forms of dancing?
MF: Modern, ballet, whatever. Yeah.
TRS: That makes sense, I guess.
MF: There was a lot of girls…
TRS: That makes more sense.
TRS: So, tell me about the electronic music.
MF: I would say the electronic music that I was a part of was breakbeat, Florida breaks, um, Southern influenced jungle music…
TRS: Were you any good at it?
MF: Me, I didn’t really play music. I was more of a promoter. I threw a party in Charlotte. I asked my parents if they would help me finance this party. I rented out the club, I booked the DJs, I made the flyers, and I promoted it at all the clubs. My parents lent me $1,500 to throw the party. I made $3,000 within the first three hours of the night. I was fifteen years old. It was the biggest thing happening at the time, and all it took was someone to do it.
TRS: Why didn’t you stick with that?
MF: Yeah. (Laughing)
TRS: The question is why you didn’t stick with that!? (Laughing)
MF: Um, I don’t know.
TRS: Was it too much money?
MF: I guess I enjoyed other aspects of the scene a little more, that weren’t really a part of the business aspects of it. The, um, extracurricular activities…
TRS: It’s ok, you can say drugs.
MF: The drugs were really good. The only thing to do in Charlotte, besides fit in, was that (party promoting [and drugs, I imagine.]).
MF: Yeah, I grew up listening to WNCW, which comes out of Asheville. I heard that every Saturday and Sunday growing up, which was bluegrass/folk music. My dad saw John Prine play in college in the ‘60s. I heard nothing but John Prine growing up, and The Beatles, as well as the radio playing bluegrass music. And when I moved to NYC, it was, like, the hip thing to do. In 2002 everyone was wearing trucker hats, jean jackets, listening to Johnny Cash…
TRS: They were proto-hipsters?
MF: That was super cool then. I think people liked to get drunk, and act like assholes, and sing country music. But it was like a punkrock-ish style of country music that was really cool, and I was really drawn to that. And coming from the South I saw a lot of people making country music that weren’t from the South. They were from Connecticut, were from somewhere else. They had no idea what Southern culture was about, but they were doing it, and doing pretty well at it. I thought I could be more genuine and show people what the South is really about.
TRS: Were you always doing that what I call a “trick” voice? Because it’s not your speaking voice.
MF: You know what? I don’t know. When I pick up a guitar that’s just the sound I make. I think all the best singers couldn’t sing. And that’s a quote from David Berman from the Silver Jews. I’m not saying I’m the best singer, but I definitely try to be the best singer I can be.
TRS: But either way you’re saying you can’t sing.
MF: No, I can’t sing.
TRS: And are therefore on the docket for possibly being the best singer.
MF: I’m just trying to be the best singer I can be.
TRS: While not trying to sing hardly at all.
MF: I think I’m just bringing my alter-ego to stage, who I want to be. The last time you saw me at Goodbye Blue Monday, I did something differently where I played a bunch of new stuff, I played a bunch of old stuff. I was just kind of tapping into everything I’ve done over the past ten years. It was more of an honest version of who I am. But I think with the “Cracked Mother Fucker” image I’m just trying to do something different.
TRS: So, what is next? I know you bought a bus…
MF: I got a bus! I’m going to turn that bus into a home. It’s going to take about a year, and while I’m doing that I’m going to pick up a couple of odd jobs to make some cash. I’m also going to be playing in Charlotte, as well as the general area, from Greensboro to all the way down in Columbia. I’m going to try and find some young kids that want to play some music. No one wants to play music in NYC unless you can pay them.
TRS: So, you’re going to grab some kids, take ‘em away in your bus…?
MF: Yes, yes, yes. (Laughing) I want to get them on the road. I want to play some music. I want to do something different than I’m doing now. I feel like it’d be different than in NYC, it wouldn’t be difficult to put together a band. I feel like in other places if you have a vision or idea, people flock to that, they want to be a part of that. I think there’s possibilities of me being able to get more done. What makes a great band is a bunch of kids that really don’t know what they’re doing, and they get into a garage and start jamming, they start making noise. Within a year they become a really good band. In NYC you need to hire someone to play with you. And these people are probably really good–probably too good to play with you.
MF: A lot of the people who got hired to play with me are too good to play with me. Like, I don’t need you to be that good. I just need you to make some noise.
TRS: You gotta pay ‘em to tone it down a little bit.
MF: Exactly, and that’s really ridiculous. My plan is to eventually get on the road and work (play music) full-time, as well as learning how to live off the grid.
TRS: What does “off the grid” mean to you?
MF: I guess off the grid would mean not paying lots of money for rent. I don’t feel like I should have to have the same job all the time, and to work really hard just to get back to where I started.
TRS: I think we all want out of the grind.
MF: Yes! I’m not saying I have the perfect answer, but I really do think that once I get my bus livable; where it’s gonna be like a nice NY apartment, I’m just going to need to find a nice place to park it. When I find places to park it, I can work one or two times a week, then I hit the road—I’ll have a car. I’ll take off intermittently, play shows and come back; play more shows, and come back. And just focus on writing music and making music.