Scott Ferreter’s soundtrack for grief
As Deep Pools, the Sacramento native finds beauty in the darkest places
Two years after his father’s funeral, Scott Ferreter gathered four of his most trusted collaborators. At midnight, they entered St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where all was dark and quiet. They recorded the sacred ambient noise of the empty cathedral because it reminded him of the church where the funeral was held, and his father’s name was Paul.
“I want you to think about not playing this song,” Ferreter told the musicians, “but imagine the environment in which this song would be born.”
Then, voices and guitar loops broke the silence. Sounds built on top of each other, and the musicians used whatever instruments they could find. Buddy Hale, also of the local band Separate Spines, screamed like an animal. Elliot Mende drummed on a tulip.
So began one of the many recording sessions for Ferreter’s album See You in the Morning Light, which he describes as “a soundtrack for the grieving process.” It gets released Tuesday, December 13, at the very same church, St. Paul’s.
Over four years, Ferreter collaborated with 22 musicians in a project he dubbed Deep Pools. The stormy songs resonate with field recordings from all over the country, including thunder and “nasty little bug sounds,” in a deliberate order that follows the seasons of Ferreter’s mourning. The atmospheric noises are a nod to one of his dad’s sayings, distributed at the funeral on bookmarks: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”
Ferreter has applied his father’s words to the making of the album. The way he sees it, to overcome a difficult time, you have to find the beauty in it.
“I wanted to make music gentle enough and rich enough to invite people to do that with themselves,” he says.
On the album, he openly sobs, his voice wobbles—unvarnished and unafraid. Ferreter carefully orchestrated every heartfelt imperfection to make an ethereal road map toward acceptance. Violins emerge from the sounds of a forest, and softly sliding guitars and Americana whistling set a comforting backdrop for homecoming.
“This was such a huge undertaking,” Ferreter admits. The album was recorded in seven different studios, and each song has an average of 60 to 70 tracks, estimates David Lipps, co-producer and sound engineer. They’re layered to create an ecosystem of emotion.
“It was a tribute to his father who had died, so we just wanted to get it right,” Lipps says.
For two months, Ferreter and Lipps worked on mixing the album full-time. Lipps had just quit his job, so he was able to dive into the task head first.
“I still decided to do it for free because I love Scott and his music,” Lipps says. “He is definitely somebody I want to be like. He’s enlightened, loving, bold, engaging, inspiring, thoughtful, funny.”
Between mixing sessions, they would talk about the meaning of life and love, as Ferreter was just getting together with his new sweetheart.
“He didn’t have much money either, but he basically fed me the entire time,” Lipps says.
Over time, Ferreter realized that replaying the songs didn’t diminish the strength of their medicine. In fact, the repetition was a crucial part of healing.
“I have all of those past versions of me that are like, ’It’s okay to feel despondent or scared or brokenhearted,’” Ferreter says. “Then I get to play that over and over. It is a way for me to remember the insights I’ve come to.”
The making of the record reflected Ferreter’s lifestyle as he was creating it. When he traveled and met new musicians, many of them joined the making of the album, snowballing into a larger and larger vision. When he played a show in Davis, he hit it off with Nathalie Mvondo, who had an hourglass-shaped drum from her family’s African village. “There was such a collective sense of purpose between the two of us that I had her play the talking drum [on the album],” he says.
Luck became like a 23rd member of the band. He hoped to collaborate with Suzanne Ciani, his father’s cousin, who is one of the first musicians to ever use a synthesizer. He emailed her, got no response and gave up. But when Ferreter went to visit his friend in Bolinas, where Ciani lives, they happened to go to an art gallery opening and he realized that every black-and-white photograph was from the collection of Suzanne Ciani. Sure enough, she was sitting right there.
Later on, in a sort of interview, Ciani asked him why he played music. Ferreter felt like the reasonable answer would have been that it was a hobby, and he planned to make his living by other means. But he didn’t have a reasonable response.
“The honest answer I gave was that I felt like I needed to do this [full-time], and it’s about figuring out the specifics of how,” he remembers. “And something shifted in the way we related to each other.”
She signed on once she realized how serious he was about his music career.
Before, Ferreter was the frontman of the now-retired Sacramento band Cove. As Deep Pools, Ferreter found his strength as the art director of an album, tapping the right people at the right time.
“What was really sweet is, I now see, I allowed people to do what they do best,” he says. “I brought them in to do their thing.”
The album pulses with humanity, and Ferreter carries it with him on stage.
“At my best shows, I put myself before the crowd and sacrifice myself, show my biggest struggles and shadows—the part of me I want to hide—and put that in a musical context, where it all comes out looking inviting,” he says. “For me, music is a collective awakening.”
On the eve of Donald Trump’s presidency, Ferreter feels a renewed sense of purpose toward that awakening.
“My intention is to make a space for people to live inside their faults, live inside them and realize how beautiful they are as people in spite of those things,” he says. “I want to use my voice to make it compelling to be vulnerable, in the way people need to be, to change their behavior and tap into their deeper humanity.”
Now that he’s completed his heavy opus, Ferreter hopes to form a new band and compose songs on a timeline faster than, say, four years. He finally feels emotionally in sync with the seasons. After the election, he’s solidly in autumn—a feeling of “stark spaciousness” in anticipation of the worst of winter.
“My grief right now doesn’t feel like it’s about my father,” he says. “That’s where I can take my own advice and get back to work finding out what’s beautiful about it.”