Anna Fermin – The Gospel, according to Trigger
Punctuating with graceful gestures and winsome grins, Anna Fermin tells her story, surrounded by her band in front of a television set. They’ve gathered to hear her song “Blame Me” played to a nationwide audience in the soundtrack to The Farmer’s Wife, a documentary directed by David Sutherland. If Fermin has an edge, there’s no sign of it. Unlike the hardscrabble tale of The Farmer’s Wife, Fermin’s story unfolds full of bright promise, buttressed by confidence built on lucky breaks and effort rewarded.
Born in the Philippines, Fermin was a year old when her family moved to the United States, settling in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where her parents found jobs as factory workers. She took music lessons and performed in choirs throughout her childhood and adolescence, but not until she graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago, in 1993, did she write her first song.
“I taught myself how to play guitar, and I knew three chords,” she says. “It was ‘Oh, the three chords I know sound like a country tune. I’ll write a country tune.'” Somehow her childhood memories of Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley had survived Fermin’s Top-40 teens, hiding out in her subconscious through her stint as president of the Michael Jackson fan club.
The following year, she became a regular at open mikes, where fellow musicians, including her present drummer, Paul Bivans, were smitten by her voice. They encouraged her to form her first band, Anaboy. When she needed a new guitar player, one of her co-workers at the time, Freakwater’s Janet Beveridge Bean, suggested Andon Davis of punkabilly outfit the Riptones.
The new band, Trigger Gospel, attracted the interest of Chicago-area club Fitzgerald’s; owner Bill Fitzgerald gave them a monthly slot. A 1997 EP, Anna Fermin’s Trigger Gospel, made more fans; she plans to follow it up with a full-length disc this spring, with Texas legend Lloyd Maines producing and recently added acoustic bassist Mike Krayniak rounding out the Trigger Gospel lineup.
Fermin seems amazed how quickly her career progressed but knows she still has growing to do. “I’m listening to more music now than I ever have, and listening to it more seriously,” she says. Inspired early on by Jimmie Dale Gilmore, she’s followed that thread to Townes Van Zandt, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock, whose attention to the smallest words has provided a model for developing her lyrics.
For now, Trigger Gospel wraps Fermin’s winning country melodies and their memory-clinging choruses around her own experiences of love and loss, limited only in their virtual universality. You’ll find no murder, adultery, alcoholism, guns or even fast cars here — just a sweet soulful voice recalling Patsy Cline.