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Rocker Erin Fox’s Rebirth as a Folk Artist

November 2, 2018

Second Life

Story by Jennifer Granato. Image by Mike Arrison.

It’s a wet, late summer Sunday night. The back room of Ortlieb’s in Northern Liberties is dark and quiet. With daisies on her shirt and a crown of short baby blue hair, Erin Fox, 29, strikes a slight figure on stage.

She plucks her guitar, finishing up a new song. Her haunting, clear voice sings, “I never had time for the doctor,” and echoes off the wooden walls, “until my time was almost gone.”

The audience listens silently. The sparse, folky pop of her recent EP Your Joy, and her first solo album, Forbidden Youth, both self-released, is surprising if you’re only familiar with Fox from Resilient, the genre-mashing local rock band.

“This is stuff I’ve been sitting on for a long time because it’s so emotional,” Fox says. “I don’t really like expressing that much of myself.”

But that changed in 2013 when she was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of brain cancer and underwent surgery to remove a tumor.

“I had to wrestle with the idea of not being around anymore,” she says quietly while sitting in the backyard at Interstate Drafthouse in Fishtown. “I don’t know, it just kind of changed how I write.”

Since recovering from brain surgery and ditching producers she found controlling, Fox has reclaimed her music, letting it guide her.

“Her music seems to be more encompassing of what she wants to do and what she’s trying to say,” says Kat Bohn, a longtime friend of Fox and substitute bassist for Resilient. “She has more of her own voice now.”

“At first I didn’t like it,” Fox says. “I was kind of like, ‘No, where is this coming from?’ But sometimes it’s not about you, it’s about the song. You just kind of have to let the song take over and go with it.”

Fox’s music confronts social and political issues, with tracks like “Sick” (about Philadelphia’s heroin epidemic) and “Ships,” which speaks to the Trump administration’s travel ban. Fox also chose to collaborate primarily with women, including her fellow members in Resilient and Babe Grenade, a new punk and hip-hop crossover band she plays guitar with.

“It’s just a stance in itself to be with an all-woman band,” Nia Ali, the emcee of Babe Grenade says. “It’s really liberating, and I think in the context of this social climate it is really important right now.”

“I want to work with female engineers, too,” Fox says, “I feel like there’s a lack of that in the music industry.”

Fox found the collaborations exhilarating and feels like she gained new perspectives through her experiences.

  “I’m just glad that I can play music again,” she says. Though she lives with some vision loss from the surgery, she still feels pretty good, all things considered. “So if I can’t drive but I can live here to play music, that’s a win to me.”

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