Sunday Column: How do you measure the value of art?

I’ve had the privilege during the last few weekends of February to be involved in a variety of celebrations focused on music.

Last weekend, for example, I was one of dozens of local musicians who stood on the stage and sang our own versions of Bob Dylan tunes as part of the first ever Dylan Fest, an effort to applaud a man of prolific talent with a broad scope of influence.

The weekend before I stood on the same stage to sing and celebrate women and the wide variety of music that lives in us.

And then I moved down the street and shared the stage with those women as we celebrated songwriting.

The day before I had been in our capitol city celebrating North Dakota musicians. And after the awards ceremony, I gathered with my band on a small stage for an after party where we found ourselves surrounded by musicians of every genre singing along, collaborating and sharing that stage together in the name of camaraderie and respect for our work and an overall passion for words and notes and dancing along for the love of it all.

I have to say, for a woman who has been performing most all of my life, I continue to be surprised by the way music can gather people together of all different ages and backgrounds and stories and experiences and hold us there, connecting us in the moment.

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It happened last weekend on a big stage and it happened for me on a smaller stage later that day where I found that I had collected a drummer and a lead guitar player from Bismarck and paired them with a bass player from Fargo and a steel guitar player from Minneapolis and we mixed it all up with a rancher from Western North Dakota and his daughter, the writer and singer who had the big idea for the whole shenanigan in the first place.

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In that restaurant in Fargo in the middle of city streets in the middle of winter there were a hundred different stories and a hundred different reasons why we all found ourselves there—a birthday party, a gathering of friends, a drink after work, a chance to hear something new—but there we were, not just in the same room, but nodding our heads and clapping our hands and sharing our stories and toasting and drinking and living in the moment together.

And man did we have fun, the six of us misfits fitting nicely together up at the front of that room singing songs I wrote that some of them had never even played before that night.

And then old familiar tunes that we could all sing along with.

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These experiences just keep getting better and more meaningful to me as an artist. And I’m not sure why except to say I have begun to realize how special they are, not only as an artist, but as the person who has sat in a crowd and found myself so moved by what someone else had to say.

Because not only did it make me feel like I wasn’t alone, but because it meant that they weren’t either.

And so I’ve been thinking lately about the value of that moment and how important it is for a community to cultivate it.

Because some of the best moments of my life have been built by music.

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Some of the hardest have been processed through the same medium.

And if there wasn’t a song to reflect it all, well, then I have always been compelled to make one for myself.

So how do we measure the worth of such a thing?

Coming Home: The value of art, music not easy to measure
by Jessie Veeder
3-1-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Photo by Chad Nodland

For more information on my music and
the upcoming release of my new album “Northern Lights” visit:
www.jessieveedermusic.com
www.facebook.com/jessieveedermusic

My column appears weekly in newspapers across the state of North Dakota. If you’re interested in running my work, please contact me at jessieveeder@gmail.com 

Getting Dressed. The hardest part about my job.

Good Morning. I’m writing to you from my hotel room bed, instead of my comfy chair with the cat sitting on my keyboard.

I’m on the road in the eastern part of the state for the rest of the week singing for my supper. And it just happens to be gearing up to be the coldest days we’ve had all winter.

Screen shot 2015-02-19 at 9.37.01 AMYup, that there says it “Feels Like -32″

And I can’t wear my snow suit on stage.

I swear. That’s the hardest part about the whole music thing some days. Deciding what to wear. I mean, the pressure is just too great.

And so I bring everything…and then that creates another problem that has to do with getting myself in and out of hotel rooms in an efficient manner.

I generally have a rule with my packing when I’m traveling alone that goes something like: Only pack as many bags and shit that I can carry up to my room on my own in one trip.

I’ve spent plenty of time in my life traveling from hotel room to hotel room alone so I know how annoying lugging stuff can be.

Especially when that stuff includes a giant guitar, computer, camera, purse, and bags of clothes and coats and makeup and seventeen different giant bottles of hair care products and another three or four pair of boots, which sucks because I like need all of those boots, but they take up so much damn room.

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But I can usually get it all: Three or four bags thrown over my shoulders, a purse in the crook of my arm, a pair or two of boots in my armpits, a wheelie suitcase behind me and my guitar in my left hand.

God forbid they put me on the far end of the hotel on seventh floor like they have today.

By the time I get up to my nook of the world, I’ve gone from freezing, to thawed out to sweating to panting to full blown aggravation with myself and society at the fact that we can’t just all agree on one uniform and go with it.

Would be so much easier.

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Anyway, I’m looking around my room this morning before I make an attempt to put myself together for a four hour drive to the next town and am wondering how I got this all up here…because I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to give in and get one of those carts from the lobby and drag my world back downstairs and across the frozen parking lot and back into my frozen car.

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Because I don’t have enough arms for this.

And then, when I get dressed tonight, I’m going to have to call my mother or my sister to reassure me that I’m not too old to wear sequins on my boots…or my skirt.

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Because I feel like I might be too old it, but at the same time, I also feel like if a girl has a chance in her life to wear sequins, she might as well just wear it.

Right?

These are the conversations I have with myself on the open road, between singing along to my iPod, getting depressed about the disappearance of the Dixie Chicks, eating an unhealthy amount of Gardettos, and coming up with elaborate and unrealistic plans for music videos or writing projects or neighborhood sledding parties…

Anyway. Tonight Husband is meeting up with me for the North Dakota Music Awards, and so is the band and my parents, so I’ll have some people to help me carry my shit, and drink vodka with and talk me out of all of my plans….

In the meantime, don’t you just wish you were here right now? Singing on the back of a horse drawn wagon in the middle of summer on your way to eat a homemade meal behind a tree row in a field.

Me too.

But this weekend’s gonna be fun. It’ll be cold outside, but we’ll be warming it up with some great music and celebration inside. If you’re in the Bismarck, ND area tonight or Fargo, ND this weekend I hope to see you out and about!

Thursday, February 19

North Dakota Music Awards
Belle Mehus Auditorium
7 PM
(I won’t be performing, but there are many great acts. Will be a fun night!)

   with Outlaw Sippin’
Side B
Bismarck, ND

Saturday, February 21

18th Annual Celebration of Women and Their Music
6 PM
Historic Fargo Theater
Downtown Fargo
www.debjenkins.com/celebrationofwomen.html

Saturday, February 21-Post Show

18th Annual Celebration of Women and their Music
Post Show Songwriting Round
9pm-11pm
Studio 222
Fargo, ND
With: Nita Velo, Jessie Veeder, Natalie Shaw (award winner), Reina del cid  (with Tony Lindgren) & Chastity Brown

For more music updates, visit:
www.jessieveedermusic.com
www.facebook.com/jessieveedermusic

A Girl Needs a Dog – Official Music Video

It’s finally up!

The Official Music Video for “A Girl Needs a Dog” starring YOU and your dogs is ready for viewing.

This truly was one of my favorite projects, getting a glimpse into the bond you ladies share with your pets was inspiring and heartwarming.

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Because we had so many submissions, I’m so sorry that we couldn’t fit them all in, but I think it was the perfect way to capture the essence of this song. I couldn’t help but smile all the way through.

And now for another chance to win something.

Please SHARE this video with your dog loving friends, either on Facebook, Twitter or here on this blog, and be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of my new album “Northern Lights” when it’s available this spring!

Thanks again for playing along. And thanks for taking such good care of each other.

Peace, Love and Puppy Kisses,

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Sunday Column: The Heart Won’t Lie, and other embarrassing stories about my love of Reba McEntire

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Well, I made it home again, home again Jiggity Jig from Nashville last week and promptly lost my voice to a sweet little cold that settled into my chest and reared its ugly head midway through belting out a Bruno Mars song with the band on Saturday.

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And now I sound like a raspy gremlin and Husband is finding it all a little too amusing, walking around the house saying “What?” every time I attempt to tell him something.

Yesterday, he threw a pillow off the loft to where I was standing on the floor below just to hear what I sounded like when I screamed without a voice.

And then he laughed his ass off, because I sounded like a choked and dying rabbit.

Needless to say, phone conversations have been fun today…

Anyway, speaking of voices, this week in my column is a confession about my age-old obsession with a certain red-headed country diva known by the name of Reba McEntire.

It had to be declared sometime, and because I was in music city, I felt now was the time.

Funny though, what really got me thinking about Queen Reba was a recent visit I had to Minneapolis on my way to Nashville last weekend. See, I have this group of friends I met and hung on tight to after working at a performing arts school my first summer out of college. We try desperately to get together at least once or twice a year despite being scattered across North Dakota, Minnesota and Colorado.

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When we do get together we almost always wind up, at the end of the night (or beginning of the morning) sitting around searching YouTube and our iPods for our favorite late 80s/early 90s country songs so that we might sing them together at the top of our lungs.

We find it quite amusing and comforting and sentimental all at once. And because we all know most of the words, it makes us feel good about ourselves too…

When the party gets to this point, any guests we might have acquired throughout the evening are undoubtedly running for cover, but last weekend I invited my cousin and best friend forever, Seth, originally from a small town in South Dakota, (now transplanted to the middle of Minneapolis where he has his PhD and does smart PhD things), over to meet my gang. I just knew they would all get along swimmingly.

Half way through the first Judd’s singalong I was certain.

See, cousin Seth, being my childhood best friend, cousin and pen pal, has had to endure my love for Reba since the beginning of time.

And if I remember correctly, I am certain his sister and I conducted similar sing-alongs at the farm house in our youth, probably with a video camera and most certainly with costumes.

Yes, if you pulled into gramma’s farm yard any summer in the early ’90s you’d likely find us standing on a pile of hay bales singing “Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down.”

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The evidence of our bond surfaced early. Here I am, in my leotard and tights, clutching my blankie and leaning on him for support…

Which leads me to the time when I got a new Reba McEntire tape, the one where she shares a duet with Vince Gill called “The Heart Won’t Lie” circa 1992 and I decided that cousin Seth needed to be the Vince to my Reba.

I imagined the two of us singing into my plastic karaoke microphones, hitting the harmonies, debuting our performance to the entire family at our Christmas gathering, maybe trying to assemble some sort of costume theme, blowing them all out of the water with the incredible fact that I sounded just like Reba and him like Vince…

(Thank you Lord for not inventing YouTube until after my adolescence)

So I copied down the words, dubbed him a tape, wrote him a letter and dropped it in the mail.

And, because my cousin inherited his mother’s desire to save every piece of evidence from our embarrassing childhoods, years later he photocopied all the letters I wrote to him and sent them back to me…lest I ever thought I might have been cool.

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Now, I’m embarrassed to report that Cousin Seth and I didn’t actually get around to performing our song during the innocent and forgivable phases of our youth. No. We decided to try our hand at it in the wee hours of the night during Pop’s birthday party on the deck last summer…after two or three vodka tonics too many…

But it was still epic.

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An epic fail…but a sweet little throwback to a childhood bond and a lasting love for music sparked by Reba herself…

Coming Home: Seeing a hero in person is still inspiring
by Jessie Veeder
1-15-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Ugh, I bet Queen Reba never gets laryngitis…

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If you have a minute, vote for me in the North Dakota Music Awards. I’m up for “Best Female Vocalist” and “Best Original Country Band” with these yahoos up there.

VOTE HERE
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ndmafinal

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This is my Nashville. This is our music.

This is how I spent my week in Nashville.

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Behind the microphones, in a quiet space, singing and thinking of home and what the words mean to me.

This is Bill, keeping it real.

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This is real Bill, producer Bill, keeping it real-er.

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This is the lake and marina we would go find when it was time for a bite to eat and a break.

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This is where I ate fish tacos and chicken salad and iced tea and a couple of orders of guacamole and chips I probably didn’t need, but I eat when I get anxious or nervous or have a ton of work to do or am in a new situation or find myself at a restaurant and with the sudden appetite of an elephant because I’ve been concentrating for too long on something…

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And this? This here is Vince Gill, you know, just tuning up…

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And here he is picking and singing with The Time Jumpers, a group of eleven masters in music, with experience ranging from stints playing with major country music acts, the Grand ‘Ol Opry and Carnegie Hall.

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The Time Jumpers recently lost one of their members, Dawn Sears, Vince Gill’s backup singer, to lung cancer. It was my understanding that this was the first show they did without her. To honor her mother’s memory, Tess Sears, Dawn’s 18-year-old daughter took the stage to sing.

It was a special moment.

And speaking of special moments, this is the Bluebird Cafe, known these days for its place on the show “Nashville,” but known to me, ever since I was a little girl, as a spot where the songwriters go.

So here’s a nerdy picture of me in front of it, fulfilling a childhood wish to be there someday.

And here’s a photo of the iconic little cafe in color…

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Here it is in black and white, you know, for a moody effect…

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And here’s what was happening inside.

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Contrary to what TV would have you believe, it’s a small space, the Bluebird. Seats only 100 people and you should probably plan ahead a bit to get in. Most people have reserved their spots, but Pops and I stood outside for a bit and were let in just as the music had begun.

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The four musicians you see here are all prolific songwriters who shared the stories of their music, some witty banter and really epitomized that music is about telling our stories and connecting with people…and so I promptly developed a fan girl crush on Lacy Green, whose album I listened to all the way back home to the ranch…

Speaking of getting home, in case you were wondering, this is how a guitar gets home from Nashville.

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And now that me and my instrument are back on the frozen tundra of home, I’m happy to report that I finished up my work on the album this week and am expecting a spring release. I can’t thank you all enough for your enthusiasm about this project. I found the right people in Nashville (Bill and Kirsti with Warner Works and Songwriter Girl) to make the songs come to life in the best possible and most supportive way, and I can’t wait for them to hit your ears.

In the meantime, if you’d like to support local musicians, I urge you to take a moment to vote in the 1st Annual North Dakota Music Awards.

I have been nominated in two categories, “Best Female Vocalist” and “Best Original Country Band (with Outlaw Sippin’)” and would appreciate your support, as would the other amazing artists nominated in many categories. (Friends from all over, you don’t have to be from North Dakota to vote, so don’t be shy:)

VOTE HERE
And tell your friends! 

Voting ends January 31st 

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And if you’re in the area, make plans to attend the awards show on Thursday, February 19th at the Belle Mehus Auditorium in Bismarck. 

Thank you again for all of your support. And I promise, I’ll be coming to a town near you to celebrate and sing these songs at the top of my lungs soon.

For keep up with the album release and upcoming shows visit:
www.jessieveedermusic.com
www.facebook.com/jessieveedermusic

Sunday Column: Our songs.

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It’s a nostalgic time of year. The Christmas tree is up and families are making plans to get together. I’m working on cleaning up the kitchen after a cookie decorating party that almost didn’t happen if it weren’t for Betty Crocker and my mother.

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And I’m thinking about the music as we move into the new year.

Songs that were written as my dad recovered. Songs that were written on the backs of horses in the spring, during a rain storm with the windows open in our house and the morning after a late night playing with the band.
Songs about settling into a lifetime love. Songs about promises and shoveling dirt and making it all work when I was sure it couldn’t possibly happen.
Songs about the world getting smaller.
Songs about home.
After the new year I will take another trip to Nashville, and then maybe another, and then plans will be made to get these songs out into the world. The work has just begun on this project. I have taken my music across the country before, but there was something sort of surreal about packing new and unheard words with me, carrying them up over the clouds and putting them down, recreating them in a place where music seems to ring from the windows of every building, when the music I make was taken from these hills and small town streets.
It’s always been this way. This place has been inspiring me since I wrote poems about the frogs I would catch in the crick below the house.
And as got older I wondered if maybe I should try something a little more catchy. A little simpler. Maybe a song about drinking beer while dangling my feet off the back of a pickup bed.
The subject matter seems to be popular these days.
And it’s not like I’ve never drank a beer while sitting on a tailgate. But isn’t there more to say about that? About the person sitting next to us? About the ground we’re drinking on?
About what it feels like to be 18 and then 21 and then 31 and so scared and so free at the same time?
Isn’t there a place for a song about the hot sticky calm before a rain that brings the men in from the fields?
I think so. I want to listen to those songs. And so I try to write them.
When I got home from my first trip to Nashville the music around me became apparent again, somehow just ringing louder in my ears. Maybe being away for a minute is a little inspiring in itself. Seeing Music City reminded me of what a weird and challenging little life I’ve set up for myself living out here as far away from any coast or city center as I can get,  making my way as a singer and writer in such a practical environment, where a real job makes so much more sense.

Except don’t we need songs out here too? Songs about us? Isn’t that old country church that closed its doors years ago worth commemorating? Isn’t the story of the man in the bar who looked at me and lamented the loss of his high school love worth telling?
Isn’t this place just the right combination of romantic and heart wrenching, hopeful and unforgiving? What about the lines created on the faces of our grandparents earned through a life of work and worry, that in this day in age, we’d know nothing about if we weren’t told?

I’ve always just wanted to tell it.

Coming Home: Singing about home from a recording studio on Music City
by Jessie Veeder
12-21-14
Forum Communications

Girls, their dogs and Music City…

So I made it home safe and sound from Nashville (and managed to steer clear of the Nude Karaoke).

I’m going to tell you all about it this week when I have a minute to gather up the clothing explosion that happened in my room upon my arrival, and then maybe think about the whole Christmas cards and gift thing, but if you’re curious, here’s a little write up the Fargo Forum did on my trip. They called me up on day two of my visit to see how things were going.

They were going swimmingly, I tell you. It has been such an awesome experience and I can’t wait to get back there and finish it up!

Jessie Veeder recording forth album in Music City

But there was more work to be done as soon as I got home. We had to get started on the video for “A Girl Needs a Dog” before Santa starts making his way across the sky.

I received so many wonderful photos of you ladies and your dogs, I can’t even tell you. This has been one of my favorite projects, getting to see you and your pooches, and hear your stories about what your furry friends mean to you.

So I got home on Saturday at noon, threw on a flannel and made sure I didn’t have any boogers in my nose and went out with my friend Nolan with Quantum Productions to get some footage of me singing and playing with my hounds out and about in the barnyard

There was mud. There was ecstatic and obnoxious jumping. There was barking and stick chewing and running and howling.

Yes, there was howling.

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It was a great time. I can’t wait for you all to see how it turns out. Funny thing about this place I’ve created here, seems from Australia to Alaska, we all have more in common than we think.

And our love of our pets seems to be one of them.

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I’m expecting the video to be done before Christmas. Until then, enjoy the live version filmed from the back pasture at the Red Ants Pants Music Festival this summer.

Learn the words so you can sing along!

Thanks for all of your support and love.

I’m off now to tackle that pile of dirty socks strung out on my bedroom floor…

A Girl Needs a Dog: Music Video Submissions

One of my favorite parts about making and performing music is meeting the people who have found they can relate to the songs I write. I’ve been performing out and about in support of my last album “Nothing’s Forever” since it’s release in 2012.

Since then I’ve hosted CD release parties, been hired as the opening act for big names, have been the main event myself, joined up with another band of great musicians, sat around campfires and house parties, performed at bars, major events, and festivals surrounded by so much intimidating talent it made my heart beat out of my chest and,

of course, met hundreds of wonderful people along the way who take the time to tell me that they can relate…

To the songs about rural living. To the cowboys in the music. To leaving the light on for the people they love. To the weather so cold it freezes your bones. To the loneliness for a familiar place. To being so happy you have to sing it louder.

To their story told in Boomtown.

And then, my favorite, your response to A Girl Needs a Dog.

What was a fun, catchy song that almost didn’t make it on the album surprisingly turned into an anthem for the women out there listening and singing along, thinking about all the times that dog of hers was the only one who got it.

The only one who understood when there were no words.

Me and the dog in the grassThe one who comes with her to clear her head on a walk through the trees. An every day companion.

PudgeThe most loyal. The most sincere. One of her favorite things about this life, even when he poops on her rug or chews her favorite pair of boots or tears through the kitchen screen door in a thunderstorm.

IMG_8585 With each show, after talking to the crowd and watching you sing along,  I understood more and more that this song needed to be written. It was a story that hadn’t really been told yet. A simple one, but apparently, an experience many of us share.

A girl needs a dog in times like these
Some hope and a plan
Clarity
A girl needs a bike or her own car keys
A girl needs a dog
A girl needs a dog

You showed me photos of your pets, sent me emails with stories about how the two of you found each other. There were labs and shitzus, mutts, poodles, an array of cow dogs, dozens of pugs and even one missing an eye like my lost but not forgotten Chug the Pug.

ChugYou told me about your daughter and how she begged for a puppy. You sent the song on to your nieces and granddaughters. Your sister who brings her Chihuahua everywhere.

What a thing to come together in the name of a song about a dog.

Dog in the stock tank But as much as this song is about our furry companions, it was written as an anthem to a girl finding her independence and being comfortable and strong in it. And sometimes, when you’re unsure about it all, that dog helps hold us up a little.

That’s what I think anyway.

Turns out, that’s what you think too.

Anyway, in a few weeks I’m heading to Nashville to record another album. Since the release of “Nothing’s Forever”, I’ve been writing and re-writing and putting new songs together, songs that will mark a different time here in this place that I love, a place that’s changing every day, but still so much a piece of me.

There will be stories in these songs about loss and hope, love and home and work and the rain pouring down on a hot summer day.

But before I move on to the next project, I want to finish this one. I need to make “A Girl Needs a Dog” come to life.

IMG_8905 So here’s the plan. I need your help. I want to see you with your pooch in action and I want to feature you in a video for the song. You know your dog is the best, so why not show her off?!

So here’s the task my loyal listeners with loyal canine companions. Send a video clip (video is preferred) or photo of you and your dog (or your sister and her dog, or your wife and her dog, or your daughter and her dog…you get the point) working, playing, getting into trouble or just hanging out to jessieveeder@gmail.com and I will feature them in a music video for “A Girl Needs a Dog.” 

To thank you for your help in this effort, the first fifteen women who shares her video/photo will receive a free “A Girl Needs a Dog” t-shirt featuring a sketch of the beautiful one-eyed pug. Simply include your address and size in the email (M, L, XL, 2XL)

The rest of you will receive a free track of the song as a thanks for sharing, and of course, world wide fame for you and your beloved pooch in the video.

Thank you for helping to make this song come to life and for celebrating and taking such good care of all of those awesome dogs out there.

I’m sure they’re so happy to be taking care of you too.

I can’t wait to see you all on the big screen.

Peace and puppy love,

Jessie, Hondo and Gus

Jessie and Dogs

Jessie Veeder-“Boomtown”-Official Music Video

And now for the video!

The premier of the music video for my song “Boomtown” happens today! I hope it give your a glimpse into the some of the stories hanging around Boomtown. I am so happy and excited to have this out in the world.

Thanks to Nolan with Quantum Productions and to those willing to share their stories with us that day.

Please pass it along!

Horses and Home

IMG_5428It’s a little familiar, a little bit wild
A big dream in the wandering eyes of a child
It’s all of the secrets wrapped up in the land
And all that we know about the pride of a man

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It’s letting it go then holding on tight
It’s what’s left to lose at the end of a fight
It’s saying a prayer before hitting the ground
And when you need to be gone, it’s where you can be found

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And that’s how it goes
With horses and home

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It’s dirt under nails and work left to do
It’s fist clenching, back breaking, things that can bruise
It’s broke bits and burs and get up again
And all of the reasons to call someone friend

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And that’s how it goes
With horses and home

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We put up fences to own this place
Tame all the wild beasts and give them names
But we cant’ be sure just who’s being saved
When we let go of the reigns…

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It’s wind through your long hair then on to the trees
Forgiveness and bravery on trembling knees
And then there’s the part where you think you might be
Stronger than most and a little more free

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And that’s how it goes
With horses and home

IMG_5483 That’s how it goes
With horses and home

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