Well, I made it back to the ranch and have found myself a moment to kick my feet up in the chair and warm up near the stream of sunshine pouring through the windows of our house on this beautiful almost-March morning.
Last week was a doozy that started with a flight out of Boomtown to Vegas to help my momma pick out some pretty things for her store. I had a couple mini-heatattacks during the two days filled with nothing but shopping, but I came out O.K. despite my run-in with these beauties…
and an entire Vegas-Sized convention center filled with nothing but shoes.
I could have spent the week there trying on all of the Luccheses and Ariat and Corrals and working out a second mortgage to afford a few pairs, but I needed some money to get back to North Dakota for the concerts I had scheduled across the state.
Now let me tell you, there are few things that give me more joy than music and beautiful boots, so I was off to a great start as I stepped off that plane from Vegas. The cold air bit at my exposed fingers as I ran to my car, praying that it would start so I could get home in time to load up my guitar and head out the door again.
Because I booked February up pretty tight, playing music almost every weekend and trying to keep up with work and dinner in between. When I do this to myself a few little bobbles are inevitable–like locking my momma’s keys in her car and losing my debit card–but I have become pretty good at brushing them off and finding quick solutions (like calling Pops or Husband to rescue me), because I am a woman of very many mistakes.
But now that the whirlwind has settled for a bit and the pug has moved from the top of my unpacked suitcase…
to the couch beside me, I don’t know exactly where to start except to ask you this: Have you ever found yourself standing in a moment that has come together so sweetly, a moment so undeniably and perfectly comfortable, so surprisingly you, that you can do nothing but close your eyes and thank the stars above that you chose to step out that day instead of staying nestled under your covers safe and sound?
I hope you have.
I hope you’ve found yourself in one of those breaths where the things you’ve worked for have proven worth it.
I have been a singer my entire life. I’ve sat around campfires and on flatbed trailers in the middle of small town streets. I have climbed crow’s nests to belt the National Anthem out to bleachers and arenas full of cowboys and I have sat behind my guitar to serenade couples saying their vows and families saying goodbye. I have played to crowds from three and three hundred. I have played by heart and forgotten words. I’ve stomped my feet and swayed back and forth in smokey bars and competed with the latte machine in small coffeehouses. I sit alone in my bedroom on hot summer nights and cold, dark winter mornings and I sing.
I have never loved anything the way I love hearing the words I’ve strung together come out of my mouth and into the air, sometimes unexpectedly and sometimes just the way I meant.
And nothing has ever made me so nervous, so frustrated, so calm, so inspired and uninspired, so sleepless or relaxed, so conflicted or comfortable or scared or absolutely and utterly, undeniably happy.
That’s the thing about music, you just never know. And the choice to put it out there in the world makes it even more unpredictable, it leaves you wondering who is listening, who might understand, who might hate it, who might love it too and who might just want to sing along…
Last Thursday I loaded up my guitar and headed to the big town to meet up with some musicians at the studio and practice for the CD release party I had scheduled at a theater the next evening. I brought along Pops and Adam and we were going to work out my tunes with a fiddle player, a steel guitar player and a drummer. I had never met the fiddle player or the drummer and the guitar player and I had been working out details over the phone and email for a few weeks. I didn’t know these men and I didn’t know what to expect, except that somehow we had one evening to get it together in time to play for the few ears I hoped were making plans to attend the next night.
In these unpredictable moments I wonder why I didn’t just pick a career that might have me home eating hot dish on a Thursday night.
But my worry melted away faster than it had creeped in on me as these men trickled into the studio, making small talk while unloading their instruments and arranging themselves in a circle.
The drummer counted off the beat to the first song, the bass line fell in easy as the fiddle sweetly moved in with the line of the steel, leading me in to the words of the first verse of a song these men had clearly listened to closely.
My songs were songs they knew.
And I knew then that it didn’t matter if the only people who walked through the doors of that theater the next night were the members of this little band we threw together, although I felt it would be a shame if there weren’t more ears there to listen to the sweet sounds of that fiddle.
Because just as these men took the task seriously it was clear we all shared a little something in common. It was clear that they weren’t sitting behind those instruments after a long day of work on a Thursday night with a woman they had never met because she was going to pay them good money to be there.
They knew better. They know the business.
They were there with me because they love to play. And man, are they talented.
Man, was I lucky.
Man, did we have fun.
And man, did that theater fill up the next night.
I mean, to the brim! People were coming in from all walks of life to have a drink and listen to what we had up our sleeves. There were farmers and bankers and mothers and aspiring drummers, my best friends, people who knew my parents, people who were related to us, to our neighbors, to our neighbor’s neighbors.There were classmates and old roommates and my best friends’ mothers. There were people who I’ve never met, young girls with their own copy of the album who wanted to be singers some day, other musicians, dads dancing with their daughters and people who wanted to talk about the pug.
There’s always people who want to talk about the pug.
I was overwhelmed with gratitude that this group of people decided to spend their Friday night with me and the talented men playing their hearts out in the spaces that needed them in the songs.
There was so much joy in that room and on that stage, and because it is North Dakota, there were so many connections, so many stories that we could all relate to–the red dirt roads, the smell of clover on a hot summer morning, the warm glow of the yard light next to the barn and the unwavering respect for the place that grew us up and sent us out into the world as we looked back over our shoulders for the right time to return.
Music has given me so many gifts. It has taught me to stand up straight, to be honest, to work a little harder, to stay calm, to reach out, to be brave and, most importantly, to listen.
And I could have listened to the beat of that drum, the lonesome sound of that steel guitar, the steady thump of that bass, the sound of my father’s voice and that fiddle backing me long into the night and on until the sun came up. But I didn’t want to let those people sitting patiently in their seats, along the steps on the floor or standing along the back of the room by the door out into the night without knowing them and why they came.
I wanted to shake every one of their hands and give them hugs and thank them for coming. I wanted to invite them over for coffee this spring and to sit on my deck and drink margaritas this summer.
I wanted to tell them all how much it meant to me that they came.
And I wanted to hear their voices.
So I sang Red River Valley and they sang along and I will never forget the sound of our voices together in the middle of the prairie on a chilly winter night.
And the next night I sang those songs again, standing next to Pops and another talented guitar player as the wind whipped through the narrow streets of downtown Fargo and the crowd swayed and tapped their toes.
There are so many things in this life that I love: pretty boots and pretty horses, my family, crocuses on the hilltop in the spring and the way the sun rises and shines through the windows of a house my husband is building for us.
I know I would love these things even if I never sang another song about it, but to be able to sing it out loud to ears that want to hear, not just the beautiful things, but the things that scare us and make us braver, hoping that maybe someone out there might not feel so alone, that’s my life’s sweetest gift.
Thank you for coming to hear me play. Thank you for playing along. Thank you for reading. Thank you for telling me your stories.
Thank you for listening.
Click here to watch a short KX News segment on the concert in Mandan.