Wardrobe dilemmas come with the gig

Greetings from Elko! I”m on my fourth day here at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Nevada, where I’ve helped kick off the event with fellow North Dakota Cowboy Poet Jonathan Odermann by visiting area elementary schools. It has been a treat sharing a little North Dakota culture with the kids, reading them Prairie Princess and singing some tunes.

Monday night I shared the stage with two wonderful cowgirl poets from my neck of the woods, Yvonne Hollenbeck, a ranch woman, master quilter, poet and author from South Dakota and Patricia Frolander, an award winning poet and Wyoming’s fifth Poet Laureate.

To share the stage with these women was an honor. I was crying in the first three minutes of the show (imagine that) and had to pull myself together to share play my songs. They shared heartfelt and humorous poems about motherhood and aging, marriage and ranch work, every word so relatable that I felt like they were plucking them from the lump in my throat.

With Patricia Frolander

This morning I’m getting ready to share Prairie Princess at the local library. Dad is picking up guitar player Mike and they are driving down for our concerts starting tomorrow night. It will be fun to have them here. Really, the most fun thing about this event is visiting with people from all over the country, sharing stories and playing on these beautiful stages to audiences here who really tune their ears into the words we’re writing. It’s a writer’s dream.

So no podcast this week as I take in this event that is only just getting started, but I can’t wait to visit all about it next week and thought I’d catch you all up so far.

This week’s column is all about the role my wardrobe has played in my performing career. You’ll be proud of me, I packed everything I needed for six days of performances in one suitcase and it came in one pound under 50, so I hit my goal and didn’t have do the dreaded unpack and rearrange move at the airport. It’s the little things I tell ya.

Thanks for following along!

Tough wardrobe decisions come with the gig

The amount of times I’ve changed clothes, put on my makeup, done my hair and generally tried to make myself presentable in my car or a car that is driving me down the road is in the thousands.

I know this isn’t normal for most people. Most people don’t live 30 miles from town and most people don’t travel thousands of miles a year to perform in some of the most rural parts of the country. And I don’t know if this is an interesting thing about me or not, but it is something that I think about almost every week: what should I wear for the three or more hour drive and what should I wear behind the microphone where people are going to be looking at me as I ramble and sing and try my best to entertain. For some people this could be one of the most fun parts of the gig, but for me picking the proper outfit sometimes feels like another annoying decision I need to make in a day full to the brim with decisions.

When I was a kid just getting started performing, I used to have complete melt-downs on the bathroom and dressing room floors (or, probably mostly in the car) about my outfit choices for the stage (or flatbed trailer or corner of the venue). Looking back on it now, I understand it was nerves that I blamed on jeans that didn’t fit right or hair that fluffed too much or the wrong color shirt. In those moments, I felt like I could handle the singing and playing my songs in public, but not if I wasn’t wearing the right thing. And my poor mother got the brunt of it, coaxing me so sweetly, always, to get it together, while my dad set up the sound and set list, clueless of the angst happening behind the scenes.

And now that I have daughters of my own, both with clear-cut and strong outfit opinions, I would like to take this moment to publicly apologize to my mother. I am, indeed, getting pay back.

Last week I took the three-hour drive to the big town to perform for a banker’s convention. So naturally, I chose a pink, suede fringe jacket and boot cut jeans. The drive was long and the pants were high waisted, so, in the privacy of the cab of my car, I undid my floral belt buckle and the top button of my jeans. (Because carbs and January and a girl’s gotta breathe). I made a mental note to make sure to fasten up before I got out of the car, which I only remembered when I was fully out of the car, in the venue and in the bathroom to check my outfit. Luckily, I don’t think I encountered a soul along the way (at least not close up) but that was a wardrobe close call. I got myself together and eventually stepped up to the microphone to do the job I was hired for and looked out at a sea of gray and navy blue suits and slacks, fully realizing that, in my pink suede jacket and turquoise accents, my brain and their brains were not the same. 

I looked like words that rhyme and the dirtiest car in the parking lot. They looked like numbers that add up and clutter-free desktops.

Oh, it’s easy to make assumptions about a person based on their outfit or their day job. I know better, I mean, my dad used to work in a bank and also he broke horses and played in a bar band at night—with the exception of cowboy boots (always cowboy boots) there was a diverse set of outfits on a guy who is more than just one thing. And aren’t we all?

But put a cowboy like that in shorts and sandals and you’re not fooling anyone.

My husband, in his beach wear

Anyway, I’m thinking about clothes and appearances as I pack for seven days of performances in Elko, NV for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Between getting the kids’ schedules lined out in my absence, creating set lists, learning a few new songs and coordinating travel, my biggest conundrum is how I’m going to fit two cowboy hats, three pairs of boots, makeup, jewelry and outfits for seven days into one suitcase situation that I can handle alone in an airport with my guitar.

I’ll be miles and miles away from the familiarity of the North Dakota plains, introducing myself for the first time to so many people. And I think I can handle the music, if I have the right outfits. Just send some prayers up for no more wardrobe close calls.

Peace, love and buckle up,

Jessie

5 thoughts on “Wardrobe dilemmas come with the gig

  1. “…looked out at a sea of gray and navy blue suits and slacks, fully realizing that, in my pink suede jacket and turquoise accents, my brain and their brains were not the same.” -love it

  2. Best of luck in Elmo. Is there anywhere on line I can see you perform? I like the pictures you included. You and Jonathan are representing us well. 🤠

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