The songs that we know

The Songs that We Know
Forum Communications

There are songs that we know, tucked away in the back of our memories that come to in the form of a hum or a whistle while we’re doing dishes or laundry, pulling weeds or fixing on the tractor.

Maybe it was a song we learned in elementary music class, standing next to your best friend on the risers, singing at the top of our lungs without a care, the way only a 7-year-old can.

Or it might be our favorite church hymn, or the one you first learned to play on the guitar or the piano, or the verse your mother used to sing quietly while she helped you wash your hair in the bath.

These songs become a part of our DNA, just like the color of your eyes or the swirl of cowlicked hair on the back of your head, you seem to have always known the words to the first verse of “You Are My Sunshine” or “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” or that song that your dad used to sing loud and silly in the kitchen while he spun you around next to the refrigerator… “Be-bop-a-lula, she’s my baby… Be-bop-a-lula, I don’t mean maybe…”

You hear that now and you’re instantly 10 years old again in stocking feet on the linoleum floor…

I became a singer because my dad was a singer. People ask me why or how it came to be that I carried music with me my entire life, and that’s the answer. I always felt compelled to sing along.

As far back as the memories I can reach, my dad had a guitar or a song, picking or strumming or singing along, a comfort to him that became a comfort to me. A Harry Chapin song about an immigrant grandfather, a Guy Clark tune that sounded like a hot summer day, Lyle Lovett’s “Waltzing Fool,” Emmylou’s heartbreak and the stories and characters I fell in love with in three-minute vignettes made me want to do it too, to make music like that, and to keep them close, like old friends.

Now that I have young children of my own spinning and leaping in the living room while I play my guitar, I wonder which songs might stick in their lungs and emerge while they’re packing their bags or curling their hair. It’s been 30 years since I first stood next to my dad behind a microphone, probably at an Art in the Park in my hometown, singing Nanci Griffith’s “Love at the Five and Dime.” I didn’t know then that I would recount Rita and Eddy’s love story for years to come, around campfires, on flatbed trailers, at county fairs and coffee shops and colleges throughout the country — I would take them with me. A little piece of my childhood.

And while music can be timeless, our lives are not. Last fall as I was staring down my 36th year, with little wisps of gray in my hair, I suddenly felt a real urgency to somehow capture the music I grew up playing. I wanted to always be able to turn a dial and hear my dad’s voice on John Prine’s “Paradise,” to bottle up neighbor Kelly’s yodel on Night Rider’s “Lament” and capture Mike’s doboro, steele and guitar-picking the way he’s played for me on my favorite songs since I was a kid trying to be a singer.

And so a new album was born. I called it “Playing Favorites,” because that’s what we would be doing — playing our favorites, and maybe some of yours, too.

Little did I know that during the process of making the album that I would find myself struggling to breathe, finishing up the recording process while beginning an unpredictable cancer battle.

Little did I know how important this collection of songs would become to me.

And so while I’m happy to announce that, nearly a year since I knew something just wasn’t right, I am cancer-free, I’m also excited that the news coincided with the release of this album, our gift to you, available online at jessieveedermusic.com, some select local stores and anywhere you download music.

We hope you find a few familiar tunes to hum along to.

New Album Out!

You’ve heard rumblings here and there in the midst of the crazy that has become 2020, but I want to officially announce it here. The new album, Playing Favorites, is officially OUT!

I’ve been working on this compilation that features some of the songs that influenced me and songs I grew up singing, for almost a year. It felt timely and urgent to me for some reason to put these songs down, with my dad and neighbor Kelly and guitar player Mike who has played with me since I was a teenager and with other musicians who have been there for me along the way. Little did I know I was recording the album with a cancerous tumor in my airway that was working to threaten my life.

Little did I know I would wrap it up in the middle of the COVID lockdown.

Little did I know about the detour my life would take.

But now its release it feels so much sweeter. Because we’re in the middle of a time when we all want to be reminded of something familiar and comforting, and these songs are just that for me, and hopefully to you too. I am so happy to be able to send them out into the world.

Purchase your signed copy today

or Download it or listen wherever you listen or buy music. 
Spotify or iTunes

Playing Favorites Album Art

This album is dedicated to my dad and his red guitar. It’s for the characters in the songs we sing and for the characters we’ve played for on flatbed trailers at county fairs, in Legion Clubs and churches, at backyard barbecues, barn dances and potluck picnics in small towns across the mid-west. When we pick up our guitars at a campfire or in the living rooms of family and friends after a good meal with good company, these are the first songs we reach for because they are familiar, safe and forgiving of our imperfections, just like old friends. On this album you will hear the voices and instruments of my dad and I, of course, but also of our friends who have so often, when we needed them most, pulled up a chair to play along. This album is for them. And it’s for my daughters, my nieces and my nephews, for my cousins and their kids and you and yours, so that you might find a familiar tune and a place to sing along.
With much love,
Jessie ❤️

On the road to recovery

I had an interview this morning with a local news station about my health this week. It’s still weird to be talking as a cancer patient, especially when I thought I would be using this time to perform and promote on behalf of the new album. But as we all know, plans change, you’re not promised tomorrow and I’m nothing if I’m not resilient. I’m happy to share my story if it inspires someone to fight for their health and for the life that they want.

You can watch the piece at the link below:

Watford City recording artist on the road to recovery after cancer diagnosis

Screen Shot 2020-08-01 at 1.29.42 PM

Pre-order a signed copy of the new album, Playing Favorites at jessieveedermusic.com 

Playing Favorites Album Art

Peace, love and good vibes only,

Jessie ❤️

New Album Sneak Peek

Playing Favorites Album Art
Since October I’ve been working on an album that pays tribute to the folk music I grew up playing with my dad, neighbors and friends. It’s an eclectic mix of cowboy music, hymns, folk music, beautiful songwriters and it sound so much like us.

I wanted to record it locally so that we could bring in the musicians I’ve been playing with for years and so that we could capture what you might hear around a campfire, in the living room, on a flatbed trailer at a county fair or in the corner at the American Legion Club.

My plans were to be on the road with this album in May, but COVID and my tumor sidelined that plan, and so we’ve taken a little more time with it. (Also, can you believe I recorded an entire album with a giant tumor in my airway? Jeesh) Watch for its release mid-Summer and take a moment to check out this sneak peek, behind the scenes of making “Playing Favorites.”

Thank you for the love and thank you Makoche Studios for doing such a beautiful job telling the story.

On the National Cowboy Poetry Stage

Happy Friday everyone! In honor of the sunshine, weekend I thought I’d share a performance of one of my songs on the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering stage earlier this month.

On Sunday I plan to hopefully wrap up the vocal tracks on a new album I’ve been working on that celebrates the music that I grew up singing. It features my dad and all of the songs he brought into my life playing his records and tapes and red guitar. I can’t wait for you to hear it.

So I need to channel this song right now in so many ways to get me through the to-do list and plans, and on to the fun parts. Turn it up. Loud. And get to work.

If you’re looking for where I’m performing this spring and summer, check out my website at jessieveedermusic.com. More dates will be added as CD release shows as the album gets closer to completion. If you want me in your town, give me a call!

Thanks for the love and support! Now pull on your pants girl, and get to work!

To gather, and all the things that phrase means to a ranch woman

Cows by the dam

To gather, and all the things that phrase means to a ranch woman

To gather. As a ranch woman, this phrase conjures up images of roundup season, sitting on top of my horse and moving our cattle together from all corners of our pastures.

It’s the throaty hum of the animals’ voices as they call to their calves or to one another or out into the world, seemingly saying, “I’m here, I’m coming. All right already.”

It’s the creak of the old cows’ bones as we let them slowly navigate themselves toward a well-worn path they know toward home. And it’s the “heya” and the “c’mon” we let out of our lungs as we follow the small sea of black backs, the quiet counting and calculations in our heads, our warm breath cooling down in the autumn air.

It’s the swing of our leg off the saddle and the swing of the gate when they’re all in and accounted for so we can take a deep breath, put our hands on our hips and say, “Well, all right then…” and move on to the sorting.

I recently participated in a different kind of gathering down in Elko, Nev. A gathering of cowboy poets, musicians, artists and fans from across the world in an event dedicated to the stories we tell about a way of life that I would say is more rough than it is romantic, except it’s the rough parts that make it so.

020920.f.ff_.veedercolumn

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. That’s what they call it. And I like that they call it that, because that’s what it is.

It’s a gathering of people, ideas, stories, music, art and conversation in a small town in the dessert in the middle of winter when the cowboys and ranchers that create have time to take leave from the Plains or the mountains to connect with other artists and an audience eager to hear from them so that they might be a part of that life, too, if only for a few days under a felt hat.

IMG_2808

Mike, Dad and I with Cowboy poet Jake Riley

That is, if they have someone at home to feed the cattle and the kids. Which is where my husband falls in the story. Because everyone wants to be a cowboy until it’s actually time to do cowboy stuff, and so he got the less-glamorous gig of wiping toddler noses and rolling out hay bales while I was shaking hands and singing under the lights.

ARCHIVE: Read more of Jessie Veeder’s Coming Home columns

And I couldn’t help but look out into the audience of hundreds of anonymous silhouettes sitting still and quiet and ready to nod along and feel overwhelmingly grateful that somebody thought the world needed an event like this. Because in the 20-some years that I’ve been writing music and performing, I’ve never found a better muse than the rural community, rugged landscape and ranch life in which I was raised.

IMG_2788

An American Forrest , Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Corb Lund on stage in Elko

But in the miles I’ve traveled up and down the Midwest, I have questioned if it ever really resonates, if there is anyone else out there who thought the world needed a song with a rhythm based on hoof beats. I’ve spent a career slowly finding those people who do, and then, three airplanes later, I found myself in a land where they’ve all congregated for us, caffeinated, fed, inspired and ready to listen.

To gather.

IMG_2851

Shared the stage with Brigid & Johnny Reedy

IMG_2760

This talented little ranch girl Marinna Mori

IMG_2757

With film maker Clare McKay and songwriter Anna Rose Pozzi

2634856C-4C00-4DD1-9D0F-1B07B43472C3

Ran into Cowboy Poet, songster and podcaster Andy Hedges

1C475855-4AF4-4E53-B355-B0A433647059

With the legendary Ramblin’ Jack Elliot

369221B4-2D39-4B77-AB77-017D84F88F9E

And then randomly, one of my favorites, Colter Wall was in the greenroom

IMG_2739

Dad

IMG_2729

The morning gathering of entertainers at the Western Folklife Center

I kept saying it to myself as I looked out in this community the Western Folklife Center created in Elko for people like me and people nothing like me at all.

What happens when we gather? Those differences become less important than the way a song about loss reminds us both of similar struggle.

Or the way we collectively clapped and laughed, the whole auditorium full of us, as he yodeled and kicked up his leg.

IMG_2849

Backstage listening to the Munsick Boys

Or the silence none of us discussed but honored as an 85-year-old legend, with a voice worn from years of songs and stories, closed his eyes and worked through another one on a stage that afternoon.

And so I couldn’t help but feel a bit like our cattle that week down in Elko, surrounded by a sea of hats and smiles, reaching out to touch one another as we drew closer to say, “I’m here! I’m coming. All right already,” taking a familiar path toward a place that feels like home.

And I’m back at the ranch now, hands on hips, ready for the sorting…

ACB7009C-3184-453B-8C60-37FC37C53AAB

 

Finding yourself in parenthood…

Momma Promo Shoot

Finding yourself in parenthood
Forum Communications

Before I became a mother, before I realized that you’re not always in control of the timing of your life and throughout my six pregnancy losses, I was worried about the way in which becoming a mother was going to impact me creatively — in my career and in my process.

Because, looking back on it now, I didn’t see any women like me out there who were mothers on the road singing and performing and speaking with their kids in tow. And if they were, then maybe I wasn’t hearing them talking about it, or complaining about, or, what I really wanted, writing a step-by-step instruction manual on how it was done.

33817373_1499046533533085_5968149703978647552_o

And so I only thought I could be one or the other — a creative person or a parent. But since I was a young teenager, I’ve been performing and writing music and stories as part of my living in most of its phases. After 20 or so years in some sort of a professional music career, 10 years of marriage and pregnancy losses and crying and trying, by the time I became a mother, I had fully developed a version of myself that had dug in, planted roots and wasn’t going to change without a fight.

Cue a battle with postpartum depression that I didn’t see coming and didn’t dare admit after all that time and all that struggle. Because no one tells you that even if you’re finally granted everything you thought you’ve ever wanted, you still have to learn how to exist with it.

This new tiny human was an endeavor that had changed my body, changed my mind, changed my sleep patterns and sucked me of all the freedom from which I drew my creativity, that had for so many years been tied to my self-worth and my bottom line. Turns out, nothing squashes that whole freedom-to-let-your-thoughts-wander vibe quite like a new human life in your house.

IMG_8555

And from what I can tell so far, it’s pretty clear that my children will never stop interrupting me. When I became a mother, I found it profoundly difficult to find inspiration beyond my new child, partly because there was nothing I found more fascinating or magical and partly because the long walks alone taking photographs of the sunset became a long-lost memory of a different version of myself.

Jessie

Now I’m almost four years into this parenting gig with, God willing, a lifetime ahead of us all, and I’m finding I’ve managed to wrestle and push and grind and hustle (and medicate) my way back to a version of myself that feels whole and connected and fulfilled and creative again. And it doesn’t look like it used to.

IMG_6407

ARCHIVE: Read more of Jessie Veeder’s Coming Home columns

So let me tell you what it looks like now (because I wish someone would have done the same for me). It looks like me trying to do a promotional photo shoot for a new album with just me, the photographer and my two young daughters dancing, singing, fighting and crying for a snack while I yell “Just a minute baby!” and smile with my guitar while the light is still golden.

It looks like them getting a hold of my phone and Facetiming my little sister and then China and me letting them go ahead and do it if it gives me three more minutes of time to try to get the shot.

It looks like “Mommy, I have to go pee,” and then helping her pop-a-squat in the pasture and getting back to it.

It looks like the one epic meltdown and the guitar dropped in the dirt that ended it all and sent us home for pizza and wine (for me, not the kids). It was nuts. It was sort of embarrassing. It was on the edge of chaos, but it got done. And we all survived (except my guitar).

Promo Shot

And then I found myself wondering out loud to my little sister on the phone (who was checking in after the Facetime call to see if we all survived) why do I do this? It takes me a little time after the kids go to bed to quiet the negative voices in my head and listen for the reminder.

I want to be known as my daughters’ mother. I want them to know that I am there for them fully and completely and that I love them entirely, but not exclusively, not solely. More than a strict bedtime schedule, I want to show my daughters what it looks like to have passion, to love beyond.

Because, ultimately, that was the greatest gift my parents gave me — they live and are living their lives as love in action — for the land, for the arts, for the community and, of course, for their family.

And truth be told, sometimes love and passion looks and feels and sounds a lot like work. And maybe it’s a mistake, just like the one I made tonight by keeping the photo shoot on my schedule without any help with the kids.

But I’m just out here trying to be true to myself so that my daughters can see what that looks like and lean on it when they’re out there in this big, wide world struggling to do the same.

 

 

All the things to love

IMG_3239

All the the things to love
Forum Communications

Last night, as we were driving back to the ranch late from a performance in a bigger town, my dad said he wishes he could live a whole other lifetime so he would have time to fit in all of the things he wants to do.

He said it sort of casually to our friend sitting in the passenger’s seat, the man who has played guitar next to me during most of my music career and stood on stages with my dad in their younger lives. I sat in the back seat listening to them talk about the getting old stuff they are facing now — retirement and bad shoulders, travel and finances and grown children.

But I couldn’t shake what my dad said about the other lifetime, because it’s the same thing that has come out of my mouth time and time again, but it was the first time I’d heard it come out of his.

I wish there were another couple hours to linger a bit on the most important, or the sweetest, or the warmest, or the most fun things. To sit on the back of this horse a little longer, or with my arms around my sleeping child, or climb another hill, or make a trip to see my friends, or help or host or work on the ideas that tumble and toss in my head — the ones that need nothing but a little work and the extra time, time that we cannot, no matter how we try, create.

IMG_3162

And it’s funny that he said it then, after we wrapped up a night of music in a beautiful park in the middle of a growing town. That evening I stepped away before we went on the stage to have a look around. I watched daddies strolling babies, grandparents taking walks, a woman playing fetch with her dog, kids screeching down the slide, and I thought, ‘Well, I could live here.’

ARCHIVE: Read more of Jessie Veeder’s Coming Home columns

And then for a few moments I allowed myself to imagine it. It’s the same way I imagine myself being a part of the families riding their bikes down a charming city sidewalk in a quiet neighborhood in an unfamiliar town. I wonder what it looks like in their houses and then I recognize that there wasn’t ever just one way to be me.

This spot out here on the ranch, where the cattle poop in my driveway and eat my freshly potted plants, might have remained the quiet little pile of abandoned cars and farm machinery if I would have followed through with my idea when I was 22 years old to move to the big city and sing.

What if he never asked me to marry him? What if he bought that motorcycle he talked about and headed farther west while I headed east, uncompromising in the vision I had for myself at that moment as someone who shouldn’t go home again?

There’s nothing there for me. They told me so. Would I have bought a house in a quiet neighborhood in a suburb in the Midwest or traveled to Nashville like they all told me I should do?

Would I have broken his heart and met someone new? Would I have children now with different colored eyes and unfamiliar names and would we ride our bikes and play fetch in a park like this listening to another woman singing about a life I could only imagine?

And in these imaginary scenarios, I like to think that I am happy and content, that whatever choices I made would find me just fine. And if I’m being honest, a part of me wishes that there was some way I could find out what would have become of me in Minneapolis or in Nashville or on a ship on the Mediterranean. What would my new favorite places become?

Because as much as there are things in this world that terrify me, those don’t weigh as heavy as the weight of all the things there are out there to love, if only we had another lifetime.

“Oh, I hate this getting old stuff,” our friend said to my father and then they both got quiet, staring ahead at a dark and familiar road, the headlights lighting up the night.

Night Sky

Northern Lights

Video

As I write this, the plane dad’s taking to get him home from a three month stint fighting for his life is likely landing on this frozen tundra of a place. He won this battle, and four years ago at the beginning of a frigid January, he miraculously won another one, when a valve in his heart tore open and, against all odds, he made it home.

I wrote Northern Lights, a tribute to his will to live, in the passenger seat of a long drive home that winter, watching the lights of the aurora bounce and dance across the back sky, offering a flicker of hope in the longest, coldest season.

Dad and I recorded the song in Nashville the following year and have played it at select shows since its release.

For some reason, it’s taken almost three full winters to finish and release this video. How fitting, on his homecoming, it is ready to be shared today.

Welcome home Dad. May you live to be that old cowboy they said you’d be.

Life and art on the road, on the ranch, in our neighborhood

IMG_5909
I’ve done it to myself, and it’s all good things, but the past few weeks, and the following two weeks are full to the brim.

I kicked off my official book concert tour last weekend across the state in Fargo and Grand Forks and I could spend the morning gushing over how amazing it was (and always is) to get off the ranch and meet people who read my column in the newspapers or online, who sort through the pictures and stories and songs and find a connection, but I’ll just say this: when you grab my hands after the show and thank me what I want to say is no, thank you. 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for sending me messages. Thank you for coming out to meet me and tell me your own stories.

IMG_6034

It’s my favorite part and it’s completely overwhelming to see a room full to the brim with people who chose to spend a few precious weekend hours with a ranch kid and her dad.

IMG_7797

In the meantime, my mother worked her butt off setting up the merchandise table and selling books, making sure I ate something and got places on time and didn’t have lipstick on my teeth, you know, all the things that good moms do.

IMG_7805IMG_7809

And while we were away, baby Edie was home helping her dad check for baby calves…

IMG_6018

Traveling to see her cousin perform in a dance competition, watching her other cousin play in a softball came and directing her other Nana and Papa in her new role of starting a family band.

IMG_6066

IMG_6056

Oh, and I hope that she was practicing cuddling her baby dolls as I’ve been working to get her ready for her new little cousin set to arrive in a couple short months. She’s got the kissing thing down pat, now if I could just keep her from throwing them to the ground after…

IMG_6012

And while the book has finally arrived, this week another one of my big projects is coming to fruition. For a couple years I’ve been working with a group of like minded individuals to put together the Long X Arts Foundation with the mission to bring quality arts programming, education and access to our rural and sometimes isolated community.

longxlogonew_2

We’ve received such outstanding support in our efforts and tomorrow we’ll be hosting our second annual Badlands Arts Showcase where area artists will showcase their work in an art show followed by a performance of area artists and musicians in the new and beautiful high school theater space that I’m so proud our community invested in.

LongXArtsPosterWEB

It’s been lots of work, but it’s been so refreshing and inspiring to discover and feature all of these wonderfully talented people right in our backyard.

Plus, there will be dessert.

And coffee.

And Mexican food.

I am nervous that all will go well, but so excited to show off what we’ve put together for the community and raise some more funds so that we can develop art classes, concert series, dance programs and beyond.

And then I’m out on the road again this weekend, heading to Bismarck for the North Dakota Music Awards on Saturday where I’ll be performing with the long lost boys of Outlaw Sippin’ and then my book release concert on Sunday at 2:00 PM at the Heritage Center. 

This time Edie gets to come along, so if you come too, I’m sure you’ll find her roaming the halls of the Heritage Center, dancing, singing and bossing around the giant dinosaur in the hallway with my niece trailing behind her.

Until then, I’m sitting with my feet up, my laptop on my lap, answering emails, making lists and watching the calves sneak through the fence to try to get a taste of the green grass on my lawn.

Oh. And I should probably do a load or two of laundry so I don’t have to resort to wearing my back of the closet outfits…

See ya out there!

Peace, Love and Harmonica Music,

Jessie

For a list of upcoming book release concerts and to order “Coming Home” online, visit: www.jessieveedermusic.com 

Jessie Veeder Book Cover copy