On Music and Motherhood

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Last week I packed up my guitar and my baby and the entire contents of both of our closets and headed out to the eastern part of the state to perform a couple really cool and completely different shows.

It was a memorable week of music for so many reasons. First, I’m still getting used to how fun and chaotic and hard it is to cart around a baby on these jobs that become adventures when you add tasks like changing diapers in parking lots and late night delirious giggle fests because the girl won’t sleep when there’s action.

But taking my mom with (or Granny Nanny, as we so lovingly refer to her) is the key to making any of it work at all. And after we met up with dad mid-week, leaving Husband at home to make sure the cows don’t get into my garden, the four of us navigated a schedule that included rehearsals and concerts and finding our way through the construction zone that becomes North Dakota in the summertime.

And in between those things we spent a beautiful day at the lake cabin with my grandparents, took Edie swimming,

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shopped for what the heck I was going to wear because I hadn’t decided yet and none of the five dresses I packed were going to work, ate pizza, got our hair done, met up with cousins and spent mom’s retirement on clothes for the baby. Seriously I had to physically take things out of her hands and put them back on the shelves because

#1: I don’t have room in Edie’s closet for all of this and more importantly

#2: We didn’t have room in the car.

Nope. After dad met us with the sound system, his guitar and his tiny little duffle bag, it took everything I know about construction and geometry (which is pretty much nothing) to get us all to fit with the doors closed.

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So naturally, at our last stop at the beautiful Dakota Sun Gardens Winery where we sang, mom bought two big baskets. One for my garden, because, you know, my birthday’s coming up, and one for her sister because it was yellow and gold and she works at NDSU.

Only the Veeder clan would have to unload the entire contents of a big SUV (shopping bags, three pairs of boots, a box of diapers, a collection of hand-me-down toys from my cousins, four suitcases, a stroller, two bags of caramel corn and the kitchen sink) on the lawn outside a beautiful venue in order to retrieve the guitars and sound system so we could get the party started.

Yup, we bring the class.

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There was a point right before I went up to sing that evening after helping mom wrestle the wiggling, screaming, overtired baby so that we could deal with her poop explosion (in the front seat of the car parked at the entrance of that beautiful place so that each guest could be greeted by a stench and baby crying just like they planned) that I looked at my friend and said something like, “I’m not sure this is all worth the hassle.”

I was sweating and disheveled and hadn’t even really thought about a set list.

But then, I was looking at one of my best friends who I don’t get to see very often. I was playing music on her home turf and she brought her family, baby boy included, who I adore (and spent a good part of my two hour gig staring at). And Edie chilled out as soon as she was up and about again, smiling her big smile at everyone. And she got to hang with her other gramma and aunt who made the trip all the way to the middle of the state to be with her, experience a unique place and listen to the music.

And I got to sing next to my dad and drink wine and tell stories to a captive crowd who were just so lovely.

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And the night before I stood on a big, beautiful stage while a song I wrote on the back of a horse came to life as a symphony of strings and horns and everything in between swept in behind me as I sang to a packed crowd in my boots and new dress under a setting sun.

It was an experience of a lifetime to have that many musicians, so much talent sitting in each of those chairs, take my notes and make them soar like that.

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In my wildest songwriter dreams, the ones I’ve been concocting out on in the hills singing at the top of my lungs since I was a little girl, I couldn’t have imagined it the way it was that night.

(Listen here…thanks dad for the recording…)

And I know it sounds like it’s all about me and the music, and maybe that week it was.

But I remember having a conversation with my husband about whether or not, after this baby was born, I would be able to continue working like this. Living out here in the middle of nowhere not many of my singing or speaking jobs are close to home.

But he told me he would help in whatever way he could. He said he couldn’t see any reason why not. And my family has taken the same plan of support and I couldn’t be more grateful. Because I think they see the value in it, not because it’s something that I want to do (and certainly not because it’s going to make me rich and famous) but in my history of performing I can say it’s made us some really funny and special memories, ones that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

And last week it proved to be true once again, sending us to see my grandparents one more time that summer, knowing they were in that big crowd listening, giving my cousin and her kids the chance to spend an entire evening with baby Edie, allowing my parents quality time with their granddaughter and sending me to meet and perform with some of the most talented musicians in the region.

 (With Blind Joe, a North Dakota singer and recent contestant on NBC’s The Voice, who also performed with the Symphony that night)

And the music gave my friend and I a chance to see each other again, my mother-in-law an excuse to take a road trip to see her sister and my aunt-in-law and excuse to do a girl’s night with friends.

And last week it reminded me that it never goes perfectly smooth when you have a kid in tow, but it is so worth it to hang on to the part of yourself that drives you.

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Even though it’s hard, as parents, I think remembering to feed our passions makes us a better family at the end of the day.

Even if the day doesn’t end until you roll into the driveway at 2 am on a Friday night in a car packed to the brim.

Yup, we’re still having fun so we’re off to do it again this week…

 

When the mist lifts off the doubt of motherhood

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Coming Home: Mist lifts off the doubt new mom feels
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It’s morning. The mist has settled in the valleys of this countryside like a heavy, cool blanket that promises to dissolve in the sun. Dad just sent me a photo from the hayfield, a canvas of pink, gold and green poking up from the fog as he bales up the grass and alfalfa nice and tight for the winter.

I didn’t know that about motherhood. I didn’t realize how fragmented and scattered a day can become, a little paradoxical considering 100 percent of that day is dedicated to keeping a tiny person content and alive.

The other 90 percent is spent bending over to pick stuff up.

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Which leaves no time left for math and just a few slivers here and there to get work done. Or wash a dish. Or take care of the gray roots coming from my 3-month-old dye job.

And this is where I am now. Looking for the balance in being a work-from-home mom, quickly realizing that the word “balance” should not have been invented, because it does not exist, not in the way we all dream it anyway.

Last week I had a performance in a small town in the middle of the week. My husband has been arriving home from his full-time job in the evening to help Dad get the hay crop put up between rain storms and broken down equipment, so I loaded up the baby, my niece and my guitar in the big pickup, leaving his evening free for work, because turns out dads are searching for that balance-myth, too.

I stood up there behind that microphone and in front of a small crowd that gathered for hamburgers and music on a Wednesday night, telling stories and singing songs while my niece tried to shush our baby who was babbling and screeching happily in her arms. I looked over at her while I sang words written long before she was born and was suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that this is my life now.

And then, in between songs, I found myself explaining the fear I had about it all.

Because, if you remember, I had a lot of time—time to convince myself I was ready, and time, when it didn’t work out, to talk myself out of the whole motherhood thing entirely.

Because I was worried about that balance thing. I was worried I couldn’t be me and be a mom, too. I was worried I wouldn’t have the energy for music or writing or bigger aspirations should I feel so motivated.

And in a way I was right. I am not who I was before this child became mine. Because before her I didn’t know what it meant to be frazzled and content at the same time.

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Like in the two hours I’ve been working on this piece I’ve changed her diaper, gotten her dressed, fed her milk, snuggled her, kissed her, watched her play, fed her avocados, snuggled her again, changed her again and put her down to play while working sentence by sentence and wishing I would have woken up at 5 a.m. like I planned last night.

I likely won’t finish this until she goes down for her mid-morning nap.

Before the baby, leaving something undone would have driven me crazy. These days most things are left to be finished later. I didn’t know I could be fine with that.

And there are about a million more examples like that, most of them involving the common denominator named time. Because I’m no longer carefree with it, not in the way that I was before Edie.

To be away from her better be worth it.

Sometimes it is.

And sometimes the best part is taking her along, looking out into the crowd and seeing her there, fitting snug and happy in the life that I built, arms outstretched, head turned up and laughing, the mist lifting off the doubt, revealing more colors than I could have dreamed.

 

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For the love of music

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In an old small theater in a small western North Dakota town, a retired professional bull rider stood up on the stage behind his guitar, next to his band, and strummed the first few notes that kicked off the culmination of an idea that had been in the works for months.

The lights were flashing, the sound was big, and the recently reupholstered seats were filled with a crowd of people who made plans to attend a party in the name of turning a Saturday night into something bigger.

And that something bigger was to save that old theater standing among a collection of brick buildings on Main Street in Belfield, a town of 1,000 off the off the interstate west of Dickinson.

It’s a big project. Everything needed a facelift, a tinkering, a fresh coat of paint. Work was being done up to the moment guests started arriving, buying drinks, filling up small paper plates with food and finding their seats.

I was there that night to perform and to watch some of the guys from the band I play with debut their new project, a tribute band honoring the late Chris Ledoux, a bull rider musician made famous by a line in a Garth Brooks song.

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And that’s where this story started, with a song that kicked off a show where that singing cowboy left his guitar and microphone to step off the stage and ride a bucking machine under the spotlight in front of a crowd of a couple hundred of his community members and peers while I held my breath hoping that the man could pull it off.

The music kept playing, the crowd cheered, the bucking machine stopped and he jumped back on the stage. The show went on.

He pulled it off.

I let out a sigh of relief and a big cheer, then sat back and looked around, wondering what possesses us to do such things.

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I mean, it would have been easier to skip the bull-riding section of the performance all together and eliminate the risk of embarrassment or injury. If it were me, I probably would have. The show would have been good without that surprise element. But with it, well, it was pretty awesome.

And the musicians in that band also work full-time jobs, some have families, and they dedicated months to prepare for this night, to prepare for a crowd that wasn’t necessarily guaranteed to show up.

The woman who made a dedication to save the theater and the handful of volunteers who scrubbed and scraped the walls, re-upholstered those seats, sent out press releases and made the food for the night probably had other ways to spend their time.

And the crowd who showed up probably had work to do, fields to till, cattle to brand, yards to clean, windows to wash.

But it was Saturday night …

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For the past year I’ve been working with a group of volunteers in my town to put together a council on the arts in our remote area. To raise money for the new organization, we decided to organize a big fundraiser featuring western North Dakota artists and performers. It’s been a labor of love and, with a baby at home, not the most convenient time to take on such a big commitment.

I spend a lot of my time crossing my fingers, hoping that people will show up, that we will get a crowd and that celebrating our artists and performers is something this community might want to invest in, something that they might find valuable.

It could be a total flop, yet we’re still gambling our time and energy on the belief that committing our time and talent to this will help make our community better.

I think of those men last weekend and, you know, it could have been Chris Ledoux or Garth Brooks himself up there, but I doubt it would have had the same effect on me.

Because Garth Brooks has owned stages all over the world, but that night in that small town in western North Dakota, the theater, the stage, the music and that crazy cowboy riding that bucking machine in the spotlight, all of it was all ours.

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If you’re in the Watford City area, please join us for the
Long X Arts Council’s Badlands Arts Showcase and Fundraising Gala
Thursday, May 26th
at the new Performing Arts Center in the Watford City High School.

Doors open to the Art Show at 5:30
Performance starts at 7
More information at http://www.longxarts.com 

Arts Showcase Poster

Sunday Column: The Red Guitar

A couple weeks ago at a show, I met a man who suggested that I write a few columns about my guitars. He is in a band himself and had seen me play a few times, and had taken notice of my different guitars, and being a musician he knew there was likely a story behind them.

So this week I took him up on that suggestion (it was a good suggestion) and wrote about one of the most important guitars in my life.

Coming Home: From first memory to now, guitars hold an elusive sway
by Jessie Veeder
4-10-16
Forum Communications

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I love guitars. I love the way they look sitting in the corner of a house. I love how they feel in my hands; the new ones shiny with promise of the music that is to come, the old ones worn from years of picking.

Because you know how everyone has a first memory? That moment you look back on where you were the youngest version of yourself you knew. Maybe it’s only a few moments in time, but it was so powerful that you hang onto it hard and forever, whether you want to or not.

That memory is a guitar to me, dancing in the basement of our old house while my dad played his red Guild and sang a song I don’t remember. But I do remember the brown shag carpet and how he wore his hair a little too long and how his wide, leathery fingers eclipsed the strings at the neck as he swayed back and forth and tapped his foot, just a little bit off of the rhythm of the song he was singing and picking — the same way he does today. And I remember wanting him to let me pluck the strings on my own, so I could make the music come from that mysterious instrument.

That red guitar.

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The guitar still remains a mystery to me, how six strings touched the right way can produce sounds that make you laugh and cry and tap your toes or sing words you didn’t even know you had in you.

It’s amazing that the sounds coming out of a body made of wood can be so different depending on who’s touching it. I’m in awe that a guitar can transform a campfire, a living room or a makeshift stage into a world where love is lost and found, real cowboys still exist, summer always stays.

Yes, the guitar remains elusive to me even though every person in my family, as a sort of right of passage, owns their own version of the instrument, tucked away in basements or propped up next to the piano or the living room couch. It’s a necessity. Whether or not you ever learn to play it, you need it there next to you in case you or a guest are ever so inclined.

I’ve had in my possession a number of guitars in my life, all given to me by my dad based on his judgment on what would be the best fit for me. From the old Taylor I play today to the green Takamine I got when I convinced my parents that the guitar was more my instrument than the saxophone I played in band class, so we traded it in, as my dad does with guitars and horses.

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I found out later that’s what happened with the red Guild. I showed interest in taking up an instrument for band class in fourth grade and so dad traded it for a saxophone.

Oh, if guitars could talk! I suppose I could say that for instruments of all kind, but I’m partial to the guitar. I think they’d have the best stories.

That red Guild found its way back to the ranch eventually, another of dad’s trades of an amp or a banjo, so that he could pass that guitar along to my little sister when she went to college. I liked to imagine her sitting behind it, so far away from the buttes of the ranch, closing her eyes, plucking the strings and hearing the sounds of home.

That Guild sits in its case propped up in the corner of the house she now shares with her husband, holding in it stories about her dad playing in bar bands and coffeehouses before she was born and memories of three little girls twirling, laughing and singing along in the basement of a little old house.

Yes, all of the guitars I’ve possessed have given me something — confidence, my first song, a stronger voice. But it’s the one I never owned, the one that gave me my first chord and let loose the music inside of me, that has been my greatest gift.

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Sunday Column: How the music sounds up here

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Photo by Out Here Visuals

I have been in love with folk music my entire life, ever since first hearing my dad sing a Harry Chapin song, or listening to John Prine on his record player, I have been fascinated by the people in these songs, fascinated by how the music paints a picture and how you can fall in love with the characters, and how they can break your heart.

Folk and Americana music is the reason I write. It’s the reason I continue to make music and perform it in whatever way I find the opportunity. It’s the reason I’m still doing what I’m doing. Because I’m in love with the stories.

A few weeks ago I was honored with the Favorite North Dakota Folk Artist Award at the 2nd Annual North Dakota Music awards. I picked out a couple dresses (one for me and one for Edie), packed up my little family and met the band in the big town to celebrate at the awards ceremony with a theater full of North Dakota talent.

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It was a huge honor to be granted this awards by the fans who have followed me as a singer and writer since I was just a little girl singing an Emmylou Harris song dressed in a western shirt buttoned up to the very top.

I’ve been singing for a long time and have had the privilege of being backed by and working with some of the best and most supportive musicians in this little landlocked state. I could have moved to L.A.. I probably should have moved to Nashville. But I wanted to stay landlocked in the place that I love, singing about the place that I love.

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That night surrounded by the music of North Dakota and the people that support it I was reminded why it’s great, and why I’m so glad I chose to make music in this little state.

Thank you to everyone who listens, shares, votes and sits in the audience. Thanks to the bands for learning all those damn Jessie Veeder folk songs so willingly and wonderfully.

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Thanks  URL Radio for working hard to put this together!

Coming Home: Celebrating all the music makers under our big North Dakota sky
by Jessie Veeder
2-22-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It’s a great time to be a musician in North Dakota.

This thought crossed my mind as I sat in the back of the Belle Mehus Auditorium in Bismarck last weekend, dressed up to celebrate the second annual North Dakota Music Awards.

The awards ceremony is a concept put together last year by the owners of URL Radio, a local online radio station that often dedicates air time to hosting interviews and playing North Dakota music out of their offices in downtown Bismarck.
Their enthusiasm for their work inspired them to put a call out to the fans to nominate and vote for their favorite musical acts, teachers, writers and venues and then celebrate them in a ceremony in the following months.

The concept is in its infancy, but after the first year’s efforts wrapped, it became clear this sort of recognition of the music makers, spread from Ellendale to Williston, was a refreshing and well-received concept, one that fans and musicians alike wanted in on.

“Who do you dance to on a Friday night at your favorite bar after a long week?”

“Who helped your child to fall in love with playing the trumpet in school?”

“What locally written songs move you?”

When these questions are finally posed, the importance of the answers ring a little clearer and suddenly we realize we want to spread the word about those talented kids who play bluegrass gospel music in church every Sunday.

Because while North Dakota isn’t known for its proximity to big stages and big connections, it’s always amazing to me to find myself surrounded by such big talent, big ambition and big passion for the craft.

And inside that beautiful theater last weekend, an equally beautiful crowd gathered to celebrate folk, rock, rap, classical and bluegrass, piano players, teachers and marching bands, each of us likely to be categorized by our shoes or our hair style.

Yes, it turns out North Dakota musicians are an eclectic group, and I’ll tell you it’s been a nice discovery for me to hear the different ways this harsh and beautiful place sounds to other music makers.

And it makes sense that a place like this would cultivate such diverse and inspired sounds. There’s likely no place in this country that needs or appreciates music more than us Northerners looking to endure our long, cold winters or celebrate under the big summer sky.

It’s been the case through the generations and I can’t help but think about the sounds these prairies have heard — the sharp echo of a fiddle against the wooden walls of a barn, the sound of the drums thumping like a heartbeat to the step of moccasins, the big voice of a girl practicing her school solo outside, the neighbor kid’s garage band, your cousin singing James Taylor songs around the campfire, the Nashville band at the county fair.

This big sky has room to hear it all and endless ways to inspire a song. The music makers have always known this to be true. But as I watched a woman who has played bluegrass music for years accept an award on behalf of her band that participates in a festival along the shores of the Missouri River in the summer, I couldn’t help but appreciate all of the new ways this community is creating to hear and celebrate their artists.

In a time where access to popular music is available at the click of a button, it seems, little by little, North Dakotans are putting stages and sound systems in breweries and restaurants and hiring local bands instead of relying on jukeboxes. They’re envisioning local music festivals, hosting open mic nights and sharing YouTube videos of the neighbor kid playing Mozart on his keyboard.

Last week, my community cut the ribbon on a new multimillion-dollar high school. Part of the blueprint includes a state-of-the-art performing arts theater to be used by the students and the community.

That’s a huge vote of confidence for the students and rural arts, and it’s so refreshing to me.

Because you might not be a poet, a rapper or a singer of country songs, but you’re inspiring the music we make. You’re helping us tell your story.

And I thank you for celebrating and encouraging the sound.

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Photo by Out Here Visuals

“Work (Girl)” Official Music Video Release

The first video off of my Nashville Album “Northern Lights” is one of my favorite songs on the album.

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It’s an anthem to working women, written while I was shoveling scoria in the driveway, determined to get a job done while thinking, with the rhythm of the shovel, about the women who raised me and what life must have been like out here at a time without running water, Amazon.com or a deep freeze.

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A woman’s work, across all parts of the country, is a complicated balance of finding the best way to provide time and resources to her family, flexing her muscles in all corners of her world, whether in the office, the kitchen, the boardroom, on the back of a horse or behind a book during her children’s bedtime.

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There are plenty of songs written for the working man, the backbone of America, but I felt women needed an anthem. Because their backs are in the game too. So I made one.

During my live shows I invite the little girls to come up on stage to dance and show me their muscles. Their enthusiasm and eagerness to show their spirit inspires me.

I hope this song and video inspires you too.

A special thanks to all the real working Western North Dakota women featured in the video. And to the Pioneer Museum of McKenzie County for providing access to the old photos that represent our working women heritage.

 “Work” is available on
iTunes
CD Baby
Amazon.com 
www.jessieveedermusic.com

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Sunday Column: Big, beautiful tries…

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(Photo by Phil Breker)

I am a woman with a lot of ideas.

Like, we should build a big barn and host events.

I should plant a giant corn maze and 1,000 pumpkins and we can turn one of our pastures into a pumpkin patch in the fall.

We should pop out the kitchen wall and give us some more room for cooking.

I should pick ten buckets of wild plums and make jelly for everyone from Christmas presents.

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We should have a giant summer music festival at the ranch.

We should get some pigs to raise up so I can have bacon for dinner every night…

Yes. Big ideas. Because if you’re gonna go, go all out…isn’t that what they say?

Now, none of the above ideas have gone past conversations around the dinner table or on long car rides. I continue to nag and hint about the pig thing to my husband, but so far there’s been no convincing him, and really, that’s about as far as any of it has gone.

But there have been some ideas that I have followed through with, particularly the one that has lead to my career out here on the ranch. The one where I write and sing and build my business from a spot of passion, but even as I move through my everyday, I am constantly wondering, thinking, contemplating on how I can grow and do more.

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And I am so fascinated by those who have those big, unconventional ideas and boldly take the leap and see what they might do with them.

As a traveling musician I have had the opportunity to be a part of some big and lovely ideas. Just this summer alone I have sang on a big amphitheater in the middle of the rugged badlands that was once only a blueprint,

been a part of a weekly community party in the street that gets bigger every week, shared a stage with local talent celebrating the music of women, recorded an album with a man in Nashville who went out on his own to produce music the way he wanted and have been a part of a special event in a big, beautiful lodge in the middle of a prairie in eastern North Dakota, a place I get to go back to this weekend to perform at a festival they’re hosting.

(Tewauken Music Festival, September 5th @ 2:30)
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Coteau Des Prairies 9And so Coteau Des Prairie Lodge was the inspiration for my column this week, because, well, great, brave and creative people doing great, brave and creative things is what makes life worth writing about…

Coming Home: Dare to try those risky, beautiful ideas
by Jessie Veeder
8-29-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Last week I loaded up my car and headed way, way east to a big, beautiful, log lodge sitting on a hill surrounded by cattle pastures and a patchwork of fields.

I’d been hired to play music during a special event where guests enjoyed an eight-course meal paired with cocktails mixed with alcohol made at a brand new North Dakota distillery and demonstrations from a local mixologist on how to make them.

The whole thing was cool. I got to sit behind my guitar overlooking dozens of people laughing, drinking and enjoying the beauty of the North Dakota prairie as it streamed in from the big windows, an architectural idea perfectly planned to make you see and appreciate this special spot.

And between my sets they brought me samplings of food, which meant I got to sing, visit and eat.

Not a bad gig for a pregnant lady, I tell you.

But the most awe-inspiring thing was not the event itself, but how an idea like a giant lodge out in the middle of a beautiful nowhere sprung from a family who loved a piece of land and thought they could give others a chance to love it, too.

And that a risky idea like that could morph into the really wonderful reality that is the family-owned and operated Coteau des Prairies Lodge is one of those dreams I get to experience as part of my job as a musician willing to travel.

Like making vodka and selling it in downtown Fargo. I met the guy who made that dream his reality that night, too.

Last week families all across the country dropped their kids off at college with advice to study hard and find their way. And traveling with them from the comforts of their childhood bedrooms to the uncharted territory of campus or a new job is a young person’s idea of what their grown-up life should look like.

As I sit here behind this computer screen typing out stories or behind the guitar singing them to ears I can only hope are listening, in the back of my mind sits that little voice that occasionally peeps up to ask if finding myself a real job, you know, with an office, insurance and a consistent paycheck in this chaotic world might be a better option.

There have been a thousand days I think she’s right.

But then I hear the other voice that hollers a little louder and I remember why I’m doing what I’m doing, not because it’s the easiest choice, but because she sounds like she has some good ideas that could work, and may be be more fun.

Like the young teacher in my hometown who spends his summers taking people fishing on Lake Sakakawea, giving them a chance to experience the way a walleye on the line makes a heart thump.

That’s a cool idea. And there are a million of them, big and small, coming to fruition out there every day.

Like the food blogger I know who turned a big truck into a place to sell gourmet waffles on the weekend and who once invited me to a beautiful meal she catered for dozens of people in between a tree row and a field.

Or the entrepreneur in Montana who opened up a store that sells work pants for women and hosts a music festival that draws thousands of people to a cow pasture on the edge of a town with a population of only 950.

Or my mom, who late in her professional life took a risk and bought herself a clothing store because it was where she could see herself and her ideas thriving.

And it’s all a risk. I’ve lived long enough to know that. If I could tell those college freshmen anything it would be that not even the most thought out, stable career is a guarantee. We’ve learned that lesson out here, too.

Yes, sometimes ideas are best left as ideas, but sometimes they come to fruition in beautiful, terrifying and surprising ways if you dare try.

And I never would have thought that one of the best perks of my weird job is having the privilege of witnessing some dang beautiful tries.

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Sunday Column: Small town summer…

Summer is in full swing up here in North Dakota. School’s out. Wedding’s have begun. Garden’s are in and a full line up of summer fairs and festivals are marked down on the calendar.

Last weekend during a little tour across the state promoting my album, I got the privilege of being a guest of honor at a small town in the middle of the state. I was hired to do a concert with the band there during their Dairy and Ag days celebration,

and in addition, I was asked to be the Grand Marshall of the parade…

I took my job very seriously…

AND to help judge the Little Miss Farmer/Rancher contest.

This was right up my ally, such and honor and pretty much the most adorable thing ever.

So of course I had some things to say about it. I could have written a book on all of the characters, from the kids singing their hearts out in the choir before the band

The opening act waiting to go on!

to the little toothless princess candidate dressed in a sequins dress with a hoop that flew up and hid her face when she tried to sit down in the chair in front of us judges.

It was the epitome of what it means to be a small town kid in the summer.

It was the epitome of cute and wholesome.

It was what I had to write about for this week’s column:

Coming Home: Longing to be a kid of summer again
by Jessie Veeder
6-14-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

In small towns up and down the Midwest, summer has officially started. I know this not by the date on the calendar, but because in the next few months I’ll run into kids catching and holding calves at the neighbor’s branding down the road, rolling down the road in a tractor helping with harvest, or showing their steer at the county fair for a little extra cash.

I get to witness these kids of summer because my job as a singer takes me to big towns and small towns across the state to witness them dancing in the street after a day spent eating barbecue beef sandwiches, catching candy in the parade and competing in a tractor pull or Little Miss Potato Queen pageant.

And I have to tell you, I kicked off the season right last Friday when I took a trip to Linton to participate in their Dairy and Ag Days festival. I rolled toward the town in the morning, turning off the interstate to admire the fresh crops popping up neatly around manicured farmsteads, big red barns and, my favorite, the black-and-white dairy cows milling behind rail fences.

After months of planning, Linton looked as polished as ever, and so did its littlest residents who were waiting for my arrival that morning, dozens of young girls from kindergarten to second grade, dressed to the nines lined up in the lobby of the local bank, vying for the title of Little Miss Farmer/Rancher.

And be still my heart, because while each contestant was as adorable as the next, this was no beauty pageant. No. This was a competition where each young and utterly adorable contestant is asked about their experience and knowledge of the farm and ranch they live and work on.

I was asked to be one of the judges, to which I enthusiastically agreed, not understanding how completely impossible it would be to choose a winner among little girls who talked reverently about helping their grandmas feed the horses, being responsible for bottle feeding orphaned calves, the make and model of the tractor used on the farm and the one who joked that, if they’re not careful, the heat lamp used in the baby chick pen might result in fried chicken. Then she laughed and laughed.

And I teared up, not just at the absolute cuteness of it all, but because, really, they still make kids like this. Kids who come to town dressed in bolo ties, fluffy floral dresses, their best jeans or, yes, even a sequined gown, ready to proudly declare that they are learning to break their own horse, they can’t wait to learn to drive the tractor, or — my favorite — the tiny, brown-eyed girl who said her preferred chore was helping her dad fix fences.

When I asked her why she liked to fence so much, she frankly replied, as if the answer should be so obvious to us, “Because I love him!”

First place, I say! First place to all of them!

I’m really not cut out for this judging thing.

But after the decisions were made, I headed out to Main Street, where I had the honor of leading the parade of Dairy Prince and Princesses and Little Miss and Mister Farmer and Rancher contestants, American Legion Club members, 4-H club floats, combines, antique tractors and kids pulling smaller kids in wagons.

In a few hours, I stood up on a flatbed trailer in an empty lotand sang my songs to bleachers full of moms, dads, grammas and grampas watching while the kids tested out their best moves on the concrete dance floor in front of me.

I let the band play a song and got down to join them, compelled to be a part of their circle, grab their hands and spin around to the music. Compelled, after a long day in the sun, to laugh and dance with my new friends, in the middle of a small-town street, in the middle of America, where we make our own fun after the work is done.

Compelled to believe with them that anything is possible, just for a moment, compelled to become a kid of summer again.

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And look at that, a whole spread in the Emmons County Record. A day like this is a reminder of why I keep doing what I’m doing.

Thanks Linton, ND!

Look what the rain did…

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I was away most of last week and on into this one, celebrating the release of my new album “Northern Lights” and playing a few concerts around the state.

I have a million things to say about the sold out shows, the little girls who got up on stage to dance with me, the generous crowd and the awesome musicians who backed me, but I have to get out the door to catch another gig.

So I’ll just do what I did when I got home last night before the sun set and let you take in what the rain created while I was out traipsing around.

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I just couldn’t resist a quick walk before bed.

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Can’t you just smell the green grass growing?

I think this is what heaven is like…

Like the rain after a hot day…and a warm day after the rain.

To celebrate my favorite kind of weather, here’s a video of me singing “Raining” at my CD release concert in Fargo on Sunday.

Peace, love and growing things,

Jessie

Sunday column: Two-stepping in the kitchen…

This week’s column is on dancing in the kitchen with my big sister and learning the two step in country school gym class.

It’s about being in a band and watching from the stage the different ways old cowboys two step and waltz and how the tradition of that sort of dancing, in this neck of the woods anyway, seems to sort of hang in there.

It’s about how I’ve been dancing with my husband since shuffling across the gym floor in phy-ed class in 7th grade and how we still argue about who is really leading (because my big sister always insisted that I be the boy).

I wrote the column after a Saturday spent playing a college rodeo dance and watching the couples spin, lift and swing each other around, packing the dance floor on the more traditional country songs that we played, and dispersing to the sidelines until we played another they could dance to.

Photo by Annika Plummer Photography

Watching all those young people in cowboy hats and cowboy boots out on the dance floor was so refreshing to me. I couldn’t help but think how they might have learned their skills dancing in the kitchen with their moms or dads or sisters.

I couldn’t help but think of this Ian Tyson son my dad used to sing as I wrote….

Ian Tyson: Own Hearts Delight

Coming Home: From country schools to country bars, dancing endures
by Jessie Veeder
5-17-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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My new album, “Northern Lights” is now available!
Catch me on my North Dakota tour this summer!

Watch an interview where I talk about the process and my time in Nashville.

Get a signed copy at www.jessieveedermusic.com
 Download at CD Baby
Download on iTunes