The music continues…

This week my mind is on the music as I work on a new album and pack for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. I sits down with my husband to talk about what it means to still be recording and creating music at 39 and I answer a listener’s question about the songwriting process. Chad’s been busy building the addition, so he gives a little sheetrock-covered update too. 
PLUS, I shares a rough cut of the song I wrote about my Great Grandpa Eddie at the end of the podcast, so stay to have an exclusive listen. 

When I was a young teenager, like 13 or 14, every spare minute I had at home was spent trying to teach myself to play guitar on the pink carpet of my room. Leaned up against the frame of my waterbed (hey, it was the 90s) I pressed stop and play and stop and play on my CD player trying to figure out the chords to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” or Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” I found these songs in my parent’s album collections and there was something about them that spoke to me more than anything I was hearing on the two FM radio stations that came in at the ranch.

Maybe it was the fact that the first songs I ever heard were coming from my dad playing and singing around the house. I knew the lyrics to Emmylou Harris and John Prine songs before I even heard their original versions. And when I began to discover my own musical tastes, when I could buy my own albums and play them on repeat, I was surprised to find there was something lonesome about it. Because I couldn’t imagine a world beyond my nook of rural America where real people like this existed, playing guitars in coffee shops and clubs and forming and breaking up bands and writing and recording music.  Somehow, it made me feel even more isolated, more landlocked, more obscure in my community and so very far away from a world where people create music for a living. I suppose I felt that my only access to it was to learn to play it myself and to attempt to write my own.

MEDORA — AUG 5: Tour of Teddy Roosevelt National Park. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Center for Creative Photography/University of Arizona).

I was only fourteen or fifteen when I wrote some of the music for the first album I released my senior year of high school. If I knew then what I know now, I wonder if would I have put myself out there that way. That’s the thing about adolescence—the naiveté keeps you brave.

I’m thinking about this today because for the past month or so I’ve been knee deep in working on music for another album. There was a time I would have told the 39-year-old version of me that I’m too old for this now, that to be creative, to have something to say, you must be relevant, and 39 didn’t seem relevant to me when I was in my early 20s driving up and down the middle of the country trying to write songs about places and things I knew nothing about. There was also a time when I thought that in order to be successful you had to remove yourself from all the familiar things and build yourself back up again somewhere more important. Go to Nashville. Go to California. Go to New York City. Then you’ll be something. Then you’ll have something worth saying.

I grew out of that phase somewhere between South Dakota and Oklahoma in my Chevy Lumina with a caved-in trunk I couldn’t open because of a fender-bender I still hadn’t dealt with. The man I loved and the place I loved was hundreds of miles away, I just cracked the front of my tooth off on a granola bar and I was supposed to be playing in a Nebraska college town in two hours. Was it this I loved? Or was there something else to it?

Last weekend I spent countless hours on the carpet in my grown up room working and re-working songs that could only be written by the woman I am now, hollering down to my daughters to “shush for a minute” and “play walkie-talkie in the basement please!”

I pulled out my harmonicas and immediately I saw two sets of bare feet under my bedroom door. Soon my daughters were playing harmonica too, dancing, singing and requesting for assistance writing their own songs.

I couldn’t help but think about the smoky smell of my dad’s guitar case on the 1980s shag carpet and me sitting cross-legged on the floor, listening. And then another thing hit me: this is how it can start, yes, but this can also just be how it is. There doesn’t have to be more to any of it except that it brings you some sort of peace or some sort of release or some sort of joy. If my daughters ask, that’s what I’ll tell them. Not everything we do with passion has to come to a famous, star-studded, glamorous end. Sometimes the best part is in the learning, or the listening or the creating or the dancing along.

As it turns out, the teenage version of me was right. To write it continues to set me free. And so that’s what I’m doing here, leaned up against my bed frame on the carpet in my room.

Mr. Tanner and the Joy of Singing Along

Dad in his high School band, Cherry Creek,

I’m excited to share this week’s column and podcast that hones in on the music and the stories and what makes them so significant and important in our lives. And so of course I sit down with my dad on the podcast and we hash out some of our favorite folk songs and the stories behind decades of making music together. You get to hear my dad in his element, reciting lyrics and talking about his favorite musicians and all his time spent performing in his 50+ career as a musician.

Enjoy and thank you for believing as much as I do in the power of the story of the every day characters, the fabric of our communities.

The joy of singing along

Listen to the podcast here, on Apple Podcast or Spotify

There’s a Harry Chapin song I grew up listening to on my dad’s tape player. Harry Chapin was a Grammy award winning musician in the 70s and one of the greatest folk songwriters of his time. He created characters in his three to five minute songs that took you along to fall in love or break a heart or, in the case of “Mr. Tanner, the owner of a dry cleaning store in a small town in Ohio who sang while he worked long hours in his shop, to follow the encouragement of his friends and neighbors and use all his savings to “try music out full time.”

In the performance and recording of the song, in the backdrop of the chorus among the instruments a deep and pure baritone voice emerges as Mr. Tanner himself, singing the chorus to “Oh Holy Night.”

It’s beautiful, the whole thing, and the song takes you to his performance at a concert hall in New York. And if you’re listening for the first time, you hope for the outcome of fame and accolades for Mr. Tanner and his beautiful voice because “they said that he should use his gift instead of cleaning coats.” 

But Harry Chapin doesn’t deliver that fairy tale. That’s what makes him one of the best. Mr. Tanner’s debut performance was met with cold reviews, “Full time consideration of another endeavor might be in order…” And so Mr. Tanner went back to Dayton, Ohio, and the song ends with him singing to himself late at night while sorting his clothes, against the haunting lines of the chorus …

But music was his life, it was not his livelihood
And it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul
He did not know how well he sang, it just made him whole

This song came back to me recently after a particularly challenging week where I was working to bring a renowned concert pianist to our small community and the logistics just weren’t falling into place the way I had hoped. I was anxious about his arrival and worried about getting the arrangements just right for him. The man has played for every president since Ronald Reagan and I wanted his time here in our little community to be up to a particular standard and I felt I was falling short. I was feeling flustered and tired and considering what it would take to retire early when the last song was played and the crowd emerged wowed and thankful for the opportunity. I watched as the pianist to the presidents signed autographs and chatted with the community and breathed the kind of sigh of relief you breathe when something challenging comes together in the end.

After the last guest headed for home and the pianist made his way to his hotel room, I stuck around the venue to gather our things and wrap up, always the last to leave. Then from the empty hallways of the big school I heard the trumpets, violins and high-pitched guitars of a mariachi band echo from small speakers and bounce off the concrete walls. Unexpectedly, a big, beautiful baritone voice joined in with the recorded singer, filling the dark school with life again and reminding me, in the best way, that at 10 p.m., the next shift had begun.

I stopped on my tired feet to listen from behind the wall for a moment, not wanting to disturb or embarrass that voice, not wanting him to stop. This man wasn’t singing for the crowd that had just dispersed. Or on a big stage, or for the president or on YouTube to be available for the masses. He was singing for himself, because “It made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.

And what I heard was filled with so much joy and exultation it turned my mood and immediately reminded me that at the core of it all, what really matters here. These gifts we’re given and how we use them, it’s up to us and us only.

I turned the corner and the man realized, like me, he wasn’t alone. He smiled and turned the music down. I told him he made my night and please, please ignore me now, and keep singing. And then I made my way home in the dark, with the music turned up, singing along.

On Marriage and Montana



Dear Husband,

Listen to the podcast where Jessie sits down with Chad to visit about marriage in the thick of it and to hear the audio version of the column. Subscribe on Anchor, Spotify or Apple Podcast

Last weekend when we were heading across the North Dakota, Montana borderline. Looking out the windows as the landscape turned from badlands to plains, we admired the green grass and marveled at how the big Yellowstone and Missouri rivers were pushing their banks to the limits at every turn. It’s that season. The snow melt from the mountains and the rains reminding us that there are very few ways to tame the water when it needs to rage. It’s out of the river’s control really. So many outside forces at play…

The night before we packed up our pickup camper with my guitars and boots, bedding and snacks, lawn chairs and coolers, you worked until dark tearing down an old garage at a neighbor’s place.

With heavy equipment and your muscles, you wanted to leave a clean slate in that yard before we dropped or daughters at their grandparents’ place and you drove with me to sit in the audience while I played songs for a mountain town, who, just days before, was on the edge of disaster as their creek flooded and took houses and streets with it.

But you wouldn’t have known it that weekend on the main streets of this small mountain town. The restaurants were full, the shops were stocked and the doors to the bars and venues were swung open so that you could hear musicians like me strumming guitars and singing songs about hope and loss and family and these untamable rivers and love, of course.

I drank tequila after the shows and you talked about ranching with anyone who asked because your hat and the way you lean so self-assured with one shoulder against the wall in the back gave you away.

Dear Husband, you were there with me so I suppose I don’t have to tell you all this, but I guess I want to remember the way you’ve always let me know that my dream is your dream too. And so you carry my guitar and you sell my albums in the back and you grab the things I forgot, the cord and the picks and the lists and you tell me good job even if maybe it wasn’t my best job.

Husband, we haven’t been away together, just the two of us, in a while. The kids and the ranch and the chores and the work fill our days and nights like the melting snow from the mountains floods the river and so we think we have no choice but to keep rushing, keep pushing, keep flowing harder to keep on our feet, to keep between the banks.  

The last time we slept next to this unruly creek at the edge of this mountain town we were in your dad’s old Ford pickup with a broken AC and a 1970’s pop-up camper in the box and I had never really been in the mountains so you were taking me there.

We were just kids then and I remember hoping that it could be like this forever, you in the driver’s seat, me singing along to the radio and helping us find our way. 20 years later, on the very same route, you turned our pickup off the interstate and told me you missed me and I cried. I cried because I knew it. I missed you too, in the kind of way that you’re right there but I can’t get to you. I cried because didn’t we know better?

That weekend I sang a love song I wrote before the kids came, when we were younger and building a life, not knowing then that the tools will always be out on the kitchen table, we just need to remember to pick them up. And I don’t have many love songs, I’m not sure why. I’ve been in love with you much longer than I haven’t in this life. On that stage, I realized that’s probably why. Sometimes we admire the big oak we’ve grown, but don’t thank the strong branches for the leaves and the shade and for hanging on to help weather the storms.

So Husband, we may be that great big river right now, running and rushing and picking things up along the way, but along the banks of that creek that weekend I made a quiet promise to myself not to wait for disaster. And I promise you I’m not waiting any longer for the sun to dry off of the mountaintops and force us to slow down. Can we promise to be a different kind of river?  Let’s find a flat meadow and spread out and slow down and be grateful anytime we can, but maybe most importantly when we think we can’t.

Dear Husband, I have plenty more love songs to write.

Love,

Your wife  

The songs that we know

The Songs that We Know
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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 ❤️

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Shared the stage with Brigid & Johnny Reedy

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This talented little ranch girl Marinna Mori

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With film maker Clare McKay and songwriter Anna Rose Pozzi

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Ran into Cowboy Poet, songster and podcaster Andy Hedges

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With the legendary Ramblin’ Jack Elliot

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

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Dad

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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.

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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…

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The best laid plans…

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Greetings from a hotel room in Elko, Nevada where I landed on Monday night to be a part of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, but have spent the first few days in Urgent Care and fighting off a terrible flu. Luckily I haven’t missed any performances and the medication is kicking in so I’m ready for a whirlwind three days of performances, but it’s just another reminder that there are things we simply can’t control, no matter how long I’ve been planning for them.

Our health is one of them for sure. And then, of course, there’s the weather. It’s always the weather. T

A few weeks ago that variable threw another wrench in my plans as I found myself holed up in Fargo during an epic blizzard.  So that’s what’s this week’s column is about. That and how my darling husband is keeping it all together while I’m out telling my stories and trying to stay healthy. Thank God for him.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go blow my nose and write the next one!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
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I spent last week across the state in the middle of a 72-hour Fargo snow day.

I arrived in front of a winter storm so epic that they gave it a name, you know, like they do hurricanes. And I suppose it deserved a name since Mother Nature added a 50 mph wind on top of 50 feet of snow and we all woke up to a regular Elsa-style eternal winter.

And so there I was, stranded inside a hotel room among the buildings of downtown Fargo, all the work I was supposed to be doing canceled, which freed me up for things like sleeping in, watching movies and eating brunch for like three hours before heading into lunch, and then supper and then cocktails and so on and so forth until it was time to sleep again.

It was just terrible. I was unnerved. Probably because I was super rested and hadn’t had this much free time since high school… I was half-tempted to start work on another degree…

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

My husband answered my phone call to report that things were going just fine. Cows were fed, dogs were fed, horses were fed, cats were fed, kids were fed…

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“Yeah, I’m getting so much done at home with them,” he said. At least I think that’s what he said. I could barely hear him over Edie singing the entire soundtrack to “Frozen II” at the top of her lungs in the background.

“No you’re not,” I replied, because I know the truth.

“Of course I’m not,” my darling husband declared. “All I do is make food and clean it up and make food and clean it up and make food and clean it up…”

So, yeah, everything was fed. Which isn’t an easy task, I know, especially when it means bundling up a squirmy 2-year-old who barely ever wears pants and coaxing a glamorous 4-going-on-16-year-old out of her ball gown and into snow gear in order to load them up in the old pickup and feed the cows a few bales.

The whole getting ready process alone takes a lunch break to accomplish, and that’s if one of them manages to actually stay in her snowsuit long enough to convince the other to find some socks.

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“What do you mean Rosie bit Edie in the forehead?” I asked him, clutching my chest, mildly alarmed between sips of cabernet. Turns out there was a fight in the feed pickup over the silk costume gloves my husband let Edie wear outside, because girlfriend’s gotta look glam. And that, apparently annoyed her little sister…

I wondered if this was foreshadowing. And then I wondered if there were bite marks. But I didn’t ask.

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Instead, I adjusted my pillows on the hotel bed, grabbed a handful of snack mix and said something like, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I wish this weather would cooperate.” (Takes a sip of wine.) “But it looks like the interstate’s closed from here to Bismarck.” (Opens new bag of Cheetos.) “It could be a while until I get on the road…” (flips through the channels on the hotel television).

And then I put him on speakerphone so I could really get comfortable while I tried my nicest Midwestern wife tactics to wrap up the phone conversation so I could catch up on episodes of “Beat Bobby Flay.”

“Well, I suppose,” I said.

“Where did you go for supper?” he asked.

“I should let you go. Sounds like you have your hands full,” I tried.

“Have you forgotten the normal volume of our lives?” he asked.

“Did I hear something crash? You should get that,” I suggested.

“Is it still blowing bad?” he asked.

And we went on like this for a while until someone or something in the house peed on the floor.

And eventually the road cleared as it always does and I pointed my car back west through the snowbanks, feeling at least five years younger and a million times grateful that I married a man who can handle all the crumbs and baling twine and bite marks so I can focus on things like work and surviving blizzards that have names I can’t remember.

If you need me, I’m home now, likely feeding or wiping something…

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Actually, no, if you need me I’ll be in Elko while my husband is feeding something or wiping something. I owe him, I know. He knows it too.

See ya out there!

A New Song

A New Song

“If being closer to the ground, makes for softer falls, you have to be tough to stand tall.”

I was 17 years old, getting ready to move away from the ranch and out into the world when I wrote that line, feeling the pull of growing up looming over me like the nurse who calls your name and is now waiting in the doorway for you to follow her back for the diagnosis.

I knew that impending adulthood should more thrill than loom, and so there I was, behind my guitar, trying to convince myself…

“I don’t believe in fairy tales or staying young forever…”

My voice sounded higher, lighter, but surprisingly not timid and unsure like I know I felt in that studio in frigid Fargo where I recorded that song over Christmas break during college, when it seemed every other student was back home with the familiar. Almost 20 years ago.

I chose to stay away to create a piece of work that would mark the very frozen, determined and often lonesome four years I spent away at college, with long stretches of time spent traveling the Plains, singing for my supper. Wondering what to be when I grew up.

A Place to Belong-2005

My 2005 Release

It was avoidance in the form of work. It was the same thing I did the summer after my freshman year, knowing that if I went back to the ranch, I might never leave. So I stayed to be a grown-up.

And then I blinked and I’m grown up. And the grown-up version of me listened to those words tonight, staring into the path my headlights cut on Interstate 94 headed east to where the snow is piled high up past my knees.

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I just purchased $50 worth of face cream on an impulse to try to keep the evidence from 36 years of laughing, worrying, rolling my eyes and sleeping face-down with the pillow smashed over my head from truly showing and I was trying to keep my mind off of a rolling argument my husband and I have been having for a couple months now.

When I called him to check in, the puppy had just pooped on the carpet, and one of our young daughters had stepped in it. This was no time to try to work through it again.

I let him go and decided to seek refuge in a voice that used to be so familiar to me. I rarely listen to my music after it’s produced and out in the world, unless I have to relearn something. Which always baffles people — that I would have to relearn a piece of music I wrote myself, as if once it’s down, it’s etched in my memory.

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But it’s all so much more complicated than that, isn’t it?

Because we move on. We change, and along the way we pick our favorite stories to carry with us. My songs have been like that for me.

Jessie Veeder Music

I suppose sometimes relationships are like that, too. That’s why marriage can be so beautifully maddening. Because it’s a song you’re continually writing with someone who, sometimes, may be singing in a completely different key.

When I wrote those words at 17, I loved the boy who would become the man who, as I type, has likely fallen asleep in one of our kids’ beds, fully dressed, neckerchief and all, taking care of the things we love while I’m hundreds of miles away telling stories.

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Was this the fairy tale I wouldn’t let myself believe in? How could I have ever known what it would truly take to make the happily ever after that I muse and ponder and write about these days?

At least I knew then that I couldn’t know, and that’s the beauty of it all for me.

The new song? It has uncertainties, but they are changed now.

And it has more patience and apologies, good humor and messes and arguments in the kitchen.

Oh, and two daughters with the world before them, perfectly oblivious and twirling across the unswept floor.

And it sounds less like a child and more like a woman in a three-day ponytail standing next to a man in a wool cap who together believe fiercely in that fairy tale, not the one that sparkles and shines, but the one that holds on tight…

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Watch for the release of my new album, “Playin’ Favorites” that celebrates the songs that influenced me in the spring. 

And check out my music website,jessieveedermusic.com for a list of places I’ll be playing near you! 

On the road: Now and then

A Cafe Somewhere in Montana...

Greetings from a hotel room 100 miles away from the ranch where I just consumed an entire take-out chimichanga dressed in my jammies while sitting on the bed watching some Learning Channel special about weird ways to die.

And then I washed it all down with six or seven pieces of Halloween candy I bought during my solo trip to Target where I was only going to buy deodorant, but somehow, because I had time to kill, wound up with Christmas dresses for my girls and my nieces, a new makeup regime, three bottles of vitamins, envelopes, a new bathroom color scheme, a 37-pound bag of candy, a witch hat, princess underwear, three packages of toddler-sized white socks and a partridge in a pear tree.

This is life on the road, people. Or at least the evening portion of the program.

I know it well. I spend plenty of time here and have since deciding to try my hand at this professional musician gig a million years ago when I was younger and drove a Chevy Lumina with a 10-disk CD changer sound system installed in my trunk and all I needed to get from a Fargo gig one night to a Chicago gig the next morning was a bag of sunflower seeds, an energy drink and my favorite albums on repeat.

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Turns out what I also needed was some change for the toll booths and probably a plan for where I was going to stay the next night, but that was back before you could book a room and find a husband on your smartphone, so yeah, I did a lot more improvising.

It was back in the olden days when you had to use actual maps. And so my Lumina was filled with one of each from North Dakota to Texas and off I would go to make my way through the middle of America to perform, just a girl and a guitar trying to laugh off the requests to play Free Bird during lunch at a tech college.

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Or calm my nerves when I dropped my entire makeup bag under an automatic sink in the public bathroom after getting lost in Minneapolis and running late for my gig opening for a national act.

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And then there was the time I completely chipped the front part of my tooth off on a granola bar on a highway somewhere in Missouri with no hope for a dentist appointment before they were set to put a camera up close to my imperfections at a campus television station.

Yes, in between those gigs where I could be playing to 3 people or 300, I had nothing but the radio and the miles between the familiar and the mystery of the towns that passed by my window. Traveling and touring that extensively solo before I even hit age 21 was a weird mix of vulnerable, free, lonesome, nervous, proud and utter exhaustion. Some days it was hopeful, when the audience was captive and the stories came easy and some days were more “opening the door to my room at the Red Roof Inn and finding strangers sitting on my bed.”

And all these years later, so many things have changed, like the maps and vehicles, but the road hasn’t.

It’s still hoping for an open gas station at midnight when I’m finally heading toward home and I’m starving. It’s still floorboards full of wrappers and water bottles and dealing with the quirks of a car that inevitably acts up, locking me out of the trunk for no apparent reason. It’s movies and suppers alone to kill the time. It’s changing clothes in the car or a public restroom, and putting makeup on in the visor mirror. It’s meeting new people and inevitably forgetting a microphone stand along the way. It’s calling home at night and recapping the day, only now the voices on the other line are noisier and smaller and sweeter and there’s more to miss.

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But I love it out here when I go. I love to see the Main Streets and visit your Cenex stations and your cafes and hear your stories at the end of the night before my tires hit the road again for home or send me out in search of a glamorous hotel bed chimichanga picnic.

Rear View Road