Sunday Column: Singing on stages

Whew, hello there.

We’re alive and well out here in Western North Dakota after a five day trip with the whole fam and the band to White Sulphur Springs, MT for the Red Ants Pants Music Festival where me and my boots got to stand on the same stage as Charley Pride, Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile, Corb Lund, Josh Ritter, James McMurtry and so many more.

In the lifetime I’ve spent behind this guitar I doubt I’ve had as much fun with my music as I’ve had since recording and promoting “Nothing’s Forever.” Maybe it’s because I’m older now and take the elusive promise of fame less seriously. Maybe it’s because I’m home and  being home allows me to be myself in my music, and I’m aware that I’m becoming more myself every day…

Or maybe it’s because I’ve found that there are people out there who understand what I’m doing here and they let me know that songs about coming home to the front porch light always on reminds them of their family in their home, wherever that may be. However it may have impacted them.

But there are some days I wonder what I’m doing way out here writing songs, papers spread across the bed, late into the night while my husband falls asleep on the couch.

Being a small town musician doesn’t make you a rich woman. Being a small town musician sends you out the door in the evening to towns hours away and finds you behind headlights in the quietest hours of the early morning, the hours still considered part of the night. The hours that, even in oil country, find you to be the only headlights on the road.

And the more successful you become, the more time you spend behind those headlights.

I’ve known this about my career since I recorded my first album at age 16. You want to sing on stages? Then you won’t be home for dinner some nights.

You want to pay back those album costs? Then your weekends are planned girl.

You want a husband? Then he has to be the kind of man who doesn’t need you to make him those dinners every night. He has to be the kind of man who’s ok with you leaving the house at 7 pm to practice music with a room full of talented men behind instruments. He has to be ok with you coming home at 2 am on a Tuesday night.

And, you know, dragging you and your family for hours across a giant state pulling a camper, then waking up to make you all breakfast in the morning…

You want to make some money? Then you better find another job flexible enough to get you through from gig to gig. You better get creative girl.

Because, like most jobs, it isn’t all glamorous. But for me, if it was about the glamour, I would have stopped after my first nerve-filled meltdown on the bathroom floor as a young teenager.

I would have stopped before I made the decision on my college circuit to leave after a show at 9 PM from Fargo and drive through the night to get to Chicago to play on a stage before noon.

I would have called it quits after the first time I had to get dressed in my car and do my makeup/”shower” in a public restroom.

I would have quit before I got lost in Green Bay and Minneapolis, slept on the side of the road in a blizzard, or in the cheapest, sketchest motels I could afford.

I would have quit before we got a flat tire on the most lonesome stretch of highway on our way to White Sulphur Springs…

(Brandi Carlile) 

And then I would have missed the best parts, the parts that keep me doing this, the characters in my songs and the characters who come when I call with their guitars and harmonies and ideas, putting life in the music.

Making the songs worth it. Making me forget that it’s midnight and I have a deadline in the morning. Making me forget that once I considered pursuing a career as a landscape architect…for like three minutes, when I was seventeen and didn’t know better.

That’s the thing about music. If you keep singing it will keep giving–new experiences, new people to love, new places to travel and new things to say you’ll never do again…

(Charley Pride)

It transforms us. The audience. The singers. The players.

I saw it happen this weekend. It cuts us loose. It turns ranchers into rock stars. Strangers into friends. It makes kids hopeful and inspired.

It makes stoic cowboys tap their toes, maybe dance a little.

It makes my little sister cry.

It connects us to each other through a shared emotion. And I don’t care if it’s one ear or thousands, music is made to tell our story, to find a memory, to understand the human condition. And there are ears out there in every corner of these wild places, the quiet and unassuming places, streets full of people or pastures once filled with cows.

When we’re together, shoulder to shoulder, facing a stage or behind a guitar, I’d like to think we’re better at listening to one another. To ourselves.

And that’s why I sing.

Coming Home: Size of stage not a measure of singer’s success
by Jessie Veeder
7-27-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Why not here? Big music in a small town.

Husband’s checking the air on the pickup tires and I just changed my guitar strings. Tomorrow morning bright and early we’re loading up our boots and guitars (and coolers) and heading west to the Red Ants Pants Music Festival in White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

Or, more accurately, a cow pasture near White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

I’m pretty excited. Because look down here, look close under Charley Pride and Brandi Carlile, Ian Tyson, Corb Lund and Holly Williams.

See it there, my name? Jessie Veeder. I made the poster.

Woot!
red-ants-pants-music-festival-2014-poster

Which means I also made the big stage and I can’t wait to play on it out under that big Montana Sky with some of my favorite musicians standing next to me, and more on the roster to take the stage throughout the weekend.

This festival is near and dear to my heart for so many reasons, the brain child of Sarah Calhoun, founder and inventor of Red Ants Pants, tough work pants that for women, this festival proves that real music about real people playing real instruments still pulls at audiences from all walks of life creating a kind of crowd a girl like me dreams of playing for night after night. 

Sarah is one of those kick-ass women who is sweet and tough and smart and just ballsy enough to not only start her own business in a small town in rural Montana, but to bring big musical acts to that same small town in the name of doing some good here.

Sarah’s non-profit, the Red Ants Pants Foundation, was founded in support of women’s leadership, working family farms and ranches, and rural communities. The proceeds of this festival benefit the non-profit’s grants and help run timber-skils and women’s leadership programs. 

If I could have Sarah over for drinks on Saturday nights I think the two of us could get into some trouble.

Today there was a little story on me in Missoula, Montana’s paper, The Missoulian, in preparation for my trip to Red Ants. Read it here:

Bakken-area singer/songwriter moves to Red Ants main stage
by Megan Marolf
The Missoulian 

So many times in my life I have been asked why not Nashville? Why not L.A. or New York? Why don’t you try to make it somewhere

Some days I have wondered these things myself.

And then I ask, Why not here? Why not home?

I think that’s what Sarah was thinking when she dared to make a big ass plan for a small town.

And I have to say, me and the couple thousand people making the trek to the middle of Montana this weekend, we just love her for it.

See ya there!

Jessie