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Jenny Don’t and the Spurs’ Fire on the Ridge tears (the title track) and twangs (“California Cowboy”) with endless energy (“Be the Only One”). We recently spoke with singer Jenny Connors and bassist Kelly Halliburton about the new collection.
“I’ll usually have all the lyrics and music together when I write and the band will build on it to make it have whatever vibe it has,” Connors says. “Kelly and I have been together for twelve years and he’s been great in encouraging my songwriting.”
Alt-Country Specialty Chart: Describe how the new album took shape.
Jenny Connors: “Fire on the Ridge” was the first song we had for the album. I wrote it after we drove through eastern Oregon and the whole gorge was on fire.
Kelly Halliburton: The Columbia gorge is a river valley that runs east to west from Oregon through Washington, a really cool, scenic route. We played a show in east-central Oregon and had to drive through the Columbia River gorge when everything was on fire.
Jenny: Pretty surreal. The gorge caught on fire from kids playing with fireworks and tossing them out into the forest. The song says, “You can see the orange embers glow.” You really could. It was like an apocalypse.
Explain why you decided on that for the title track.
Kelly: It made for good imagery.
Jenny: Yeah, and it was one of my favorite songs on the album. I was really happy with how it turned out. There’s a song by Johnny Western called “Light the Fuse” that I really like. I wanted to recreate that as our own version. I thought “Fire on the Ridge” made for a good base for the whole album. Fire is good imagery.
Tell the story behind writing ‘California Cowboy.’
Jenny: That one’s funny. We had played a couple shows in Los Angeles and kept running across this guy who was just a dick. Everyone was like, “You have to talk to so-and-so. He’s the L.A. guy you have to deal with.” We were like, “Not this fucking guy again. He hates us.” He was a poseur. I wrote a funny song about it, but didn’t want a catty song on the record. We made it a doo-wop style song about longing for that California cowboy who’s aloof. Of course, he likes you, but he likes everybody. I tied in California stuff like the sun and riding the waves.
Describe what ties all these songs together.
Jenny: We don’t really write concept albums. We just put things together as they come. I feel that my writing style stems from those old fifties Western style songs about heartache, longing and love. I feel like those are pretty strong emotions that everyone can relate to, so my writing typically goes in that direction. Even “Foolish Lies” is a fun one about someone possibly cheating and trying to convince their partner that, “Nope, nope. We’re still good.” The songs are all relationship-based.
Describe your songwriting process.
Jenny: I write like ninety-five percent of the material, but there are lots of times when I have and idea and lyrics but can’t see it further than what I’ve written. I think, “Oh, I don’t know, this one’s kinda corny. I’m not gonna use this one.” Kelly goes, “No, no, no. This one will be cool once we get the rest of the guys on it.” So, the songs are usually already done when they’re presented to the band and we arrange them.
Explain how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your music.
Kelly: We were extremely lucky during the pandemic because we didn’t really lose any (day job) work. We were extremely busy most of the time, but not with band stuff, which was a drag. We had to cancel a lot of touring and regional shows, but we were able to work on other projects. It was frustrating not being able to play and we felt bad for people who were cooped up in their homes, but we were busy as hell.
Jenny: Yeah, I didn’t necessarily feel inspired to write during the pandemic, which we’re still not really out of. I barely touched my guitar for the first eight months. It’s hard to feel creative when there’s this impending doom and you’re not sure what the outcome is gonna be. It felt futile. I was doing production management at a venue and a couple bars then that and touring stopped so I signed up to get my real estate license. That was pretty time consuming so I focused on that for the first six months. Then I’d look at my guitar and be like, “Fuck it. Why even try?”
So many people in the music industry have been moving toward real estate.
Jenny: I think it’s just the freedom of not having to be in one location and you can work remotely. I think lots of people in real estate have come from the bar industry too. You’re like, “Okay, I’m good with talking to people and know how to navigate emotions of clients.” I just wasn’t expecting real estate to be so all-consuming. You need to have hours where you’re working on music and not having your phone dinging every five seconds. Our upcoming tour will be my first shot at touring and doing real estate at the same time. We’ll see how it goes.
– Brian T. Atkinson
Artist: Tony Joe White
Hometown: Oak Grove, Louisiana
Album: Smoke from the Chimney
Release Date: May 7, 2021
Record Label: Easy Eye Sound
Artist Website: tonyjoewhite.com
From the late singer-songwriter’s website: “Tony Joe White’s posthumous album Smoke from the Chimney brings to life previously unknown home recordings by the legendary songwriter and musician. A pioneer of the Louisiana swamp rock sound, White’s eclectic legacy has persevered through decades of influence, covers and popular culture. Smoke from the Chimney capttures Tony Joe’s signature style in its purest form.
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