Jaimee Harris’ Boomerang Town navigates earthy (the title track) and ethereal (“How Could You Be Gone”) with effortless elegance (“Missing Someone”). We recently spoke with the Nashville-based singer-songwriter about the excellent new collection.
“I had some songs that I had started back in 2016 and 2017 but didn’t have the life experience to finish,” Harris says. “I worked on them and edited them in the lockdown phase of the pandemic for Boomerang Town.”
Alt-Country Specialty Chart: Describe how the album took shape.
Jaimee Harris: I had two batches of songs. One was similar to “Missing Someone,” which is upbeat and gets stuck in your head in a nineties country style. Then this other batch that was heavy and dealing with grief and questions about where I grew up and the political climate at the time.
I later was invited to participate in a songwriting workshop in Lafayette, Louisiana in 2019. They (matched) up songwriters from Louisiana, Nashville, the UK, Canada and Texas. I was paired up on the very last day with Dirk Powell and Katrine Noel and we wrote a song together called “The Fair and Dark Haired Lad,” which is an exploration of the insidious nature of alcoholism. That song came into focus and became the lighthouse to show me which batch of songs to focus on.
Tell the story behind writing the title track.
I was at a party at a songwriter named Josh Halverson’s house in Austin in 2010 or 2011. Someone was asking me about where I grew up and I landed on the idea of boomerang town because lots of folks who leave end up coming back pretty quickly. I had the title bouncing around for a while and worked on the idea for several years then really started focusing in on it in 2019.
I tried to write it from the eyes of a bunch of narrators. I started with myself, but that didn’t work. I tried from the perspective of a waitress who works at a coffee shop, but that didn’t work either. I tried a veteran who returned home from war in the Middle East. It finally worked when I wrote it from the perspective of a seventeen-year-old boy who works at Walmart.
Describe how much real life inspired the song.
“Boomerang Town” is definitely a collision of what might have happened to my parents, who had me quite young, had they not had the support system that they did (coupled) with my experience and the experience of a couple that I worked with at Walmart. The last verse is inspired by the last verse to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”: “In the the shadow of the steeple I saw my people / By the relief office I saw my people / They stood there hungry, I stood there asking Is this land made for you and me?”
Well, Interstate 35 runs straight through my hometown. There’s a steeple from the church seminary on the east side and a Caritas relief office and a Salvation on the west side. So, I saw my hometown in that last verse Woody wrote for the song.
I got out of a boomerang town myself.
I think a lot of folks grew up in boomerang towns. Folks that haven’t maybe don’t understand why someone wouldn’t just leave. They might not understand the complications in that or the allure of why you would stay there if the support system you know is there. Especially if you get pregnant quite young and have parents who might be able to help you or it just seems easier to stay than leave. Then you end up in the cycle of being stuck there.
Yeah, lots of people we grew up with just didn’t have the same opportunities.
Exactly. And even though I eventually was able to get out of my boomerang town physically stuff like mental illness and alcoholism and the things that are attached to me followed. I wasn’t able to physically outrun them. I had to deal with those things and still do have to deal with those things on a daily basis.
The song ‘Sam’s’ seems related to that idea.
Yeah, that song was inspired by Sam’s Town Point, which is a funky little bar and music venue in South Austin. The bar was grittier and seedier before (Austin-based songwriter) Ramsay Midwood took over. I realized nobody I knew hung out there when I was still drinking, so it seemed like a good place to get obliterated. There was nobody to watch what I was doing. Then the vibe changed when Ramsay took over.
Sam’s has always been a neighborhood bar, but there’s more variety now. I started hanging out there again in 2017 and would have these flashbacks to when I was drinking there alone. That song just spilled out in a stream of consciousness at the kitchen table one day, which isn’t usually the case with my writing anymore. The way it landed on the record is pretty much how it was on day one.
Describe how ‘Missing Someone’ came to you.
My partner (singer-songwriter) Mary Gauthier and I couldn’t stay in one place long enough to send postcards when we first got together. So, we started writing each other songs and sending them back and forth. She co-wrote a song called “Thank God for You” at that same retreat in Lafayette the year before I co-wrote “The Fair and Dark Haired Lad.” “Missing Someone” has taken on a new meaning since the pandemic. I got the opportunity to play that song for the women in incarcerated at Gatesville (Correctional Facility), which is about twenty minutes outside where I grew up. That showed me that the song can be about more than just a silly love song.
– Brian T. Atkinson
Artist: Dallas Moore
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Album: No God in Juarez
Release Date: June 2, 2023
Record Label: Sol Records
Artist Website: dallasmoore.com
On writing the new album: “I do most of my writing when I’m riding my Harley Davidson Road King or cutting the grass. Our tour schedule had been so heavy for the last several years that I hadn’t been doing very much of either, but all of a sudden I found plenty of time to ride my bike and write.” – Dallas Moore
-- Brian T. Atkinson
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