Behind The Song - Junkyard God

It's time for the Junkyard! I'm excited to write more about this song from my latest album, Like The Sun!

I wrote this with my producer Neilson Hubbard and engineer Joshua Britt. Not only are they gifted musically, they also produce music videos and are photographers for some of America's biggest music acts, including Jason Isbell and John Prine. 

Junkyard God is about finding God, love, and beauty in the unexpected parts of life. 

I've found the most love in my life, not in the pretty and stereotypical moments, but in the messier stuff. I found it in the hard climbs and difficult conversations. I found God in people from all walks of life. The more I learned about the dust and broken glass of my own life, the more I saw the good in the world around me.

Some people wrap their stories in beautiful bows. I wrap mine in a big, rusty chain. I hope you like it. 
Listen here!

JUNKYARD GOD  
Jessie Smith, Neilson Hubbard, Joshua Britt

i found god in a junkyard
twisted in the metal and rust
chrome lit up like a burning bush
let the dirt and dust fill you up
in the junkyard

i felt my peace in the broken
crumbled in the hoods and trunks
made my friends in the weeds and snakes

slither juke jive and shake
in the junkyard

i left my father in the city
left my mother at alone
made my home in a pile of mud
i’d rather live in ash and bone
in the junkyard

i hear a voice a calling
like moses going down to the sea
grace don’t come in perfect things
in the tires and chains you’ll find me

 

Posted on June 18, 2017 .

Behind The Song - Trouble

My husband is a Disney nut. When he was young, his family would take him to Disney World, and his architect father would show him many of the details around the parks. When we got married, we took our honeymoon to - you guessed it - Disney World. I have, consequently, become a bit of a Disney nut myself.

On one of our trips, we hopped on Splash Mountain, and our bloat floated across a pretend wooden sign with a pretend wooden carving of the words,

“You can’t run from trouble, ain’t no place that far.” 

I said “YAS honey! That’s my next song!” or something along those lines.

When we got back home, Bradley and I wrote Trouble together. Well, we kind of fought-wrote it. We were recently married, we were learning some uh, communication lessons. But, I’d say it was quite worth it. This is one of my songs with which I’m the most proud.

Trouble is a also a special song to me, because it symbolized a transition in my life.

I wanted to write this song strictly about how trouble chases us down in life and how we have to face it. For awhile, that’s all I had been doing. Facin’ troubles. Then, I came to more realizations in my life that led to a bit more hope, which made me feel compelled to put a more hopeful spin on this song at the end. I hope you like it!

 

LYRICS:
you can’t run from trouble
ain’t no place that far
you can’t run from trouble
she knows who you are

well she ain’t flesh and bone
but she’s as real as your own soul
she ain’t gonna leave you alone

you can’t run from trouble
ain’t no place that far
you can’t run from trouble
she knows where you are

you can go off on a bender
or try to drown her in your liquor
there ain’t no killing her. 

CHORUS      
you can’t run from trouble now
you can’t run from trouble now
baby theres no hiding
oh she gonna find you
you can’t run from trouble now

you can’t run from trouble
ain’t no place that far
you can’t run from trouble
she knows what you are

you think she’s the enemy
with little horns and razor teeth
come to steal your revelry

repeat chorus

BRIDGE
MMMMMMM HUMMMMMMMM
ain't no place that far

MMMMMMM HUMMMMMMMM
she lives inside your heart

oh, but pain is your ally
she’ll fix your wings, help you fly
if you let her take you high
take you high

repeat chorus

 

Posted on May 22, 2017 .

Behind The Song - Lighting Up The World

Sometimes, I am asked about my songs. Some people want to know what the song is about, how did it get written, WHY did it get written, etc. I could talk all day about that. People who ask this question, well, they’re just my people. I do the same thing to other artists, as well as to people who work in any job, anywhere. I’m a question box. Eternally curious. Seriously. Let’s go to coffee and let me ask you about your life! 

But I digress…

 

When I play my live shows, I like to say a few words about the songs to help people follow along. Every time I do this, I say something different. There are so many stories! So, I wanted to create a central location where I write a little about each song, and this way you can read along, understand, and join in. 

 

First up! 

 

The first song on my album, Like The Sun, is...

Lighting Up The World! 

Listen along while you read the lyrics if you like:

Read lyrics here:

 

thought i needed a man

to love me out of my pain

someone to fix me, hold my hand

but oh lord, nothing changed

 

i ran off like a bat out of hell

i went house to house bed to bed

i stopped for a second to catch my breath

and felt the sunshine warm my head

 

chorus

i looked to the sky and i thought what if i was

lighting up the world, and i didn’t even know?

oh, nobody told me but i’m getting the feeling that i’m

lighting up the world, right here on my own

 

a golden-haired woman walked by

she found me on a ledge and helped me down

she said “the sun always shines, day and night

and it’s high time i let it out”

 

i said, “ma’am i’m as hollow as a cave

and i’m as dark as the day is long”

she passed me a shovel and said “come on babe

just cause you can’t see it, don’t mean it’s gone.”

 

 

 

Let me start this next part with a disclaimer. Songs have endless meanings. I don’t have endless finger strength. Ok let’s get going…

 

Lighting Up The World is my swampy homage to therapy, and the process of learning how to love my swampy self. Swampy swampy swampy.

 

I started this song with the chorus melody. I went on a walk on a trail and hummed things into my phone, and I came up with something I liked. I like coming up with melodies away from an instrument when I’m writing alone, and then adding chords later. I went to my piano and put chords on it, and it sounded, well, cheesy as a cheetah (I’ve never said that before in my life. Still keepin’ it.) Then, I took it to Bradley to hear a slide guitar on it. I liked it way better, and I knew I wanted to keep working with it.

 

The first verse is about my search for something that would help my pain go away. I hopped from thing to thing, person to person, like Goldilocks looking for just the right chair. I added more and more baggage to my already heavy load, and I showed myself no mercy. It was a brutal existence.

 

I work a lot on my mental and emotional health. I kind of was forced to. When I was growing up, the world just got too hard for me, and I developed depression, OCD, and eventually a pretty rough eating disorder. Going to counseling literally saved my life. I started in 2009, and I haven’t stopped since. I was given a forum to feel my pain and consequently, an unending supply of song ideas, and I started to see the clouds part a little bit more every week. In 2015, at the time I wrote this song, something happened in my emotional state, and the clouds opened up really wide. It was like my brain said “Yay good job here’s some freedom,” and I started to see that I had more worth than I realized. That’s how the chorus to Lighting Up The World was born.

 

 

The second verse talks about a golden-haired woman. That woman is my therapist, Dr. Chris Hilicki. During my CD release show at Sopapillas in March, I publicly thanked her for all she has done for me. That felt good. She told me once, “Jessie, be Like The Sun (hence, the album title!). The sun is shining whether we see it or not. Sometimes, it’s bright and clear outside, and you can see the sun shining from everywhere. Sometimes, clouds come and cover it up. But it doesn’t quit shining when that happens. It doesn’t change its form. It just keeps on being the sun.” 

 

I’d like to take this time to say - If any of you are struggling with your own mind battles, know you are not alone, and you can email me any time and I’d love to help you find resources. info@jessiesmithmusic.com

 

Now, let’s talk production. Music. Instruments. All the sounds.

Produced by Neilson, this song was tracked in about, oh, 10 minutes. Which is nuts, even by Nashville standards. I credit this to the session musicians and Neilson, who understood this sound and this song at some kind of crazy molecular level. The stars just aligned, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had recording. 

Player credits:

Dean Marold - upright bass

Neilson Hubbard - producer, percussion

Bradley Minnigan - acoustic guitar

Will Kimbrough - all the guitars

Evan Hutchings - drums and chains and jangles and whatnot

 

I hope you like the song, and I hope to see you at a show! Don’t forget to share my music with your friends and whatnot. :) 

Posted on May 10, 2017 .

Stellar Review from No Depression!

A sincerest thank you goes to No Depression and Frank Gutch, Jr., the reviewer. They also put a throooooowback Kickstarter video in there! Check out the article here.

And if you don't feel like clicking the link, here's a transcript of the article sans videos:

Jessie Smith--- Tongue and Groove

Do I like Jessie Smith? Oh, yes, I do and I will tell you why. She's got the music in her. Deep. Embedded. She sings like she has demons but not about demons. The last person I heard squeeze the music out the way she does is Cydney Robinson who had music coming out of her pores. On certain songs her whole body tensed up while her stomps accented the notes. Phrasing? I have never heard anything quite like it. Until I heard Jessie Smith. There must be something deep within busting to get out because I can feel it in both of them.   

Robinson released an album titled Spokesman For the Shoeless which even today leaves me breathless in places. Two songs, “Georgia” and “Butterflies & Diamonds,” stand as a testament to the power of her voice. I do not pull out her album to listen to just those songs, though. I listen all the way through because the songs warrant it. Good, good stuff.

I hear a lot of Robinson in Smith--- the power, the phrasing, the emotion. Robinson could well have recorded Like the Sun, but she didn't. Jessie Smith did. Jessie Smith. A voice I had never heard before but one I am glad I finally did.

Smith is roots deep and shows it at every turn. There are hooks and grooves all over the album, most pointing to the past but not tied to it. I hear blues and gospel and a little modern country, which means it isn't country at all but a bastardized version of rock. I hear love and venom and joy in the mere performance of the music. Like she could not imagine a world without music. Like if it did not exist life would not be life. At times, I swear I can hear the hurt because when emotions and music hit just the right notes, it does hurt.  

Even the package says something about Jessie Smith, musician. On a plain brown CD jacket is silk-screened the album title, Like the Sun, barely readable because the colors came out with almost psychedelic intensity. It reminds me of the old Old Californio jackets except they printed in black. Included is a lyric sheet, thank the gods, a necessity for me when the songs are this good.

Favorites are “Trouble” and “Been In the Storm,” but others are beginning to crack the mental charts. “Take a Chance” because of the mere hint of what Elvis might have done had he been female, “”Secrets In the Hollow” because of its groove reminiscent of the rock side of “O Brother Where Art Thou,” “In the Morning” because of the dirge-like blues groove. I am sure they will each take top spot over time. There is a lot to love here.

Credit must also be handed to Neil Hubbard, the producer. He not only helped write a couple of the songs, he most likely played on most of the album. I have been following him for some time now and, truth be told, cannot point to one of his projects being less than impressive.

Posted on March 10, 2017 .

New Album Reviews! And There's A Pre-Order too!

It's coming so very soon. My new album, Like The Sun, is inching out into the wild music yonder, via a pre-order! Order some goodies in the form of music and merch! Check it out here. 

And, album reviews are coming in! There are some bloggers in the music biz who have listened to my upcoming album and gave their opinions. How exciting! Check out two of them here:

Don And Shery Music Blog

Midwest Record

Posted on February 20, 2017 .