Where do you start? With the move to Nashville from North Hollywood after a miracle relocation check hit the mailbox after praying about relocating? Or did it start when we left West Texas when the planned move to Austin turned into a move to Los Angeles? Or did it start with the first regular gig at the CoffeeHaus across from Texas Tech that turned into 2 friends saying, “Hey can we play with you and make this a band?!” which turned into an album. That was the start of it for sure. Or the Zach and Joni demo album we passed around Lubbock, TX, while playing weekly across the Texas Tech campus. Or 4 albums of home recordings released while single after college? Or do you start before that with the Albuquerque college coffee house gigs playing to the track team in the audience–gigs that got started by a half stranger named Anthony who I think might have been an angel? I’d say that was the start. Or when my friend who—when I was writing music for her lyrics—found some lyrics, made me sing them to her and helped me finish the song that was played a month later for a weird little talent show in college among friends of all things? That was probably it. Or the multi-tracked tapes I was making in my bedroom at 12 using two crappy cassette recorders and a tiny Yamaha keyboard? That could be a beginning. But now getting the part of Mary in the 3rd grade musical–that was big! Or it must have started with picking out the theme song to Young and the Restless by ear on the piano at 3. Or my mother’s Karen Carpenter when I was in the womb. Or the idea of Joni before I was conceived. Now that’s more like it. My family, after years of trying to figure out what I was doing, looked back and saw, “You know, this was who you were all along.” All those hours and hours at that piano? Those melodies–were from me. Long before they knew it, and before I knew what it meant for my future, I was making music.
The Home Recordings
I started recording songs on a 4 track my senior year(s) of college…in between track practice and classes, in church choir rooms, living rooms, housesitting rooms, etc, I had 3 discs worth. Transitioning out of college, I headed back to TX to figure out what ‘a real job’ meant. After I had conquered the contests of my youth, all that energy had no meaningful place to go, and I found myself in a very confusing self-righteous tangle that had me sick in bed for a year. Seeing myself in the light of God’s love led me out truth by truth. It freed me to see my lack….and then to see it filled. I got a teaching job in Loop, TX, and continued to write songs during this time. When I began dating Zach, I was finishing the process of compiled the 4 discs of home recordings for all my college friends and fans. Zach was a guitar teacher at South Plains College and known for his amazing talent. While we were dating, at a friend’s house one night, Tom Green asked me to play some songs. As I got ready, he said, “Zach, why don’t you play along?” Now that was a trip. It had never occurred to use before that we might play together. Zach went with me to Albuquerque to play at my Home Recordings Release concert with old college friends and fans… and then we married.
The Coffeehouse Duo Days
When the cocoon year ended, I woke up to find that my 20s were passing and I had “all these songs lying around” and what was I going to do with them? I’d been doing private 4-track home recordings for years, but I had yet to step into the light. With Zach’s support, we decided we’d call a local coffeehouse by a certain date (giving ourselves time to prepare.) The date came; we had not prepared, but we knew life would slip away if we did not dive in.
There was no coffeehouse scene in Lubbock, TX, at the time. We began at The Coffee Haus across from Texas Tech. Justin Bernard (brother to Shane & Shane’s Shane Bernard) came to hear us play in the early months; he was opening a new coffee house in town, “Sugar Browns” and had heard about us and invited us to play at his place once it opened. It became one of our favorite places to play at and visit over the next few years until it closed down.
It wasn’t long before Dolf Guardiola and Jonathan Smither offered to join in. When someone says, “Hey, wanna make this a band?” …uh…that was a no-brainer! Sure! And off we went. Shortly after, Brad Roberts offered to record us. As we played in the Lubbock area, we chipped away at that little indie rock album which consists mostly of the sound that we had created simply by playing out together. After years and years of playing these songs and of home recordings, in making this first studio album, I chose songs from the very beginning and all along, keeping them in order (for the most part) to chronicle the journey, the thoughts and ideas that had me pinned, moving in circles–chronicling my journey into and out of some of that confusion. A coming out of darkness into the light of truths that freed me to be myself and share my music.
During the time that we were there, a coffeehouse scene (via Sugar Browns) grew and flourished in Lubbock. Many of our dear friends are still in Lubbock playing all around town as more and more venues have been established that fit the live music vibe. Sugar Browns recently closed down, ending a sweet era in our minds. Katie Howell, Caleb Green, Hedge & Howell were and are some of our close friends from this time whose music continues to inspire us and others.
After the release of “In the Dark,” Zach and I left Lubbock for North Hollywood, where we lived for a year before moving to Nashville.
Hear music from the Coffee House Duo Days
Since Moving To Nashville
Since moving to Nashville, I have had the opportunity to write with some new and established writers with a few cuts pitched to a few people. By the grace of God, I’ve found myself in venues where even the promoters didn’t know how I got there, but ended up inviting me back. Strange gigs in strange places have landed me in amazing conversations with amazing people. After one year here, I was about to change jobs to free me up to gig more, and wouldn’t you know…. there was a baby on the way! And then we started having more babies… which has our musical outings down to a few house concerts here and there.Like