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Jessie Veeder, Published September 15 2012

Coming Home: Song of home is always worth singing

Six years ago I was a traveling musician on the road in my Chevy Lumina with my guitar in the back seat, Map Questing my way around the country, searching for stages in small towns and big cities, hoping for a few dollars and wishing I could Map Quest the path my life was going to take.

It’s been seven years since my last studio album release and almost three years since that map led me home. Today, from the middle of nowhere, in the middle of an oil boom, in the middle of the new Wild West, I’m just weeks away from releasing some new songs into the world on my third album. I can’t help but think of that 22-year-old.

Because she would have never guessed that among all of the miles traveled alone, the notes sung, well wishes and disappointments, that the story I have always found worth singing is the story of home.

I’ll tell you why.

A few months ago a local television news station interviewed me for a piece they were doing on our booming community. So I stood on the busy street and answered questions about traffic and waiting in lines, what it means to have oil pumping from the earth in my backyard and what it feels like to have so many new faces in town.

I answered. And then they asked me to play a song, a song that hadn’t previously made it out of my tiny house in the buttes. A song about those faces, what they have given up to be here, where they came from, and how they found their way to a strange place or, for some, back home to the familiar with nothing but hope at a chance for a better life.

A few days later the segment aired, and I went about my business building my own life out here in the middle of nowhere.

Then one quiet Thursday afternoon while I was sitting at my desk writing something or paying a bill, the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Yes, hello,” said a man on the other line with a kind voice tucked into a thick southern drawl. “I’m looking for the girl who sings that song ‘Boomtown.’ ”

“That’s me,” I replied unsteadily. “I wrote that.”

“Well, alright then. My wife heard you singing on the TV the other day. She recorded it for me so I could watch it when I got home. She said I had to hear it. She said I think this girl wrote this song about you.”

“Really?” I said with a laugh, unsure of where this was going.

“Yeah, so I listened to it, and, well, my name’s Donny. I’ve got a truck, and I’m from Arkansas.”

“Huh,” I muttered. I had no other words. Because those words he spoke were my words, and they were in my song.

The voice on the other end of the line continued.

“We listened to it over and over, and finally my wife thought I should give you a call because, well, I’m wondering, did you write this song about me?”

I laughed again in surprise as this man I had never met waited on the phone for my answer – a man who no doubt had a story to tell me as soon as I came up with my reply.

“Well, no Donny, I just made that man up. I invented him. But I figured he was out there somewhere. And, well, I guess he is!”

He laughed too as we talked more about the similarities he found to his life in the song, about how his company transferred him from Arkansas to North Dakota in the last year and how he’s glad to have work. We talked about his wife and his daughters and the struggle to find a place to live in this booming place.

We talked about how he likes it here.

I told him I do, too.

And then I thanked him for his call, so glad to have written his song, one I will never sing again without hearing his voice on the other end of the line telling his story – our story – of home.

Jessie Veeder is a 28-year-old musician and writer. She lives near Watford City, N.D., with her husband, on the ranch where she grew up. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.