Happy Pride month! The definition of ‘pride’ most commonly used is ‘deep pleasure or satisfaction from one’s achievements’, but I prefer the second entry in the dictionary:
A consciousness of one’s own dignity.
Dignity, of course, being a ‘state of being worthy of honor and respect; self-respect’.
That’s what this month (and every month, every. day.) is about: respecting the dignity that exists in every person, and celebrating the respect that all genders, identifications and sexualities deserve. Like a lot of things in life, this concept extends beyond sexuality—it encompasses all aspects of the self. Being full of pride for who you are includes your dreams, your creativity, and in the case of Jaimee Harris, her music.
Jaimee has been called the “next queen of Americana-folk” by NPR. She also does not identify her sexuality within a binary system (male-female). These two things are a source of pride for Jaimee. Like many things deserving of joy, there were obstacles and a lot of hard work. I asked Jaimee to talk about the journey of coming into her pride.
What has been your journey to 'coming into your pride'?
I knew from a very young age that I was interested in girls and boys. I was never exactly in the closet, but I didn't wave a rainbow flag around every day of my life either. I think I was confused about my gender identity for a long time as well as my sexual preference label. I'm so glad young people have exploded all of the binaries into bits. Bisexual never felt like the right term to me. I feel internally male and female; both. So, I guess I'm a non-binary pansexual.
But, if I have to choose an identifying label, I choose "songwriter."
I believe I had some misconceptions about what it meant to be queer and fit into the "queer community." I used to ask my friends "where are the lesbians who listen to Guy Clark?" I didn't know I'd end up with my partner, Mary Gauthier, who toured with Guy Clark. This is the healthiest, most solid romantic relationship I've ever been in and that's what makes me proud.
I'm proud to share my life with my partner. I'm honored to be loved by her and to have the opportunity to learn so much from her about how to love more.
When did you discover music? Was there a specific moment or memory?
I have a very vivid memory of putting Emmylou Harris's Christmas song "Light of the Stable" on repeat when I was five. My folks noticed I was interested in music and gave me my first guitar that Christmas. Two years later, I became obsessed with Fleetwood Mac's The Dance and decided I wanted to be Lindsey Buckingham AND Stevie Nicks.
Shortly after that, I began playing cover songs at bars in between my dad's band's set breaks (Jaimee and her father, Chris, played as the duo Better Off Dad). It wasn't until after I attended the very first Austin City Limits Music Festival, where I saw Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, and Julie Miller in one day that I knew that was what I wanted to do. I wrote my first song shortly after and have been writing ever since.
Your bio mentions "Jaimee has been through plenty". You definitely have overcome some obstacles. Were there any words that you would say to yourself to help you through those moments?
Probably the most helpful phrase I've learned is "one day at a time." I've learned that when one half of my brain is living in the past and one half of my brain is attempting to predict the future, I can freeze in fear. If I focus on what I can do within one day then I can commit fully, the moment that happens, I know I can survive.
You've got some music about to come out, tell us a little about that. What has gone into this new music? Any inspirations or goals?
I just finished recording my second full-length record, Boomerang Town. I've never worked so hard on editing songs in my life, which has helped me grow tremendously as a writer. The big goal in my work so far, particularly with this record, is to tell the truth. My songs often tackle topics that a large portion of society would prefer to sweep under the rug.
A lot of the songs on Boomerang Town have to do with me grappling with the conservative town in which I was raised, and living with grief. I found I was able to get to deeper truths by telling stories from behind the eyes of different characters; a seventeen-year-old boy who works at Wal-Mart and knocks up his high school girlfriend, a grieving mother who lost her son to gun violence. Sometimes, the narrator is a younger version of me. A lot of these songs were born five or six years ago before I had the life experience to finish them honorably.
It's been my experience that those who resonate with my work are broken-winged birds or outcasts who find comfort in knowing they are not alone. Writing these songs has helped me better understand my experience in the world. It's my hope that they will go out into the world and comfort others.
At Jenni Earle we are devoted to helping people find their most authentic self and truth. What do you think it means to be 'authentic'?
I believe being authentic means embracing all of the pieces that come together to make you who you are. I think being authentic means saying what you really mean, not what you think someone wants to hear.
Do you have a favorite Jenni Earle mantra? If so, which one? Why?
I received a "trust yourself" bandana as a gift. I happened to receive it during a time in my life when I felt terribly lost. It helped remind me that my gut knows and that when I ignore it I end up in incredible pain. Wearing that bandana every day empowered me.
Your songs empower us, Jaimee! Thanks for sharing your story.
Photography by Laura Schneider and Chad Cochran