Jenee Halstead

Jenee Halstead

 Somerville, Massachusetts, USA
SoloFolkAlternative

Americana for the 21st century. Crossing the bridge between old-timey, country, folk and pop. Atmospheric, edgy, and beautiful.

Biography

Heading into the studio to record her third release, Jenee Halstead arrived at an awkward conclusion: She needed to throw away all of her songs.

"I had been thinking a lot about the wild -- about instinct and intuition", Halstead says. "I knew that I wanted to capture these ideas on this album but I just wasn't sure how it would happen. Once I got to the studio and played through the songs, the answer seemed obvious."

Halstead decided to scrap all but two songs ("Building you an Altar", co-written with David Wax, and "Heart Song"). Ditching her trademark character sketches she started over, writing in first person and swapping her guitar for piano and ukulele. In ten days, she and Evan Brubaker (producer of Halstead's debut album, The River Grace) wrote and tracked nine new tunes, including "Rodeo of Sadness" and "Never Another", inspired by Elliot Smith's last moments. The result is Raised By Wolves -- Halstead’s most personal and ambitious recording thus far.

"I am still surprised by it," Halstead says. "We just followed our instincts, just like I had hoped to. Even the songs like ‘River of Doubt’, that I would've normally considered 'dark' don't seem to feel that way because there is so much energy behind them."

With creative abandon, Raised By Wolves slams an old beat box into surf guitars, banjo, and ukulele; mixing a chorus of tenor guitars, handclaps, and synth bass. Drawing on influences like PJ Harvey and Kate Bush, multi-instrumentalist/producer Brubaker (Rachel Harrington & The Knockouts, Edie Carey) empties the musical space, giving all the attention to Halstead’s extraordinary voice. The twisted banjo of Danny Barnes, sly drumming of Joel Litwin, and nearly unrecognizable Dobro of Colby Sander help Raised By Wolves create a re-invigorated Dark Pop/Americana that surrounds Halstead’s vocals with a variety of surprises.

Halstead grew up in the high desert of Spokane, Washington, the daughter of hippie parents who let her find her own direction. She spent her childhood exploring her mother’s garden and singing along to records with her Dad. In middle school, she transformed into the rarest of birds; an athletic choir geek who
sang medieval choral works, but loved Led Zeppelin and Dolly Parton. She wrote quietly on her own for years, moving from place to place – Spokane to Seattle to nowhere Alaska, before moving to Boston in 2007. She collected all of her songs into what would become The River Grace. Raised By Wolves reclaims the careless freedom of her childhood with a sense of wonder that is unique and fiercely engaging.

Lyrics

The Darkest Day

Written By: Jenee Halstead

We drove to the edge of town
Ditched the car, jumped the wall and headed east
Runnin’ to the county line
With the cops coming close behind
Through knee-high fields of wheat
A couple of common thieves
Stole a car, on a hot Midwest summers eve
What ensued that night
Like a horrible dream
To this day it haunts me

Ch:
And the darkest day I have ever seen
Was the one that came with that dawn
And you went rushing back
To the world where you came from

Earlier on that night
Driving down 99
With the top back breaking free
We were drunk and high
Passed a cop doing 95
So blown we didn’t see
By the time the chase
Was underway, one had turned to three
You met my eye, patted your .45
Said, “they ain’t never gonna get me”

Ch:
And the darkest day I have ever seen
Was the one that came with that dawn
And you went rushing back
To the world where you came from

We got ahead of the heat
Left the car there on the street
Took off on foot with a plan
Run to the other state
Hide out for a couple of days
‘Til things settled down
But up ahead those flashing lights
So bright, a line of men
Surrounded on all sides
You cried, “I won’t do the time”
“I ain’t never goin’ back to that place again

Ch:
And the darkest day I have ever seen
Was the one that came with that dawn

You told me to get down
To stay to the ground
As you pulled the gun from your side
“Drop the weapon” they yelled
But you took aim and held
Lost in your own pride
And a shot rang out that pierced the air
The death knell called you free
Sky broke the night, sun started to rise
As I watched you fall to your knees

Ch:
And the darkest day I have ever seen
Was the one that came with that dawn
And you went rushing with open arms
To the world where you came from

The River Grace

Written By: Jenee Halstead

I've walked this path, I've seen the fires
They rage through nightfall and cloud the stars
Felt the sorrow so deep within my bones
It shakes me awake at night, it won't leave me alone

I do it all to walk the River Grace
I do it all to walk near grace

I know these days are hard
I've seen the battles, dressed the scars
And my tears don't fall like rain
They burn slow and hot, don't ease the pain

I do it all to walk the River Grace
I do it all to walk near grace

The sirens are calling
Their sweet song lulling me on
Two more miles to go, embrace the undertow
Take me home, take me home

My lover died half a man
His feet in the water, and his heart in my hand
These banks hold the tears that I've cried
A lonely ghost now haunts the riverside

Nick Drake

Written By: Jenee Halstead

I woke this morning in a haze; patch of sunlight filled my room
I sat in the warmth thinking of you
The birds could tell your story, how you flew away in glory
Over this rust colored town, now you are all around

Remembering that last night I saw you, and all the things you’d said
Here we are going round again, those words I never could understand
Now as they’re passing through me
Sear the back of my skull; they undo me.

How do you dance all night?
When your heart won’t feel the rhythm, your feet won’t take to flight.
How do you put meaning into something that is not there?
I am so lonely now, so lonely now I just don’t care.

I break out my window each solitary night
Pining for the moon under street light
And the chimney smoke hovers over the eves, the family windows, the evergreens
Each story under starlight, this is mine.

How do you dance all night?
When your heart won’t feel the rhythm, your feet won’t take to flight.
How do you put meaning into something that is not there?
I am so lonely now, so lonely now I just don’t care.

Discography

River Grace LP 1/1/08
Hollow Bones EP 1/10/10
Raised By Wolves 5/25/12

Set List

Set list is 45 - 60 minutes. We usually do about ten or eleven songs at three to four minutes a piece.
Songs:
Before I Go
Still Thinking About The East
River Grace
Skipping Stones
Deep Dark Sea
Darkest Day
Drunkards Lullaby
Portrait of a Martyr
Crossing the Damascus
Winter's Come and Gone - A Gillian Welch cover