Speaking Up and Dapper Rabbits

 

HELLO FRIENDS,

First of all, it’s Bandcamp Friday today where those nice people at Bandcamp who host my shop waive their revenue share in order to support their artists.

So, with anything you order today, all the money goes directly to the artists – that’s me! I’ve added a new single to go with my new video – see all about my new song below – and I’ve also added two hand-stitched items to go with the prints, t-shirts, totes, and pillows in my shop. And there are always plenty of CDs for sharing my music with friends or to shore-up your Jeni Hankins and Jeni & Billy shelf of music!

Since I’m erring on the side of caution and not making any trips right now, I find myself dreaming about places I’ve always wanted to see like Venice, for instance. So, I’ve made a jumbo pincushion or small pillow – depending on your point of view – to celebrate my yearning for Venice. Can you see the little gondola?

AND, because I look for rabbits every day on my walks here in Carnforth, North Lancashire, England, I’ve also hand-sewn Two Dapper Rabbits which are now for sale as a pair in my shop. I’ve embroidered the bigger rabbit with a garden-green expression and the little rabbit has charming vintage French trim around his neck. If you are in London, you can get terrific scrap packs of vintage and decorating fabric from my favorite haberdashery shop, Stag & Bow. Oh, I miss them! They’ve just put together a raft of new scrap packs this week!

So, please do visit my shop and consider a purchase, if you can. I know this is a difficult time financially for so many of us. 

Lots of folks have kindly written to ask me when I might be able to tour in America and the UK again and I have to say that I am very cautious about my health and the health of my friends and family. So, I am unlikely to be the first person and more likely to be toward the tail end of artists forging ahead into live shows and touring again, AS MUCH AS I MISS SINGING IN PERSON. I do plan to give another concert online, but a significant problem with my jaw right now has forced to be on vocal rest for a month now. I am working with a wonderful osteopath to alleviate this problem. So, I hope to be able to sing for you, even if virtually, soon! (Stanley Bear enjoyed meeting the osteopath's friend, Fred Skeleton)!

The great news is that this year I am halfway toward finishing an album of new songs! And, I’ve also been hard at work on making videos for my new songs. I have always wanted to create a video using archival video footage, but my computer never quite had the processing power to make iMovie work well. But the happy accident of my old computer giving up, meant a newly refurbished computer with a lightning fast processor! So, here it is. Enjoy!

THE STORY BEHIND
"PRETTY BACK THEN"

A few months ago, my friends from Hendersonville High School (where Taylor Swift did a brief stint in public school) near Nashville, Tennessee, began posting their senior photos on Facebook. I found one of my own photos (see it below), posted it, and, shortly thereafter, found this lyric and melody insisting that I pick up my guitar. What inspired this song? Well, it’s all right there and it’s been there since I was a kid. Why is it so hard to be seen for who you are and not, for instance, for the pleasure you can give someone else? Why is it that your sex, skin color, religion, or political party means that some people will only see you as a cipher for their desire, hate, agenda, or campaign? So many wrongs in our world come from this problem of seeing and not seeing, being seen and being mis-seen.
 
Here are some things I rarely write about on Facebook or in newsletters. In recent years, I played a house concert where in the break one of the guests smacked me on the bottom when we were the only people in the room. I’ve had several fans interrogate me and warn me about my childlessness. I had a fan write a long letter to me suggesting that I rethink my band and make Billy the “frontman.” I had a man come up to me after a concert and suggest that I drop Billy from the show because that man didn’t like banjo. I’ve had fans who sent me photos of women in very skimpy dresses and ask why I didn’t consider wearing one for my shows. I’ve been invited to stay with people on tour only to discover that they weren’t interested in my music, but "other" things. On the other hand, I’ve worn sequins or dresses to a show and been told I didn’t look much like a folk-singer. Though I am clearly proud of my Appalachian heritage and have written my characters with dignity, I’ve had fans tell me jokes about hillbillies, ignorance, and incest at the dinner table. I also had a fan tell me that I should consider eliminating religious material from my records because I’d risk alienating British people who, in their opinion, don’t talk about Jesus or Heaven. Another fan told me that I didn’t really work, but had fun for a living, and I should consider myself lucky. Oh, the stories I could tell. AND the stories you could tell, right? If I had listened to these people, I’d see myself as an over-sexed, childless, no-talent, inbred, hedonistic, Christian woman. 
 
In many of these situations, I admit I didn’t stand up for myself with strength and outrage. I didn’t make a comment, rebut, or retaliate. I just quietly avoided that person ever after, if I could. I didn’t return to their house. I blocked their messages. I hoped they would fade away. They still appear with different faces and similar desires and opinions. In the last year or so, I’ve become braver, more willing to speak up. The real test will be when I go on tour again. Learning to stand up for yourself is a long process for some of us and we are encouraged by others who speak out. So, this song is and isn't about being pretty. It’s a rare moment of frank commentary and a reply from me – a moment of speaking out about things I find persistently difficult.

I’m so lucky for all of the people – so many of you who receive this newsletter – who see my "wings" even when I’m down (lyric from "Pretty Back Then"). I feel lucky to see your wings, too! Thank you for showing them to me. I'm also very lucky to have brilliant fans and friends who would never dream of bullying me and who have made my dreams come true with every letter, concert, comment, cake, and gift of friendship and kindness. May we all look very carefully at ourselves and each other with kindness and compassion and speak out when we have courage in our pockets or, as Charlotte Bronte wrote, when " passion's strength should nerve my arm."
 
With respect and kindness from your friend,
 
Jeni

(PICTURED ABOVE: MARIE JAELL, COMPOSER AND PHYSIOLOGIST. FIND HER GORGEOUS MUSIC HERE. WOMAN PIONEER IN COMPOSITION AND THE TEACHING OF PIANO WHO WROTE: "To feel small in relation to what one wants to be, and to feel too great in relation to what one has achieved, to be torn between these two alternatives, without finding a solution, without finding the means to put an end to this state of struggle, to see always the task unfinished, to feel the soul burn with a fire that consumes it and to find it always unquenched, and to realize the human inability to abate this inner glow, this simmering volcano…"). WONDERFUL!

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