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Song-Telling Tuesday: Junior Choir and the Light of Loss

Photo by Smouse

“Poetry doesn’t hold any meaning if it’s explained to you.” ~ Jesse Baker

Songwriting

Junior Choir is a trio of veteran musicians who have played and supported local music for many years. Set to release their debut album this Fall, this DIY rock band has slowly been recording and writing music in their small house. Tracking drums in an enclosed patio, vocals in a large closet, and guitars in the living room, Junior Choir has forged a path that other bands have taken by saving costs and having complete control over their music.

Most of the material comes from guitarist Jesse Baker, who usually writes the skeleton of the music first, then adds in lyrics. Pulling from a large collection of songs written over the years, each song gets presented to the group for ideas. Ben Wilson is a strong lyricist and has contributed greatly to many of the songs. Everything is written on a guitar, with each band member working out their parts.

Photo by Smouse

Ryan “Waldy” Waldemarsen fleshes out ideas for each piece by just playing through it. “I love and I hate recording drums because I’m not huge into music theory. I’m an emotional bass drummer. What am I feeling? How should I play this?” By trying different drum parts they align the feel of the song with that foundation to spark an emotion. The band maintains that an emotional response defines a style and overall feel, more than absolute technical excellence.

One defining bond is the backbone of Junior Choir. It’s the death of their friend, Jordan Leininger, when he was just 29 years old. Jordan passed away in 2014 from complications related to congestive heart failure. It was sudden and really shocked his community of friends. Jordan was heavily involved in playing music. Each member of Junior Choir played and lived with Jordan at different moments of his life. The tiny porch they tracked drums in was his old room. For the band, aside from it being a healing process, wanted to keep the spirit and memory alive by honoring Jordan.

“Jordan should be apart of this band. You know what, he is. We’re finding peace and knowing it’s okay to move on and be inspired by his memory.” ~Waldy

GYF

The opening and ending of the song include pieces of Jordan’s voice. It’s a reminder for Junior Choir of his humor, kindness, and ability to make people smile. Jesse wrote “Forget It” a long time ago with the main intention of getting something off his chest. The song has some references to Christian culture and pulling away from it.

“I’ve been waiting for your halo to fall sweetly off your head,

Yoink it discreetly, polish, pawn it, go buy a bag of weed”

Jesse was teaching preschool at the time and there was this little girl who was starting potty training. Her mom would tell stories about how horrible her father. It felt like she was trying to get us to be against him and encourage the little girl to not like her dad. Jesse had been spending months working with the girl and suddenly her mother didn’t want him around her. She began to question him and had this huge distrust against men.

“Holy rollin’, camp fire stokin’, kum-ba-ya for sure

Now my head’s clear fr-all that greenery useless in a pew”

The situation felt very two-faced and insulting to Jesse. The song conveys this feeling of admitting that he’s not perfect, but yet knowing how to handle situations. Having someone lose trust in you without any evidence brings about frustration and dumbfounded emotions.

“So many people want something from me

I don’t get it

So many people want something from me

Forget it”

Out of the Dark

“Out of the Dark” started as a simple guitar riff that Ben had written but didn’t know what to do with. He took this part to Jesse and asked, “Can you make a song out of this?” After the song was structurally fleshed out, Ben sent 5 pages of lyrics over to see what would work. Jesse tends to write very sarcastically and dark. Ben’s lyrics were written with more hope. This blending of songwriting and condensing worked beautifully, giving us a darker toned theme but with a dash of positive energy.

“If the world could only focus its lens

On the arc of resurrection as it bends

There was a time in our lives that was so bright and still”

The rift Ben wrote had a certain feeling to it. Imagine those old music boxes your Grandparents pass down. You’d wind it up and hear the clicking and minimal notes emanating from it when you opened it. This vibe and feel are evident in the bridge at 2:50. The music drops out and this tiny piano plunks along.

“Open your lungs, take a deep breath in

Exhale loss and anxiety from within

Forget your past, move on with your future

It’s all downhill from here”

The heart of the song is about losing someone and finding your way through it. The lyrics remind us that there is hope when getting through difficult situations. Even though there are dark times in our lives, there are downhill runs we can all enjoy and be inspired by. Junior Choir’s aspiration is that this song can be a rope to pull someone out of a dark place.

Photo by Smouse

Song Production

When Junior Choir started recording drums last winter in the tiny front porch, it may have been cold, they were left alone. The presumption was that the mounds of heavy snow outside absorbed their ruckus. As the snow melted away, cops were called due to their heavy ambitions. Each of the members work during the day, so squeezing in recording directly after work has been a constant challenge for them.

There’s an independence and direct ability to merge ideas together when tracking everything yourself. It can be a conduit for incredible stories and personal connections. It can add feeling and authenticity to a song. In listening to these first two songs, there’s a spark born from a loss. It’s a spark filled with heart, pain, emotions, hope, and pride. Music has the power to heal and to help. You can find light in every loss.

Photo by Smouse

Catch Junior Choir at any of these shows and please don’t call the cops.

September 6th at Kathy’s Pub in Rochester MN
September 7th at Part Wolf in Minneapolis
September 14th at Maxx Bar in Ham Lake for a Pancreatic Cancer Research fundraiser

Smouse
Author: Smouse

Having spent 13 years recording and producing Minnesota artists, along with running a small record label, Smouse is a passionate advocate of musicians and artists in Minnesota.

Written by Smouse

Having spent 13 years recording and producing Minnesota artists, along with running a small record label, Smouse is a passionate advocate of musicians and artists in Minnesota.

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