I hope the New Year finds you well! For kicking off 2013, I am excited to be releasing my first Born Brave music video. About a year ago I gathered all my heart and soul, blood-sweat-tears (you know the drill) and writings and set off to record this album out in Nashville. Voila! Yeehaw! If you haven’t heard it yet, I’d love for you to sample some @ katherinenelson.com. It has been received really well so far. We even had a slot in Amazon’s top 10 selling albums for Country and also Blues. Born Brave is breaking through to a wide audience. Couldn’t be happier about that~
The video we are releasing first is called “What’s Mine is Yours”. I’d love for you to watch it & take a listen. If you like it I sure wouldn’t be sad if you decided to share it with someone. Maybe your Family, maybe your Facebook page, Twitter, etc. It’s a real personal song for me that’s hitting home with a lot of people. Thank you so much for spreading the word. It means a lot. Whether it’s to one or one thousand people, thanks.
Thanks for checking it out. I’m so grateful you of all people would take the time!
Best to you in the New Year! I wish you blesings and success in your life.
Many of you know that I am one of Katherine Nelson’s biggest fans on planet earth. I have spent countless hours on the road and abroad with her and the rest of the Nashville Tribute Band and I have had the privilege of getting to know Katherine well. I am a fan of her songwriting, of her acting, of her singing and of her ability to intimately engage a crowd. But, more importantly, I am a fan of her as a person; of her bravery to put her life out on her sleeve and sing and talk about the difficult times through which she has forged and how she dug deep to find the faith to navigate herself, her husband and her family successfully through each day of those trials. Kind of reminds me another woman who lived in a place called Nauvoo once.
I wanted to write this week on Katherine’s album BORN BRAVE. You who know me know I love this album. I loved the process of seeing the concept in its infancy as Katherine first shared it with me; to watch her vision, then to see it grow wings and eventually fly was an evolution that I shall not soon forget. It is one of my favorite albums that I have ever worked on and I wanted to spend a minute or two and tell you why.
After a few years on the road with NTB, Katherine came to me in 2010 and said, “Jason, I have an album in me that I need to get out. I feel a connection to an audience that needs to hear something and I want to say it. All over the world today there are women wearing rubber gloves standing over a sink of dirty dishes staring blankly out the kitchen window saying to themselves…’This is not what I signed up for. My kids show me little or no respect. My husband is not the man I married and I have given up everything for, well, for this?’ Jason, I want to give those women hope! I want to give them music that makes them want to stand up and fight!” Waylaid by this estrogen thunderstorm that had just shot like lightening out of this woman’s mouth…I was inspired. She played me a song she had written called Soldier Girls and I felt her passion. I knew this wasn’t just any record she wanted to make. She complelled to make this record and I knew that I was privileged to be along for the ride on this very important journey. She asked me to write with her for the project. I said yes. She asked me to produce her album. I said yes.
Over the next many months, as we were on the road we would find pockets of time around our sound checks and shows to jump into green rooms and quiet hallways where we could discuss songs and what the album needed to say. Katherine was locked-in on these sessions. We started to make an album and I started to feel something special coming to life with every step. Here are some stories behind the songs, at least from my perspective:
Kat and I got together in her home and wrote this song. While in Utah, I drove to her house in Kaysville one spring day in 2011, I believe. It was the first song we ever wrote together. We started talking about what song should start this album out. What we thought every woman should know. What they were “born” to do. There you go. We had a title. We worked a while and we had a chorus. The verses came pretty easily as we began with…”I was raised to be brave”. We didn’t know it at the time but the album title “Born Brave” was found somewhere in that lyric as it rolled out. I am amazed at women. Always have been. My mother is a spectacular woman. My grandmother and my great-grandmothers were spectacular woman. My wife will be forever amazing me with the inherent magic of her womanhood and my daughters surprise me every day with those things God planted in their DNA, both spiritually and emotionally. Men are built for brute physical strength, but women are built inherently with a strength from within that when needed by those they love, can move both heaven and earth if it be God’s will. I am amazed at how often it is God’s will. Women are beautiful. They are loved by the Father who created them and when they stand up every morning and say things like:
I was born to stand tall
I was born to face the wind
I was born to feel heartbreak and heal again
Born to open up my heart
Raise my hands and sing
I was born to fill the measure of my wings
To be the light in the storm
I was born”
…then they truly will find themselves working miracles as they live and love among the generations that they will forever influence.
Katherine had shared with me a verse melody and lyric that I liked a lot but I just couldn’t seem to find the estrogen in me to help her take it to the next level. Katherine soon after came to Nashville and I arranged a co-write with a brilliant songwriter friend of mine named Emily Shackelton. We met at my publishing company and Katherine laid her idea out in her usual passionate way:
“We’re not little girls with our dress ups on
We’ve earned these heels in a hundred love songs
We are wise, we are heart, we are struggle
We are strong
We’ll die as brave as the day that we were born
Walkin’ like queens but we work like soldiers
We’re the front lines, we’re the hemlines
Men and children cling on
And we claim our right to carry on”
Emily laid her fingers on the ivories and sat silently with her eyes closed, soaking the song in. She started to play and sing a melody to the chorus that followed Katherine’s verse and it was beautiful. Emily’s voice and chords on the piano broke it wide open and we all three knew what to do. This song seemed to reach out and hold hands with Katherine’s song Soldier Girls, and together they held up a banner for the world to see. Soldier Girls, Born and We Are became the backbone of the album we were building…and we started to feel a beating creative pulse to this project. We were on our way.
This is one of two songs on the album that I did not write that I wish that I had. The song is powerful from beginning to end. Katherine and her co-writers made me want to put on a dress and wade the muddy trenches. Well, not really, but they definitely made me think of the women through the ages who have triumphed amidst tragedy and brought life and hope to countless souls in the wake of their faith. I love this song. Always will. Recording this on Katherine was an absolute pleasure.
This song was another that we wrote at Katherine’s house, or at least we started it there. Katherine had seen a Tyra Banks talk show that set four women who were rather mousey examples of modern home-makers against four very well educated and socially articulate business woman who had chosen to work outside the home. Katherine had little respect for the show’s apparent attempts to belittle stay-at-home-moms and portray their plight in life as “less than” those woman who have chosen careers outside of the home.
“I’m not asking your permission
No talk show host will change my mind
Some make their peace with independence
I find mine own at dinnertime
When all around my table
See every face and every hand
And I thank the God above us
Cause all I want is where I am
Here’s to the courageous women out there in shiny shoes and business suits
Good for you
But hats off to the women in the kitchen who run the world raising boys and girls
All the broken nails, laundry to my knees
Every bed I make, dishes in the sink
Life is sweet in my little dream
Good for me”
I don’t know any other song that touches on this subject in the direct way that Katherine wanted to. I am very proud of this song. I love everything about it.
This is the other song on the album that I wish I had written. I don’t even want to muddy the waters of this brilliant piece with my opinion, other than to say it is a masterpiece. Katherine performing it live is something everyone should behold. Her vocal in the studio the day we recorded it remains one of the best vocals that I have ever recorded in my career. Top to bottom beautiful. I love it.
Katherine and I wrote this song I believe in some back room that had a piano in it at the Safford Center For the Arts between an NTB sound check and a show. We finished it outside in the parking lot just before the show. We started discussing the power of women in groups. How they inspire each other and how they draw strength from one another. The words rolled out:
“Don’t tell me we are not the same
Our faces may be different, people call us by different names
Don’t think the road your walking on
Will take you to a place that one of us hasn’t gone
You know you’re not alone
We all live, we all laugh, we all cry
We all dream and we pray, we press on and we fight
Our hearts beat and they break when lose what we love”
In a group of women, they always seem to find their same core struggles and motivations aligning; triumphs and desires strangely but naturally congruent in some sort of seemingly pre-existing sisterhood that sustains them all as they pour their hearts out to one another. They find solace in their sameness, and find a strength untold in their collective will to survive and their determination to leave a legacy in the generations walking behind them.
Katherine came to Nashville on a writing trip and walked into my office. She sat down around my round, oak kitchen table with me and my friend Billy Austin to write a song for the album. The table had been in my kitchen at home for years and I had only recently moved it down to my office after we bought a new one at home. The old table is scarred with years of use. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, homework, scripture study, letters written and games played had worn it’s surface nearly out. I guess the table sort of helped us write the song that day:
“Homes ain’t built by bricks and mortar
It ain’t bound walls and floors
Leave your lonely at the fence posts
Walk your love right through my door
Children gather round the table
Little voices in their seats
Sayin’grace for what’s before us
Life is sweet enough to eat
Home sweet home
Always comin’, runnin’ to the arms I love love love…yeah
Home sweet home
So thankful for the hearts that make it up 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6”
Katherine has four children…hence 1,2,3,4,5,6 around her table every night. This song does my heart good.
This was an idea that me and my friends Dave Robbins (writer of RESTLESS HEARTS The Bluest Eyes In Texas…among other hits) and Billy Austin (the writer of THE WRECKERS Leave The Pieces) had started before Katherine came to town. We played the concept for Katherine and she got it and we finished what I think is a great feeling song that says some important things. We all knew women who had lost their marriages for a number of reasons and we discussed the challenges that all of them faced to ready their own hearts to become fertile ground for love when it comes again:
“Baby take your heart out of your pocket where you put it
When he broke it and you swore you’d never love again
It’s crazy staying in that little silly place
That keeps you paralyzed from moving on
To where new love begins
Cause when love comes to save you don’t let it find you
Jaded and melancholy all alone and feeling sorry
Lost in your own world when love comes again
Temperamental mad and moody
Missing out on the good that could be
Let ‘em see that pretty smile
When love that comes again”
In theory the concept of this song is a true principle. In practice it is a sight to behold.
In 2004 I had written the song Emma after a longing desire to know the heart of Emma Hale Smith. I had read volumes about her and marveled at her life experience, which is extraordinary in every respect. I had experiences very personal to me that I would consider sacred in writing that song. I love that woman and forever will for her sacrifices that have brought forth the blessings that I so enjoy today. I looked long and hard to find the right vocalist for the first recording of that song. It had to be perfect. After trying several vocalist that just didn’t fit, a young singer named Mindy Gledhill walked into Soularium Studios in Alpine, Utah one day in the spring of 2005 and nailed it. Mindy was sick the day she met me in the studio and we both wondered if it was going to work. Maybe that’s where she got the emotion to sing it… I don’t know…but her vocal on the song was perfect for the album Joseph: A Nashville Tribute To The Prophet. Mindy toured with the Nashville Tribute Band for several years brilliantly testifying of Emma as she soulfully sang this song. People loved her singing Emma. People still love her recording of it. I certainly do. After a while Mindy was going to school full time, being a mom to her boys a wife to her husband Ryan; and was making projects of her own and it was just time for her to not be out on the road with NTB anymore. We missed her but we understood. I am forever grateful for Mindy and her talents.
In 2008, NTB was doing a show in Nauvoo. We were so full of the spirit of the place when someone asked us to come to the theater in Nauvoo and see the new film Emma: My Story. We went and we all sat memorized by the performance of Katherine Nelson as she played Emma in that film. She had become onscreen the woman that I had come to know in writing the song. I called her up after we returned from Nauvoo and asked her if she wanted to tour with NTB. She said yes and she has been on the road with us ever since, lifting hearts heavenward as she sings the words of Emma and personifies the First Lady of our Dispensation with a regal grace unparalleled by anyone.
Katherine and I wanted to put a new version of Emma on her album BORN BRAVE. Emma Smith no doubt was born and lived brave in every way. The Joseph album version in a sense became the “period piece” tribute and the new recording is our “new millennia” tribute to the woman we both so admire. Katherine’s performance on record is perfect in my opinion and what, after all, could be better than Emma singing Emma. Katherine, I will be forever grateful to you for your reverent and sincere sensitivities to such a wonderful woman in your studies, in your portrayal of her on film and in your humble offering every time you step up to the mic on stage and sing this song.
Katherine had a neighbor in Utah named LaRaida who was a cancer survivor. In Nashville Katherine joined Billy Austin and me for another writing session and she wanted to write a song for LaRaida. For my personal contribution to the song, I had to dig from another source because I didn’t know LaRaida like Katherine did. I went to the well of my mother and drew from her experience of chronic pain, battling the drugs to survive it and the countless severe heath issues she has fought over the past 20 years. In this I found all that I needed for my creative contribution to the song. My sweet mom once painted clouds on her ceiling to lighten her bedroom. That’s where I got the first line.
Quite possibly one of my favorite songs that I have ever written. I wrote it several years ago with my friend Victoria Shaw (Garth Brooks The River & She’s Every Woman, John Michael Montgomery’s I Love The Way You Love Me). I loved it when we started it. I loved it as we wrote it and I have loved it ever since. It has been recorded several times and was on the soundtrack to the motion picture The Nativity Story, but I still don’t think the song has had its day in the sun, so to speak. Katherine wanted to record it for BORN BRAVE. Mary was certainly among the bravest women ever to walk the earth. It seemed fitting so we recorded it. Larry Stewart (of Restless Heart) and the boys of Due West joined Katherine and I in the studio and they each beautifully sang their parts. I love this recording. I love the wonderful choir of men and women from east Nashville who sang the parts of the angels. Katherine’s voice rendered the lullaby that I heard in my head as the song was written. Mary bringing the Savior of the world to earth through her humble and simple offering on that cool desert night is the beginning to the greatest story ever told.
Katherine Nelson has truly strengthened the world in making this album. Hats off to her for being BORN BRAVE and for living BRAVE. Hats off to her for awakening the women of the world to what they were BORN to do…be wonderful, beautiful, successful daughters of the God of this universe. This is a record that needed to be made and it needs to be heard. I hope that it changes you like it has me.
- Jason Deere
(READ KATHERINE’S STORY AND PURCHASE THE ALBUM BORN BRAVE HERE)
I was on tour in Oregon recently when my wife texted me a picture of my little man J Davis standing on the street in Salt Lake City (where they were vacationing) with his new set of scriptures that Sonja bought him for his 8th birthday. He has since very proudly used them at family scripture studies and carried them to church every Sunday. He truly treasures this gift from his mama and he seems to know that they are not only a right of passage as he grows from a boy into a man, but that they are valuable tools for his personal growth. This photo made me think of what a treasure the scriptures truly are.
In 600 B.C., two very concerned parents (Lehi and Sariah) faithfully sent their sons back into the wicked city of Jerusalem because they were so sure that the plates of brass (which contained the five books of Moses) were essential to the salvation of their posterity. Joy beyond measure filled their souls as their sons returned to them in the desert wilderness having been preserved of the Lord and holding the plates of brass in their hands. Later, Lehi’s son Nephi was commanded of the Lord to keep a record of the political events of his people as they progressed in the promised land, and he was also asked to keep a separate record of the spiritual progression of his nation. This commandment was extended through time as one prophetic leader after another kept the records between the years 600 B.C. and 421 A.D. In the early 4th century A.D. a great prophet and warrior named Mormon had the entire collection of writings of all of the prophets since Lehi had left Jerusalem 1,000 years earlier.
It was quite a volume of work that would likely fill a large room. The sacrifice, suffering and struggles of countless faithful men and women in keeping those records out of wicked hands and safely preserved for later generations is a story that I long to hear the details of one day. Mormon, under the direction of God, faithfully gave his time and patient effort abridging all of these records into one small volume that later became known as “the gold plates”. Led by the Spirit, he took the passages, stories and events that our father in Heaven wanted us to know about in these modern days. Remember, Mormon was witnessing in great detail the systematic destruction of his own people due to their wickedness as he abridged these records. He wasn’t painstakingly combing the volumes for his own family, or for his own people. He was doing it for you. For me. For all of us in this generation.
Mormon was wounded in battle and he gave the abridged record to his righteous son Moroni. Moroni said goodbye to his father, and with all that he knew he fled the pursuit of his enemies and wandered alone in the wilderness until he found the place where the God of this universe told him to bury the record and preserve them for our generation. Like so many before him, he gave all to ensure these treasured words.
Those of you who know me know my passion for those early Latter-day Saints who sacrificed so much to bring these records to light. Their sacrifices allow two volumes to stand as companion witnesses of Jesus Christ on earth for as long as the world shall be. Two sticks have become one, each bringing light to the other. Thousands since have read from them, taught from them, shared them, loved them, walked the streets of the world with them, prospered in them, found salvation in them, embraced light and knowledge in them, and even found exaltation in their precious words.
This afternoon I went to my set of scriptures. I held them in my hands and prayerfully thanked my Father in Heaven for the thousands of people who were thoughtful of me without knowing my face, who made sure I could hold them in my hands this day and feast upon their words without any trouble whatsoever. We are so blessed. Let us be thankful!
SOUTH AFRICA and NTB
While making the WORK: A Nashville Tribute To The Missionaries, I asked my friend Judy Brummer, a native of South Africa, to come into the studio with me to help translate a few lines into an Africa language or two for a song called I Was Born. Judy is an amazing woman who has an incredible life experience to share about growing up during Apartheid. She has also been heavily involved in translating the Book of Mormon into Xhosa, an African clicking language for the church. To the studio Judy brought with her a BYU student named Jacqueline Du Plessis, who is a singer and also a native of South Africa. We all spent some time working out the lines, then Jacqueline sang it beautifully. Judy also did a small click line in Xhosa at the end of Jacqueline’s singing part. So cool. Such a fresh and wonderful experience for me to work with these talented people on this representation of such a culturally rich and diverse area of the world. I loved every minute of it. I hope that we have the opportunity to play in South Africa some time soon.
I remember when my kids were toddlers. I loved them so much that it hurt. I found it impossible to believe that every other person on the planet did not share my sure knowledge that they were the greatest thing that ever lived. When they were at the park, or at pre-school, or even out on our cul-de-sac and would fall and hurt themselves, or when other kids would be mean to them, my heart would get that deep hurt in the middle of it. I hate that feeling. Standing on the sidelines and letting your kids hurt and experience life’s difficult lessons is not a pleasurable experience for any parent. One thing I have noticed is that this parental experience does not end as they grow up. Not making the team. Not making cheerleader. Not getting into the university that they want. Not getting that part in the play. The list goes on. Kids being mean never really ends either. Words, actions and rumors are hurtful and unfair. When our kids are teenagers we must still sit on the sidelines and hurt right along with them. I often want to take them in my arms and hold them until their hurt, and my hurt, goes away. When children are tiny, parents can find some personal healing by holding and kissing them after rocking them to sleep at night. Unfortunately, just like when they were toddlers, they don’t stay still too long and we parents have to hope that what love they do allow us to give them helps ease life sorrows a little.
I have two teenagers and a soon-to-be eight year old, and I must assume that this parental “sideline heartache” doesn’t end after kids graduate from high school either. I am sure that each time an adult child loses a job, gets divorced, loses a child or gets hurt on any number of life’s sharp edges, that somewhere in this world or the next, there is a mom and or a dad who sits on the sidelines crying and holding their chest right along with them. Point is…being a parent is hard stuff.
I wrote a song once about my mission called HARDEST THING I EVER LOVED TO DO. Two years living with a heart wide open for all I taught the gospel to and those I came to love so much was hard. They fell down. Satan attacked their lives as they neared the waters of baptism. Life was sometimes cruel as they bettered themselves. I hurt with them along the way like i had never hurt before in my life. Some parts of a mission were not fun. All parts were worth it, but some were definitely not fun. While I truly believed a mission was the HARDEST THING I EVER LOVED TO DO up to that point in my life, I now think that raising my own little human beings, my three gifts from God, is truly the HARDEST THING I EVER LOVED TO DO.
Pondering all of this this morning has made me see a bigger picture. Our Heavenly Father too sits on the sidelines as each of us are playing in this school yard called mortality. He hurts as we hurt. He mourns as we mourn. In Mosiah 18:8-10, I love the questions Alma asks those who have given up everything to come into the fold in the waters Of Mormon:
8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand aswitnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
Why does this ring true to our hearts? Our Father in Heaven needs us to take care of each other, to love each other, to be there for one another. Why? Because it is a part of the plan that at this time He must stand back and not hold us and kiss us to sleep each night. It is hard for Him I am sure. Jesus Christ experienced all of it for us. Every moment of every one of our lives in Gesthemene. He and the Father know us like no one else. To live the gospel, every whit, with all of the energy that we possess eases the burden of the Father, and surely the Son in Gesthemene. When we help bring the children of the Father back home to Him, we ease the heart of a Heavenly parent. The three missions of the church are set up to do this. What a beautiful plan the Father sustained. What a beautiful plan the Savior has executed. What a beautiful opportunity that we have to be a very important part in the greatest plan ever conceived…”to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), which I am sure is the “HARDEST THING”…our Heavenly Father has…”EVER LOVED TO DO”.
For some reason this reminds me of a song that Matt Lopez and I wrote a few years ago called LET LOVE BE SPOKEN HERE. We can “break the chain” and bring others home to the Father and at the same time find our own way home. May we all kiss and hold our babies every chance that we get. And may we love, serve and comfort our brothers and sisters by living the gospel of Jesus Christ with all the energy in our souls!