By Jack Firneno
Sometimes, fate steps in. Other times, it’s a couple of songwriters.
That’s what happened to Jessica Martindale one night in Oklahoma. The singer-songwriter was wrapping up what she thought would be her last set as a professional musician. She’d just finished college after a disillusioning stint as a singer in Los Angeles, and decided it was time to move on.
But the show downstairs from where she was playing finished before hers, and those performers came up to watch her set.
They turned out to be Dean Dillon and Scotty Emerick, award-winning songwriters noted for their work with George Strait and Toby Keith, respectively. And by the time they left that night, they’d convinced Martindale to try making it in Nashville.
“They were the angels that popped up for a minute,” she recalled. And, Nashville turned out to be the perfect home for both Martindale’s amalgamation of pop, country, folk and a little blues and her own peace of mind.
“There’s this subculture of Americana music here, and a heavy drive to create something new and different,” said Martindale of the city she now calls home. “It’s exciting and it inspires you to raise your game.”
But in a few days she’ll be heading back out on the road to support her debut EP, Soon, We’ll Dance. She’s headed first to New York and then to Crossing Vineyards in Upper Makefield for her first visit to Pennsylvania.
“Wineries are some of my favorite places to play. They’re relaxed and outdoors. People come happy so you just have to make them happier,” said Martindale.
Crossing Vineyards fits that bill: concertgoers have their choice of intimate seating on the patio or bringing a chair or blanket for the lawn. They can also bring in food and buy a bottle of wine on-site for the show.
“It’s much more comfortable than bars. They get exhausting, when people are asking you to play Freebird and you’re wondering, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I doing with my life?’ ” laughed Martindale.
That was the question she was asking herself that fateful night in Oklahoma.
By her 20s, the North Carolina-born Martindale moved around the country as her father’s job relocated them often. She lived in Austria in middle school, where she learned piano and music theory, before her family settled in California.
And while attending college in Arizona, Martindale settled into some unique part-time work: singing the national anthem at televised national sporting events. Over two years, she opened games for teams in Arizona and California, and between semesters tried her hand at her own music in Los Angeles.
She found steady work as a backup or session singer and even got her own contract on the table, but quickly walked away from it all. Martindale doesn’t like to talk about the strings attached to “making her the next Fergie” but said the ethics and atmosphere weren’t for her.
“By the end of the summer, I realized that if this is what the the music industry looks like, then I don’t want to be a part of it,” she said.
But, as she found out, it wasn’t like that everywhere. After following her “angels’ ” advice to Nashville, she discovered a much more supportive and collaborative atmosphere.
And now, just over a year of her making music full-time, Martindale has a successful EP and a handful of songwriting awards under her belt. The “creative portals opened” when she started writing those songs, she said, and that was just the beginning.
“I’m thrilled with how it was received and I can’t wait to do it again soon.”
Jessica Martindale will be performing at Crossing Vineyards, in Newtown, on Friday, August 8 from 7 – 9 p.m. Admission is $10 in advance, $15 at the gate. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 215-493-6500 Ext. 19 or visit www.crossingvineyards.com.
For more information, visit www.JessicaMartindale.com.