A Foot on the Ground, A Voice in the Sky

This summer marks the one-year anniversary of folk musician Jess Holland’s return to Door County. Though her roots in the peninsula run generations deep, Jess spent the last several years sharing her remarkable healing and musical gifts around the country, from her home state of Illinois all the way down to Texas. Upon her return last summer, she lost no time getting back up on stage. In fact, it wasn’t long before Jess and the incredibly talented local musician Nick Hoover sold out their Fireside Coffeehouse Series concert at the Door Community Auditorium.

Photo by Dan Eggert.

Photo by Dan Eggert.

What led up to this event that Jess and her rapidly growing fan base recount as the “highlight of the winter?” What brought the lovely Jess Holland back to Door County in the first place?

“I wanted to spend time with my grandparents,” Jess says, “and I knew Door County would help me to feel grounded again.” Jess had been working as houseparent in a group home, spending nearly a hundred hours a week living with and caring for young women who were considered wards of the state – a demanding job, to say the least.

Coming from this experience, Door County provided a much-needed sanctuary, a place to feel at peace. She began interning at the gifted Renee Schwaller’s Off The Wheel Pottery studio and played shows at coffee shops in the evenings. “I always have fun at Fred and Fuzzy’s in the summer and The Cookery in the winter,” Jess says, citing the amazing sense of community at these places. Little did she know, Door County has an eye for talent as powerful as hers and had something much bigger in mind for Jess.

“I didn’t think I would ever record a solo album until I moved back to Door County and was surrounded by so many supportive and inspiring people,” Jess admits regarding her new album Far Off Place. While many head to the big cities to record, Jess found that recording in the county has been everything she could have asked for and more.

“Recording with David Alley at Utopia Soundwurks has been a blast,” Jess says, and Nick Hoover, who recorded on guitar for the album, agrees:  “it was a lot of fun hanging out in the studio.” As for the location, he continues, “It is a beautiful, serene environment. I can see the essence bleeding into the recording quite well.”

Artists from both within and beyond county lines came to contribute to the project. “Listening to the music transform as friends have visited from far off places to add their talent to the album reminded me that writing music is an incredible form of art,” Jess says.

With Jess Holland, music as a “form of art” rings especially true. Jess is an artist through and through. She sells her handmade jewelry, paints, writes, and creates stunning pottery. Her lyrics are nothing short of poetry. Her original songs are quietly awe-inspiring and the sheer depths of truth and beauty have a unique way of reaching the soul. Nick Hoover says, “I think one of the most important things she has to offer this music scene is her unique talent for songwriting.”

After songwriting, of course, comes performance. Kristy Nelson, organizer of Door County Idol, saw Jess perform with Katie Dahl at the Christmas Extravaganza and described the show as “crazy beautiful.” She asked Jess at the last minute to be a judge for the upcoming Idol, and Jess jumped on board. “She was kind and helpful,” Kristy says, “enthusiastic and so very refreshing.”

Jess’ energy is certainly uncanny. She’s already accomplished a great deal, and yet there’s so much ahead of her. She looks forward to putting her Social Work degree back to good use, traveling, and starting a family. Above all, Jess says, “I would love to stay in Door County and create music forever.”

Though she sings songs of leaving, packing up and going away to far off places, for Jess Holland, the peninsula will always feel like home. And as Kristy says, “I believe we are very lucky to have Jess here.” Here, in Door County. And for anyone who’s heard her music, “here” becomes the heart. Lucky? Indeed.

Far Off Place

By Jess Holland

My mind is in a far off place, my mind will never know

I’m walking with a heavy load on burning coals below

My heart is in a far off place, my heart will never know

How to win and keep a love that always wants to go

I’m gone, I’m gone, I’ve left the world I know

The sun is sinking and I’ve left my home

And my view is to a far off place, my view will never know

The sight of my windowpane drenched again in snow

I’m gone, I’m gone, I’ve left the world I know

The sun is sinking and I’ve left my home

Final Goodbye

By Jess Holland

A little Satie is playing in the streets tonight

Death is in the air and the crickets fiddle lightly

Serenade us as we carry the weight

Of life being lifted away, away

Dark makes way for the day

Away, Away, Dark makes way for the day

A string of pearls rests upon her neck

Her children have dressed her in her favorite little black dress

She wears it well, the death in her eyes

Palms facing up towards the sky, the sky

Time to whisper your final goodbyes.

The sky, the sky, Time to whisper your final goodbyes.

Time to whisper your final goodbyes.