Quick Q and A with Jane Ross Fallon

Jane Rose Fallon is a singer-songwriter currently residing in New Hampshire.  She’s taught English Composition and Public Speaking at local universities.  She has been known to sing to her students which shows she is a pretty cool instructor.  Jane is a fearless songwriter—willing to go into unchartered territory and use her many talents to create meaningful music.

To learn more about Jane, visit her website.

Here’s a video of Jane singing “One More Last Time.”

Jane is participating in The Ladies in the House Online Festival on Saturday, April 22. This festival is co-sponsored by GoGirlsMusic and NERFA (North East Regional Folk Alliance) and will be on ConcertWindow.  Musicians will be streaming from CONCERT WINDOW using the hashtag #LITHFestival

Ladies in the House

For more information about this special event, check out this article.

Jane, your bio states that you come from a musical family.  Can you tell us a little bit about your early exposure to music?

 I grew up with two parents who both were singers from singing families. Combine that with a childhood in the Baptist church and that culminates in a lot of music! On Sunday mornings, all 8 of my family would crowd into the station wagon for the half hour trip to church and we would sing hymns, with dad singing lead and the rest of us providing the echo to whatever harmony part we could find. Family gatherings usually involved hanging around a fire or on a patio, (since I grew up in California that could happen a lot) many with a guitar in hand, and sing the afternoons & evenings away. My mother was known for her smooth alto vocals and was in great demand for weddings and funerals. My aunt (my dad’s sister) was a glorious soprano. Together they anchored a trio that sang in church. My sister, Karen, my cousin Terri, and I had a trio as well, and my uncle JT, my Dad, my Mom, and Aunt had a quartet. Singing harmony is something you learn in the Baptist church. Aside from church music, my mom loved the old western music of Roy Rogers and others like him. She also loved the jazz standards. So, between singing four part harmonies to  “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”, crooning “Tumbling Tumbleweed”, and swinging to Gershwin, I gained broad exposure to a variety of vocal styles. Later, starting in Junior High, I began singing formal choral material and added Italian madrigals and German Lieder to my repertoire. All in all, most of my early years were immersed in song.

When did you first pick up the guitar?

I was thirteen. My mother had taught me to play piano, and through that I learned to sight read and understand basic chord theory. My uncle JT (dad’s brother) played guitar, but no one else in my family at that time played. Mom bought me an old Harmony guitar and I picked up a book of folk songs that had the chord diagrams at the top and grabbed up the guitar and just started to figure out those songs. I think it was the thought of singing those tunes with a guitar that interested me. I never had formal lessons, nor was I around people who did a lot of jamming, except for family gatherings, so my playing is pretty simple. I think it is because I still think of the guitar as an accompaniment tool and not a lead instrument. Just sitting down and practicing without singing is almost impossible for me!

You have the great ability to dig deep into stories about people’s lives and moments in time and write incredibly insightful lyrics.  You have razor sharp interpretive skills.  Do you feel that your background in academia paved your way to mastering this skill?

Well, thank you. Yeah, I wonder sometimes – what came first, the chicken or the egg? Certainly I was an inveterate reader as a child and that led to a degree in English, and that led to a career in academia. As a student I did learn to research and as a teacher I spent years teaching the art of the narrative as one mode of development. But I have been spinning stories since childhood, just for fun, and grew up in a culture of storytelling based on the southern oral tradition. My dad could spin a yarn, as could my uncle. I find it a fascinating exercise to use storytelling, the most organic of the communication processes, to get a point across. My years teaching argument has made me aware of the complexity of human issues. I think it is easier for me to use a story to make a point and just let people take from it what they will than to write something with a specifically pointed message. Certainly, other people’s stories give me food for thought. If I wrote only about me, it would be pretty boring!

Speaking of academia, your latest book Beyond Reason: Songwriting on Purpose is a brilliant tool for those wanting to gain songwriting skills.  Do you have plans to give workshops using this “text.”? I could really see that being of great help to many who struggle with rhetoric and how to convey their thoughts in a clear and concise manner.

Writing this book was so much fun because it combined my two lifelong interests: English Composition and songwriting. I have done one workshop for People’s Music Network and am doing one at SERFA (Southeast Regional Folk Alliance) in May. I received a good response at PMN and I do think that for many who want to write songs that have a specific purpose, to understand that the traditional modes of rhetoric can be helpful in reining in all of the details that overwhelm the brain, and channel the ideas into a structure that helps them get their points across. There is an emphasis on the “writing” part of songwriting in this book. Certainly, songwriting can also be abstract poetry, but I use a lot of examples in the book of ways that popular song has used these traditional tools.  Good writing is good thinking they say, and structure is one way to help us think.

You’ve had many highlights, especially in terms of songwriting competitions; do you have a few personal favorite moments?

I have had some lovely experiences in songwriting competitions. I favor performing competitions because they take me all over the country and give me the opportunity to meet so many new people and see some new places.

It was definitely a highlight to go to Okemah, Oklahoma as winner in the Woody Guthrie Songwriting Competition. I got to sing a set on the Pastures of Plenty Stage in a field near this town where Woody was born. I traveled through Oklahoma City and Tulsa, places I had never been and stayed with a lovely family in Shawnee. My winning song was related to hydrofracking, and it was interesting to hear them talk about the earthquakes they were having in their own town because of the extensive fracking going on. I also got to travel down part of the old Route 66, a road my own father’s family traveled when they left Arkansas at the end of the Great Depression on their way to California. It was amazing.

When I went to Great River Festival in Wisconsin, I drove down the northern route of the mighty Mississippi River to the lovely college town of La Crosse. Enroute, I stayed in Madison, WI and traveled the pastoral silo-filled farm lands to Taliesin East (I am a big Frank Lloyd Wright fan).

In 2014, I wrote a song that has been very successful for me called Before the Fire about the racist destruction of a town in Florida called Rosewood.  When I was called and told I had won the Will McLean Festival with it and was invited down to play it, I was a little nervous. I wondered how they would feel about a Yankee coming down and telling their story. I received a standing ovation. I got interviewed on radio, and someone asked if she could cover it. They made me feel like a star! Then, this January, I won the South Florida Folk Festival with the same song. It is always a humbling experience to say something in song that seems needing to be said, and see how it might touch people.

There have been so many other personally fulfilling moments like taking my Dad’s cowboy hat, just a few months after he died, and heading to Lenoir College in North Carolina and singing “He Deserves the Hat” as a winner in the Neuse River Songwriting Competition; hiking through the mountains above Salt Lake after the Suzanne Millsaps Competition; exploring the lovely town of Eureka Springs at the Ozarks Festival; combining my love of the environment with the hospitality of Solar Fest in Rutland, VT. The list goes, on but these will always be great memories.

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