Driving through Nevada’s desert basins, on the “loneliest road in America,” Jean Flaherty jotted down the lyrics for her song “Just Let It Go.” U.S. Highway 50 crosses the center of the state, through miles of desolate desert.
“It’s kind of a cool road,” said Flaherty, who has driven it plenty on the way to see her daughter who lives in Reno, Nev., with her family. “I love road trips where you can think and get lost in your thoughts.
“Sometimes a big open space and time can release hidden lyrics,” Flaherty said. “This is about letting those wounds heal and forgetting all the small slights or hurts we carry with us.”
“Just Let It Go” is one of 12 songs that make up Flaherty’s new record, “Long Stretch of Road.” The album, which was released this month, is Flaherty’s first. You can pick up a copy of the album, or better yet, hear Flaherty perform some of the songs at Kirby Cosmo’s in Minturn today at an album release party.
Don’t just sit there
Although Flaherty’s been writing songs “pretty seriously” for the past five or so years, it wasn’t until 2012 that she decided to record an album.
She’d been sending her songs to a music promotion company from Los Angeles that tries to place them into television or movie soundtracks.
“After I got 12 songs done, I was like, ‘well, I hate to have them sit there.’ I decided to do a CD, to just release them and see what people thought about it,” she said.
Flaherty recorded the album at Mintown Studios in Minturn in 2012 during the course of about six months. Without Joe Bianchi and Jeff and Terri Armistead’s support, there likely wouldn’t be an album, Flaherty said.
“I want to give them a shout out,” she said. “I wouldn’t have known where to go without them.”
Along with being the recording engineer, Bianchi played guitar, bass and mandolin on the album.
“He was basically the back-up band to my songs,” Flaherty said. “Each song we added was an adventure: Some were great, some needed lots of work and some were pure magic.”
Jeff played the keyboard on “Meet Me In the Morning” and Terri helped with the vocals on the song “Brilliant Disguise,” a tune about the many disguises we wear.
“I couldn’t seem to come up with the right tone and she nailed it,” Flaherty said.
Bianchi and Terri will perform with Flaherty at Kirby Cosmo’s today.
Songs she knows by heart
Growing up on a farm in southwest Nebraska, Flaherty studied the organ as a kid but started playing guitar with friends around the campfire, “mostly after a night of partying,” she said.
She’d sing songs like “Lying Eyes” by the Eagles, Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue” or “In My Life” by The Beatles. “A good night was when we started before midnight,” she said. “I can still play those songs by heart.”
The summer after high school, Flaherty packed her bags and moved to Vail. She couldn’t wait to be out on her own.
John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” became her theme song. She moved to Minturn in 1976 with her best friend, and, two years later, married her husband, Hawkeye. It was 1978. For the most part, she put down her guitar and focused on raising the three children that soon followed.
“I didn’t really pick up the guitar seriously until 2000, when I got the idea of putting my poems to music,” she said.
Her first song was called “The Scully’s Song,” named after her place of employment for many years. She sang it at the Scully’s Christmas party that year.
“After that, I was hooked; I couldn’t get enough songwriting and I still can’t,” she said. “I played a lot of guitar with my friend, Steve Crim, who also worked at Scully’s. He was a Texan and always had a story for everything. He was more the musician and I was the songwriter; we made a good duet until he moved to Austin in 2008. He passed away in June, and I’ll forever miss him. I always thought we would make some more music together.”
The songs on the album don’t fall into one, neatly-packed box — Flaherty doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into a certain genre.
“I want to be free to write whatever strikes a chord at any particular time,” Flaherty said. “Most of my songs are dreamy, like a poem that brings a certain scene into your mind.”
Like a long stretch of open road.