Twila Jean Continues to Collaborate Virtually

by Blaine Schultz, Shepherd Express 2/5/21

Born the daughter of a North Dakota square dance caller, in 2017 songwriter Twila Jean released her debut album Redemption. Based around songs of spirituality and compassion the multi-instrumentalist (vocals; guitar; keyboards; accordion and saxophone) also found time to collaborate with the female collective That’s What She Said and the band Bella Brutto. During festival season she also plays with the Eric Look Band, is an autism inclusion band.

When the pandemic hit, Jean had just debuted her duo, Lyric Fondue, with veteran keyboardist Carter Hunnicutt. She continues to collaborate with bandmates virtually, sending audio files back and forth.

How has the lockdown affected your creativity?

I'm the kind of writer whose material comes from real life, real people, and I’m an empath. So, during the earlier part of the pandemic, I didn’t have the drive or inspiration at all to do much of anything with music other than what might help others.

I gave free on-line music lessons and virtual concerts for children and the aged but lacked all inspiration for songwriting. I was in a funk, I guess. Very recently, particularly since the inauguration, I feel a guarded sense of relief and more positivity and have begun writing again, both on my own and with partners.

Do you have a routine or schedule for staying in practice or working on new material?

No! When I’m inspired, I will stay up all night and create. When I’m in a funk, with no gigs on the horizon, I will meander through several days without giving thought to my writing. Half the time I don't even know what day it is since last March!

February is “album writing month” as fellow writers remind me, so maybe this goal will help keep me on the straight and narrow. I had started a project called You Hurt Me last winter, right before everything shut down, which is a  set of songs dealing with women’s harassment of other women in the workplace, featuring the words and experiences of a couple dozen Milwaukee area women. Maybe I’ll clean those songs up and put something together live.