Hometown Article!

This is the best magazine that comes out of the area where I lived for a long time. It's nice to have their support and acknowledgement.

A Suburban Rock Star

How Wayzata resident Courtney Yasmineh defied convention and built a rock star career.

The famed Troubadour club in London has hosted the likes of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Adele and Amy Winehouse. Yet in March 2013, there stood Wayzata resident Courtney Yasmineh, on stage, ready to close the show. Yasmineh worried that everyone would leave before she even strummed her first note, since she and her bandmates were following three acts of British natives.

“We finished the first song and I thought people were just hanging around talking to their friends or getting ready to go,” Yasmineh says. “Then they were cheering like crazy. I turned and looked back because I thought something must be going on behind me, and [drummer] Rob [Genadek] was saying, ‘They’re cheering for you.’”

The story represents Yasmineh perfectly, showing the insecurity of a musician coming to grips with her own success through a career that began with a rock-star attitude and followed an arc that is beyond unconventional.

Yasmineh always dreamed of playing music for a living. She sang in the church choir at age 8, got her first guitar at the same age, and wrote her first songs at 12, all the while watching other musicians and thinking, “How do I get to do that?” After issues in her home life in Chicago got to be too much, Yasmineh ran away and took refuge in the home of her grandfather (now deceased) on the Iron Range of Minnesota at age 17. “I moved up to northern Minnesota at that time when people thought Bob Dylan was the bomb. And I did too,” she says.

It took years before this rock-star move made Yasmineh an actual rock star. When her high school principal discovered she was living alone, he got her in touch with the head of the English department at Macalester College. She was granted a full scholarship and graduated with a degree in literature and creative writing, minoring in business and also obtaining her teaching license. Shortly after, she married a doctor, had kids, and ended up in Wayzata living the suburban lifestyle. “I loved what I was doing and I believed in my idea of having a more conventional life and raising children,” she says. “I don’t regret putting in the time.”

The years of waiting paid off in 2001, when she wrote a song after 9/11 and ended up parlaying that into her first album in 2004. “I knew I always wanted to [make an album] and I had been performing, but I thought that if you were good, you would get discovered when you were younger, and I didn’t get discovered,” Yasmineh says. “I didn’t understand you had to put your mind to it and fight for it and not take no for an answer.”

Yasmineh ditched her conventional life to do battle for her dream. She thought she would be rejected by the industry because of her age, and that people would write her off as some lady having a midlife crisis. It’s not often you find a middle-aged woman in Wayzata touring Europe with her band.

Yasmineh’s fourth record was released in December, and in addition to playing the Twin Cities club scene, she’s completed seven European tours since 2010. Over the years, Yasmineh has fine-tuned a sound that she and Genadek, her drummer and a Grammy nominated music producer, describe as “adult alternative.” She writes her own songs, with Genadek serving as a sounding board for ideas while helping create the musical arrangements and giving Yasmineh the honest, sometimes brutal, feedback she needs.

“She’s started coming into her own and becoming more confident in herself,” Genadek says. “From what she was writing about and where she came from, it seems like a pretty battered place. You go through anything like that and you’re going to be standing on shaky ground—especially with something as personal as music.”

Her songs trace her experiences which give her lyrics meaning. Whether it’s her teenage fans who look up to her or her middle-aged fans who understand what she’s going through, Yasmineh has found her audience through coming to grips with her personal history.

“People lose the ability to write about relationships and everyday sentiments that everybody can relate to,” she says of musicians who grind out a life on the road. “As a songwriter, [my background] has been better—what I’d like it to be is I can offer people meaningful lyrics with real-life experiences that matter to them.”

In March, one year after her gig at the Troubadour, Yasmineh and her band went to Austin, Texas, to play SXSW, one of the biggest music festivals of the year. She’s built a music career during a time in life when most people worry their kids will decide one day they’re leaving school to become a rock star.

“You can defy convention with a tiny bit more confidence,” Yasmineh says. “It has taken all these years to convince myself I can do this… Right this minute, I’m happier about my career than I think a lot of women would say with whatever career they’re doing,” she says “I’m doing the best work of my career right now.”

Minneapolis TV piece from their Women Who Rock Series

 

Thanks to the people at WCCO TV out of Minneapolis who put together this fun piece and had me on their program live at 5 in the morning on the station's rooftop to promote the show!

Nice Interview Out of the Northcountry

Here's the link to this nice Q&A with a wonderful writer and artist from the North Country on the shores of Lake Superior. I will be up there soon for a Bob Dylan Tribute Concert May 18th.

http://pioneerproductions.blogspot.com/2014/04/courtney-yasmineh-returns-for-salute-to_18.html

And here it is in it's entirety for your amusement and general edification on the subject of all things CY......

Courtney Yasmineh Returns for A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan (Interview)
When Courtney Yasmineh joined Scarlet Rivera and Gene Lafond last year at Weber Hall, there was a certain amount of risk as she was accustomed to performing with her own band and not Gene's backup band The Wild Unknown. On top of that, an hour before showtime Courtney and Scarlet were shaken up in a car accident on the way to getting ready for the concert. Despite the distractions, both performers never let on -- they were cool like ice, like fire -- and a stellar concert ensued.

Once on the stage Yamineh holds nothing back. You can feel the energy she projects, even from the farthest corners of the hall. It's exciting to have her here again for the upcoming kickoff event of our North Country Dylan Days Celebration which is now just a month away.

EN: You recently had to perform at SXSW. How’d it go? 

Courtney Yasmineh: SXSW was such a growth experience for me and for my band. We were so pleased to be invited, first of all, for the first time in my career. We played two prime time evening shows on the main street of Austin where most of the action is for up and coming artists. We were part of the Red Gorilla Fest which is a subdivision of the scene down there that really caters to new artists. We played on rooftop stages at two different venues to enthusiastic crowds. 

I felt like I really got to see how the American SXSW audience, who are mostly young people from around the country who love new music, responded to my songs and my band's presentation. I knew going in that this could be discouraging for me if it didn't go well, but honestly, I was not prepared for how well we were received! I feel so inspired and full of conviction as a result of our efforts there, and that is a great gift! 

EN: Last year you told me of a book you wanted to write. How’s that going? 

CY: I have written about 200 pages of the story of my adolescent experience. I ran away from Chicago to Northern Minnesota when I was seventeen mostly because my parents were getting divorced and I was extremely disillusioned with everything about my young life there. I went to live on Lake Vermilion in a cabin my Grandfather had left to our family when he died. And that winter I learned as many Bob Dylan songs as I could, and began performing with my guitar. I had already started writing songs, but that winter provided much new inspiration and I wrote many songs about my experience. 

EN: What is it that so attracts you to Dylan’s music? 

CY: The joy for me in singing songs that Bob Dylan has written is that he is my greatest hero and his body of work and his career are such an inspiration to me. 

EN: What are your favorite Dylan songs that you like to sing? 

CY: I like to sing Dylan's song "Sara"... I like when he says lines like "staying up for days in the Chelsea Hotel writing 'Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' for you." Staying up for days!!!! Love that!!! 

I also like "Times They Are A-Changin'" because it's so brilliant and I think it takes a lot to deliver it with the right tone… not too strident… not too sentimental… and especially coming from a female, those words have a lot of power and can be off-putting. 

My favorite might be "Tom Thumb's Blues." A better folk rock opening line has never been written than..."When you're lost in the rain in Juarez and it's Easter time too..." When delivered right, that line can make you feel like a real bad ass on the microphone! 

EN: What have you learned about yourself through your experiences performing? 

CY: I've learned a lot about myself over the last few years of performing for people in other cities, other countries, and at home in Minnesota. I've learned that I am a people pleaser and I want to see people's eyes light up. I've learned that I do not have to be loud to be heard. I've learned that my most helpful attribute in performance is how much I care about the meaning of the words. I've learned that I have to really feel good about the level of quality of what I'm offering in order for me to relax and put on a fun show. 

EN: What kind of thoughts are you thinking when you look at an audience at the beginning of a concert? 

CY: At the beginning of a concert, I am usually already playing the first song, watching people, feeling their level of acceptance of my band, feeling how the band likes the situation… the sound quality, the circumstances of how we've been treated so far....and if all's well, about half way into the first song, I start thinking...'okay, we've got this' and then I relax and start having the time of my life. 

* * * * *

EdNote: This blog entry and others like it have the aim of raising awareness for the upcoming Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concert which will kick off the 2014 North Country Dylan Celebration in Duluth and Hibbing. For tickets to this great event visitdulutharmory.org/events

SXSW2014 the video reprise!

Here we are in all the mayhem and majesty of Austin Texas in the month of March...............

 

Austin, TX 2014

My band and I drove to Austin to play two shows during SXSW2014.

We were part of the Red Gorilla Fest...the Red Gorilla people are taking the main drag in Austin..6th Street..by storm and

are giving emerging artists great visibility and exposure. 

We loved our two rooftop stages and we got to play prime time hour long sets.

The sound people were helpful and pretty darn good..considering that amplification issues abound

when so many bands are playing back to back.

The best thing for me was to see the genuine interest and enthusiasm people had for our performances and for our new album.

I was encouraged and inspired!

I really wasn't sure if that was going to be possible in such an environment of overabundance of bands and noise, noise, noise, noise!

If you haven't been to SXSW ever, it did remind me of the Dr. Suess portraits of the whoos in whooville with their made up instruments and funny bicycles with one man band horns and drums and crazy stuff. Remember that?

On 6th Street, any time of day or evening, there were bands rolling drum kits on dollies and people biking with guitars on their backs and an amp in one hand.

Where there's a will there's a way.

I want to go back with a brand new album..hopefully next year!

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