Storytellers: Christy Jefferson
By Ryan O'Connell
Photo by Zack Gross
On her way to Nashville, Tennessee, cruising through the rolling hills of Virginia and into Tennessee with two other singer/songwriter gals, Christy Jefferson got pulled over. The state trooper who nabbed them looked like a teddy bear. He told Jefferson that she was going a bit too fast. With nothing to lose, Jefferson cheerily responded.
"But we're singer/songwriters," she said. "We're going to Nashville."
Naturally the officer asked her to sing him something.
Joni Mitchell's version of "Both Sides Now" later, the gals were back on the road, headed for Music City, the magic of Broadway, and some of the best mechanical bull riding and beer drinking in the country.
Christy Jefferson is a good ol' singer/songwriter gal from the Lehigh Valley. A couple days a week she teaches music, she's opened for Kansas, and will be touring the Falkland Islands, down off the coast of Argentina, in the coming months. What question would you ask first: I didn't even know Kansas toured anymore (I know this isn't a question, but in person I would make it sound like one) or where are the Falkland Islands?
Kansas does still tour and Christy Jefferson is a fan. A few years ago, after deciding that she should try and open up for some bigger bands, she saw that they were playing Penn's Peak, a venue in Jim Thorpe, PA, and didn't have an opener listed. She promptly called the booking folks for Penn's, asking to grab that spot. On the same day Jefferson called, Kansas' people called Penn's people and, citing technical requirements for the venue, told them that they couldn't use their regular opener (probably Styx or Chicago, or something.) They would need a solo artist.
Before the day was over, Jefferson got the call and was scheduled to play her biggest show to date.
Meanwhile, in the far away Falkland Islands, a well traveled, biologist friend of Jefferson's had started spreading the singer/songwriter's music around the Islands. She called up Jefferson, telling her that the Islands have an incredibly strong appreciation for the arts, music in particular, and that scholarships are available to lure international artists like Jefferson to tour. Jefferson heads down there in mid-February, securing Falkland rock gods, the Flying Pigs, to serve as her backing band. Jefferson gets a twofer on the trip, as she's able to pursue two of her passions while down there, both performing and teaching music.
Jefferson teaches music on Mondays and Thursdays, depending on rock shows, and is looking to add Tuesdays. She "enjoys both playing and teaching immensely." She loves the pleasure that comes from seeing someone improve and in only a one-hour session, come so far, whether it's finishing a song or finishing a scale. There will be the opportunity to teach some as she adventures around the Falklands. But like a parent talking about their kids, she talks glowingly about both - following up a passionate testament to teaching with gushing admittance that playing live is "pretty awesome."
"I wouldn't trade one for the other," she says. "I want to have them both."
A few years ago, though, Jefferson nearly called it quits, nearly gave up her dream, nearly let the stealing of her gear lead her astray. After a show in Philadelphia, Jefferson had everything stolen, only two days before it would have all been covered by insurance. The perky, country gal left the city of brotherly love with nothing. She couldn't help but think it was a sign, it was maybe one of those defining acts that pushes a person in another direction, a not-so-subtle way of saying it's time to pack up and move on. But Jefferson has great friends. They urged her to reach out to other friends, as well as family and her fans, and ask for help. And all of these folks did help. They came through with instruments to borrow and amazingly, donations that helped Jefferson replace everything she lost.
Christy Jefferson wants to play your house party, she wants to give you a singing telegram, she wants to teach you how to sing so maybe you can do your own singing telegram.
The surprise happy birthday telegram is her specialty.
At least for now.