It was a cool September morning in Crivitz, WI. There was a dew on the ground that brought out the most beautiful hues of Wisconsin fall colors and all of my Nashville friends were waking up, grabbing a strong cup of coffee and preparing for another day of creativity. This was the first songwriters retreat at the Griepentrog Lodge on High Falls Flowage.
I was sitting at the table like I have for so many years growing up with my right hand resting on the roughly polished wooden surface while my left hand held a copy of 'Jorge Luis Borges: Collected Fictions'. As my hand examined the texture of the wood and my mind was lost in the introspective work of Borges, I thought about the conversation that Josh, JoyBeth, and I had the previous night. Josh had said he loved songs involving inanimate objects and that he always wanted to write one. Joybeth and I both agreed and we had been thinking about possible things to write about. Josh was naming random things in the room and coming up with funny one liners about them...lamps, rugs, chairs, and finally the kitchen table. We had shrugged it off and laughed about it the night before but as I sat there that morning remembering all the memories I had with my family at that very table it all seemed to click. Katrina, JoyBeth, and Josh were on the couch across the room from me strumming their guitars and humming some melodies when I spoke up and said, "If this table could talk." JoyBeth then spoke up and said she had so many fun memories with her family around the table and that's when the idea started to come together. Josh brought up the fact that families and values could all be traced back to the table. We started to list all the things that we did at our family tables...sharing food, stories, game nights, holidays, tough family discussions, homework, etc. It was apparent that we all had families that spent time together. In that moment we knew we could come up with something special.
I joined the group in the living room area and both Josh and Katrina started playing a chord progression and Josh sang the first melody line. From there we started going back and forth trading lines and ideas until JoyBeth said, "In a little house somewhere on the edge of Santa Fe..." We all stopped and agreed that was the line to start it off. From there it just started to fall into place. The imagery of the table sitting in that little home, resting on the four wooden legs that supported the memories of all the families that sat there, it all made sense. Then came the chorus, the summary of everything that made us who we are...the memories, the prayers, the laughter, all of it. We were hooked and from then on out the words just poured out of us. When we finally got a solid idea of the melody, lyrics, and chords we recorded a quick work tape and let it sit for the week. We knew we had something special. When we went back to my parents house in Green Bay and played it for them, they loved it. Then we played it for a few others and they loved it. Everyone we sent the work tape to said the same thing. I can picture our family memories and this song makes me happy and sad at the same time. It was time to bring it back to Nashville and test it out at a featured writers round.
JoyBeth was the first to test out our new song in from of a packed room at a local musician bar. Right after the first line, the bar fell silent and stayed that way until she finished that last note. The bar roared with approval and that moment solidified our belief that this song could do something in town. A major artist has to cut this song. We cut a demo of it and distributed it throughout the publishers in town and they all loved the song but they did not have any artist they were willing to pitch it to. It sat for a few months until JoyBeth submitted it for the CMT songwriter contest. We anxiously awaited to see if it had what it takes to win the competition. On a Friday afternoon we received an e-mail that we were one of the finalists in the contest, top 10 out of hundreds of entries. The next week was the final judges panel filled with several industry executives. 'Kitchen Table' won runner-up in the contest and was compared to 'The House That Built Me'. We were ecstatic and the more we played it, the more people in town fell in love with the song. That was great but still no one was interested in cutting it. Fast forward two years later and I am playing it at a gig in Wisconsin. After the show several people asked how they could listen to that song again. I sent them the demo of it but I decided in that moment that I would need to cut that song myself.
When I got back to Nashville I let the group know that I planned to cut the song and release an album on top of that called "Learning to Say Goodbye". They all agreed so I got to work with my producer Steve Kinney, who luckily enough was Katrina's boyfriend. He did an amazing job on the track and when we were ready to record the album we drove back up to the very place we wrote it to bring it full circle. I cut all the vocals for the album and 'Kitchen Table' at my family cabin and that makes this record and the song so much more special to me. I am so proud of the work that we did in creating these songs and am happy that so many of you relate to them as deeply as we did. I love hearing the stories that people tell me now of their memories around the table growing up.
~ Alex Jeffery
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Also, make sure to check out my other single "Kitchen Table" that won 2022 music video of the year at the ISSA Awards!
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