Ever since 1980, Jessica Boucher has been singing demos in Nashville, recording for dozens of writers like the legendary Harlan Howard (Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces"), Bobby Braddock (George Jones "He Stopped Loving Her Today"), Thom Schuyler (Lacy J. Dalton's 16th Avenue), Wood Newton (Twenty Years Ago) and Michael Clark/John Bettis (Slow Hand) and many more. She went on to sing as a backing vocalists for many major country music stars including Tanya Tucker, Lorrie Morgan, Buddy Guy, Gregg Allman, Lacy J. Dalton, Bryan White, T.Graham Brown, Asleep at the Wheel, and Marie Osmond.
Later in the decade, she was signed to a maor label in Nashville where she shares the roster with Shania Twain, Billy Ray Cyrus, Ronna Reeves, and Mark Wills. She released a single "What a Friday is For" which was in heavy rotation across CMT Videos. The label promised an album "Habits of the Heart," but the album never arrive. Boucher disappeared from the music scene until recently when she released her long awaited debut album "Consider It Done."
What happened in between these times? What happened to her shleved album? In a candid and revealing interview, Boucher shares with Hallels exclusively, what happened.
Hallels: As a little boy I owned a cassette single by you entitled "What a Friday Night is For." The single had two songs: "What a Friday Night is For" and "Your Lies Ain't Working." I remember playing the two songs over and over again. The cassette single even says that the song was taken from a forthcoming album called "Affairs of the Heart." However, the album was never released, what happened there?
Hi Hallels: Thank's for remembering and thinking of me. Once upon a time - a long time ago....
20 years of water has been flowing under the bridge of my life since then; water made from many joys, some regrets, and with tears of fire, tears of passion, and tears of pain cried (but now dried) for the unfulfilled dreams of my youth, and the deep sadness that came from agonizing, questioning my soul and inner self, but finally realizing that the gifts of singing and song God gave me would not be heard by, nor shared with, the millions of music fans that I had hoped to touch. This story covers a short part of of my time in the music business and contains some sordid recollections of what can happen to a trusting young woman when she believes those around her have only her best interests in mind. You may think I made it up or wrote it as a script for an episode of the prime-time hit drama series "Nashville" on ABC Television, but my story is true, and...
God had other plans for me in 1992 - the release just didn't work out. The album was titled "Habits of the Heart" (which was also the title of one of the songs, written by Stewart Harris & Jim McBride, two stellar hit songwriters in Nashville). "Habits of the Heart" was to be my first full album release. I had been signed to two Nashville record labels prior to this, but none of those recordings ended up as keepers. So, the release of my first single on Polygram Records "What a Friday Night is For" and the upcoming album release of "Habits of the Heart" were at the same time my best chance and probably my last chance to reach those stars!
During the first week of recording the album, my then husband and I separated. We split up the very week that I was recording my vocals for the album. Immediately, in my heart and mind, every single song I was singing seemed to changed meanings. Sad songs were now sadder and happy songs were difficult, if not impossible, for me to sing.
My son was affected so negatively by the separation that I felt it was now more important for me to focus on his young and now shattered world. Needless to say, it was not good timing to release an album with my family falling apart. As it turned out it was a long, expensive and brutal divorce. It took over a year to get through the legal and emotional battles. If I had not been a Christian nor had I no faith, I would never had made it to the other side. The unfortunate timing of this ruined several years of my son's youth. For me, the window of opportunity to succeed as a singer/songwriter and recording artist was closing quickly, as I was in my mid-30s by the time my album would be released. That was way too old for a 'new' artist in those days! There was no "The Voice," no Susan Boyle, no "American Idol."
But I digress...
The divorce took a tremendous toll on my health which had been failing for quite some time. I became so ill during this time that I landed in a Nashville hospital for over a week and I returned to the hospital numerous times after that. I was bone thin, gaunt, angry, depressed and so physically and emotionally exhausted that I could barely get through an interview. My weight went from 145 pounds to 90 pounds at 5' 8" tall. I could barely remember my name or repeat my personal information to the ER. Literally, I could not stand up straight. It was obvious something undiagnosed was going on. I spent a year in and out of hospitals and they ran every possible test for my severe dizziness and inability to keep still or think straight. I was reeling. Finally, I was found to have severe food allergies to many of the 'normal' things I ate. In addition I was diagnosed to have Meniere's disease which affects the inner ear causing dizziness and other symptoms. When I look back on it, I can't believe that I was able to play the guitar and perform at all...
I began to get somewhat better by the end of that year. It was looking like Mary Beth Anderson, my co-writer and dear friend for so many years and I could now get back to writing songs and making music.
My record label was supportive during this time, delaying my album and giving me time to heal. After all, I had a very big recording budget and five album record deal. The money was spent in the studio and they were moving the release dates to give me time to get it together, weather the divorce and help my son adjust. My deal also included a large budget for an expensive video that was to be released to CMT. The video for the single "What a Friday Night is For" was placed in heavy rotation on CMT not long after completing the filming in Texas. CMT and Country Radio loved the feel good title and the song landed in the mid 30's on the Billboard Country Charts the same week as the new release from Billy Ray Cyrus. My record entered the chart just above 'Achy Breaky Heart' , the huge hit which went on to sell over 20 million copies, breaking every chart in sales and airplay. My record didn't...
Billy and I shared the same recording engineers and were in the adjacent studios at the Music Mill in Nashville, Tennessee. One day, Billy Ray asked me out...on a gulp, date. He was single and I was separated. Bad timing. He asked me out a few times and I declined. I went from being married to being asked out. It was unnerving and I was not interested, in anyone, at all. I was recording my album in the same studio complex as Billy Ray. It would be one of many, many songwriting opportunities that I would look back upon and kick myself for missing a big opportunity. So, Billy asked me to write with him instead of going out. I detected the old "bait and switch" and said no. He told me he only needed three more songs to complete his first album, and when he took me into the studio to play me the latest mixes of his songs, the loudest rock and roll guitars on any country song I had ever heard came flying out of the studio speakers. And some people on Music Row thought MY songs were too rock!? I still have a place on my bottom where I kicked myself for not trying to write with him. I think that the sales of over 20 million copies might have helped to ease the pain of my soon to be defunct singing career. But there it was, on the charts, my little single sitting right above his single, "Achy Breaky Heart', which also became the latest dance craze.
I bring this up, because all my career, I seemed to have been just a quarter step from the hit makers path, either behind that path or along side their path singing backgrounds.
It was amazing to have the label's promotion team working their magic for my song at the same time watching Billy Ray's single explode. Billy Ray sold so many singles so fast, that the record company's office building had boxes of his singles lining the hallway's walls to the ceiling all the way to the front door. It was, to say the least, unexpected.
But my little moment was still at play, so I was dressing the part, playing the gigs they told me to play, opening for their established country artists, doing interviews for television, flying around, making radio calls for hours and hours; really working it. It had been well over a year since the album was recorded and now they were finally ready to release it - I was doing much better.
On April 29, 1992, the label flew me to California, put me in a five star hotel, and sent a limo to pick me up and take me to the ACM Awards Show in Los Angeles. I had finally gotten back to some kind of normalcy and had dressed myself in a Barbie doll dream outfit. I wore a sheer white leather and white lace skirt with a leather bustier, white boots and array of insane earrings. I was escorted by the President of my record company down the aisle with every eye in the theater on us as we made our way to the front row. I will never forget what he said to me with my arm over his as he portrayed the perfect gentleman. He whispered in my ear "This is your moment, enjoy it."
I wish I had known how to freeze and video that moment because it turned out to be my last moment on camera as an artist. With a high charting single, white stretch limo, hit video, publishing deal, money on the way and a tour planned, I was feeling like this was what I had worked and waited for my entire life I had co-written six of the songs for "Habits of the Heart" and waited for this dream moment after 18 years in the studio, road work, years of songwriting and three record deals, signing autographs and seeing the pre orders coming in for my album at a high level. When the ACM's in Los Angeles were over that night, everyone still in the theatre was locked in, and we were told that a riot in Los Angeles had broken out. The jury had come back with a not guilty verdict for the police in the beating of Rodney King. Martial law had been put into place. Several hundred music industry people were allowed to leave in small groups, and I was escorted away by my label as though we were all in a war zone. When I got back to my hotel room on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles, I, along with all of the guests of the Beverly Hills L'Hermitage Hotel were told we could not have our cars nor drive or leave the hotel, even for a walk. When I got back to my five star room, in my five star outfit and my five star attitude, I got a call that evening saying that my son had been missing for several days and was presumed to have run away. Devastated seems to be the only word I can find. I could not leave the hotel, or reach anyone that could help. It was truly the most helpless feeling I had ever had. I have had many times that I felt alone and helpless, useless and lost, but that was the worst.
My son was missing. What kind of selfish human being was I to be out prancing around trying to sing and have a career? There was no money for a road nanny like you see on television shows where singers take their children and everyone is all happy and carefree! I should have just thrown in the towel long ago and been happy to sing on jingles and background sessions! What in heaven's name was I doing sitting in a hotel room with $8 bottles of water and fancy country music boots? "Let me out of here." All I could do was wait, sit and pray. This was 1992 and there was no Internet. The city of L.A. was on fire in so many places and the sky was dark with smoke. The people in the hotel gathered in small groups on the roof, watching the fires and smoke get closer and closer to our hotel.The gift shops were bought completely out within a few hours. There wasn't so much as a Snicker's bar on the shelf. Some guy sat at a grand piano and played old songs while people sipped wine and waited. No calls, no son, no information, just clouds of smoke and watching the riots on TV. Suddenly, music seemed so stupid. My outfits seemed ridiculous and I literally wanted to pull my hair out. Food was dwindling and dangerous situations were occurring as people became more and more afraid. And my son was missing. I had a hit single playing in the background of the hotel bar. I looked up at the TV in the bar and my "What a Friday Night is For" video was on CMT and my mind was as lost as my son, but at least I knew where I was. I was in hell! It was surreal. I prayed... My son was found several days later and was fine, just being a rebellious teen. The fires subsided in L.A. and we were eventually all allowed to leave and return home.
When I returned to Nashville, I was whisked straight away into touring and signing a new publishing deal. I signed with a new manager and began putting together a band with Mary Beth. We were dressed for the "dance" like it was prom night, so happy, upfront with our guitars and songs. We were laughing and enjoying performing our hard work and original songs that had taken us three years to create. The next single was "Consider It Done" that at the time was considered edgy and a way too rocked out. The label asked me to write two more singles. They thought that "What A Friday Night is For" by Aaron Barker, was going to be a big hit but the rest of my album was not country enough to match the first single. Well, if a few beer drinkers on Nashville's Murfreesboro Road determined it wasn't country....well, you get the gist.
So, Mary Beth and I wrote two new songs immediately and recorded the demos the following week. We had spent five days a week for a whole year writing and running like hamsters on a wheel. We were on a roll. We took the songs to my label on Music Row and the entire two story building that housed my record label buzzed as the head of Marketing played the songs "Some Things Never Change" and "You Can't Undo What You've Undone" played as loud as he could get it!" It was another surreal moment to be standing in the office of one of the biggest record labels in the world, watching everyone dance around, smile, high five each other and jump for joy. That was until I was asked when we had cut these two new songs. I said that Mary Beth and I had recorded and produced the songs ourselves. They had asked for two new uptempo commercial country songs, and we gave that to them! The executive's face dropped when he said "But YOUR producer is out of town." "Who's out of town I asked?" "Your producer is out of town!" he repeated. At that moment I could hear the silence in the room. It was the longest ten seconds in my career, as everyone there stared at me. The head of marketing wanted my producer to do a minor remix of the songs that he assumed were HIS (my producer's) recordings that HE had produced, to add them into the album sequence. But when he realized that the producer, the man with the power, the hit maker, the big dude, the big stumbling block in my career, had not had one thing to do with these productions and had actually never even heard the songs - there was immediate panic!. That is where the rubber meets the road in the music business. I had usurped the unwritten rule and broken the chain of command. I had cut out the middle man. You were supposed to ask permission to do anything and never, ever take credit. And this time, it was not going to be easier to plead for forgiveness rather ask than permission. We were toast. The entire group of people standing there looked at both Mary Beth and me and we all knew that they knew, that the BIG SHOT had not produced EITHER of the songs. In fact, all he had ever done was be the facilitator. He was the money man, the power of the pen, the man with the plan, the gatekeeper. But they all believed that he had actually produced every one of the dozens of albums he had produced during his long career. And in that brief moment, I couldn't take it back. I couldn't say, "Oh, he did the demos and he advised us and he gave us advice." He had no idea that we had jumped in and gotten the songs written and recorded by ourselves. It was the ultimate political faux pas. Never ever, let anyone know where the talent really lies within the inner circle. After all, who were we? We weren't anybody, just background singers with guitars, writers, we couldn't possibly produce records!
And then I made the last mistake. I told someone that my producer had pulled my single off the promotion list. One of my dearest friends in the business called me and took pity on me. I was told by my label to call radio stations all day, all week, and talk, talk, sell, say whatever I could to promote myself and be uptempo, happy, make nice, get that record played. So I did....until my friend told me my record had been pulled and effectively killed two weeks earlier. What a putz I was making of myself, as they all watched me work a dead record. I told Mary Beth, on a cell phone what had happened. She was the only person that I told. I made that cell phone call to her while I was driving down Music Row. Someone was spying, and Mr. Big confronted me.
I could not figure out how he could have known what I had said in a private cell phone call. That is when I learned about the new scanners the songwriters on Music Row were using to intercept and listen into conversations. It was the newest form of spying on people and it was just a game, some new technology, some joke actually. And I had just gotten a brand new cell phone. Great! I dogged "him" when he called me to accuse me of misrepresenting him. It was an accusation from a man who was usually so stoned he could not speak in whole sentences. "Did you tell someone that I killed your record?" I said "No". Being the rebel that I was and the person who always looked for the truth, I asked him how he could know that. He lied and said that someone had just called and told him - a STRANGER. I asked him if his secretary was there when this 'stranger' called and he replied "yes." I was already dead in the water, so I might as well go for it. "Mr. Big" I asked. "How does someone call up, a stranger, and get THROUGH to the President of a Major Record Label who has three assistants screening his calls, without saying who they are?" Then, the dark sound of dismissal - Dialtone....
He and I have never spoken since. I was called into my publisher's office (owned by Mr. Big) and told me they were not renewing my contract. In other words, no more paycheck, no $25K bonus, no paid studio time. Two weeks prior to that moment, my attorney had called me in and told me something about how my contract was reaching a time frame that needed me to re-sign since they had delayed the album release, blah, blah, blah. So, I said ok and signed. It didn't seem to dawn on me that it mattered that my attorney's law partner was Mr. Big's lawyer... I can still see the dark room in the law office with my attorney who called me late in the afternoon and said to come by for a couple of minutes 'if you can'. There was enough pot smoke coming from the top floor of the office to choke a mule. But this was the top legal team on the Row. I realized the day that my cell phone went dead, that my career went dead. I never recorded again, professionally, as an artist. I was held to a contract that would keep me tied up for years.
Three weeks prior to the "demise," the head of marketing had taken me out to his car in the parking lot of the label and said he wanted a place to talk, a spot with no ears. He asked me what had happened. "Did you have an argument with Mr. Big?" "What happened between you and Mr. Big?" "Nothing" I kept saying. And nothing had happened. The only thing that happened was that I kindly and, as sweetly as I could, asked the one person who had made this project possible by signing me, not consider me as anything other than a great friend, and work together to make great music. I was not interested in ANY kind of relationship. And I actually had the guts to say quietly, that there was an age difference between us (20 years) that seemed a bit tough for me to get past. The male ego has no bounds. Me and my big, honest mouth makes me a "Woman of much opinion." One of my favorite passages in the Bible is where it says "I tell you the truth and I make you my enemy."
On the last show Mary Beth and I ever performed, I remember standing for hours, signing autographs. There were at least three or four thousand people there and they had traveled from far and wide. We were opening for a hit artist and the crowd was totally into our music and they were so sweet and kind. They loved our music and my singing. Now this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to share my music with people and perform. It was supposed to be the way I started, by performing and sharing music. It was before all of the powerful people on the "Row" got a piece of me and tore me to shreds and I stupidly screwed it all up, by being honest. I didn't play ball. I didn't kowtow. I didn't take my clothes off. There it is, in a nutshell. There were a lot of drugs involved and I was not into it and did not want to "play nice." There were too many 'advances' and too few chances for my taste - I stood my ground. I watched as all my hard work and dreams of a lifetime were placed on a shelf. Mary Beth was so devastated that she hung up her guitar forever after years of singing with huge stars and touring overseas. She became an amazing artist with a brush and painted day and night. She died tragically four years later of breast cancer. I have never gotten over thinking that if I had just played the game, she would have heard one of hers and my beautiful songs on the radio, where it belonged. She believed in me and I felt I let her down. She would tell me to get over it and move on, enjoy life and what God has brought to us, and she was right. But I guess, if I had done everything that a man in power wanted me to do, I would be a star today. But then, what is a "star" anyway? Only as bright as its true inner fire.
Selling my integrity was not what I started out doing, I just started singing one day as a child and playing guitar by 16. I started playing clubs at 18 and I started writing songs at 12. I felt that I had some kind of gift that God had given me and it wasn't supposed to be used as a pawn in a record producer's game of sex, drugs and rock and roll. I'm certainly no saint, but it seemed like I was being pushed to sell my soul to the devil and so I just said "no..." no to all of it. Talking about semi-peer pressure in my 30's? I signed a contract with God to give my entire life to singing, writing and recording. Why was I supposed to lower myself and grovel to a man who could make me or break me? God made me, only He has the power to break me. So, they shelved my album, pulled my single off the air, wrote a letter to their office in L.A. saying that I took too long to get my vocals (while they were out buying rolling papers....sigh) and held me to my contract. That last part meant, that I would never, ever, release those songs again, or at least until I was so old it wouldn't matter anymore. How did it end up in a power struggle? I have never liked men or women for that matter telling me what to do when it's the wrong thing to do, and I held my ground. Too many things went wrong all at the same time. I ended up tired, ill, broke and had lost all faith in anything that had to do with recording music, much less depending upon the part of music that means making a living (you know, getting paid). So....fast forward..
In 2014, my husband, Kevin Beamish, a world class Producer and Engineer, who has sold collectively over 100 Million in sales as a producer, dragged me kicking and screaming to pull these songs together. He went through my entire catalog of music of twenty five years and just wouldn't quit. He listened to every single song I wrote and recorded, as far back as dragging songs off old cassettes. I said yes just to get him to leave me alone! I had lost all ability to believe in myself and not only that, I had lost part of my hearing. My guitar was as rusty as pipes in the rain and the lines on my face say "girl, you sure have been around the block a few years." He put me back in the studio several years ago and I realized that I had been singing for a living for a very long time and I was still good at it! It felt great. It was fun again. I began making a living at it again, after a dozen years or more where I had closed my voice, hung up my "ears" and retired my union card. We started writing and I feel I have so much left to do. All I know is that as far back as I can remember, people loved my singing and when I am singing, I feel like I'm whole. Now I know you didn't expect all of that, but I have been holding this in for so long, that I couldn't just say, "Oh, well, it just didn't work out."
Hallels: That was in 1992 and recently you released your album "Consider It Done," why did it take so long? What transpired during this time?
I had given up the true love of my life - singing. I discovered I had an interest in the newest thing - computers. I was good at it. I educated myself and became an expert in web design and graphics. I started a very successful e-commerce business at the beginning of the explosion of the internet. While I built this business I educated myself further and became the Webmaster for the State of Tennessee for TEN years. Wow! With my desire for learning (and encouragement by my husband) I went back to school and earned my Bachelor's Degree in Communication while in my 50s and working full time. I graduated Summa Cum Laude, the highest honor possible. And here I am today, singing and writing again. Like a Phoenix rising from the rubble of pain and disappointment using determination to look up high towards heaven to find joy, I got there by walking tall on the road of belief and love.
Hallels: How many songs from your 1992 shelved album are there on your new album "Consider It Done"?
All 12 songs on "Consider It Done" were at one time or another in the running to be included in the final 10 song playlist of my shelved album.
Hallels: Were the songs from your earlier recordings re-recorded for "Consider It Done"?
The songs were not re-recorded. Kevin did use modern technology and a re- mastering process in his ProTools studio to update the sound for today's modern technological world.
Hallels: On the record you also got to write with the legendary Red Lane, what was it like writing with him?
Writing with Red Lane was so intimidating at first. He went through 30 of my titles on a yellow notepad in about 4 minutes and asked 'what else you got? I was reduced to poetic rubble. So I said, "Well, I got this little thing started" and we were off. We have only written a hand full of songs together, but each one is so special. He is a dear friend and mentor. He is a true poet who can smell bad lines, trite, useless ideas at hello. When he closes his eyes, he goes into a place that only Red Lane goes. He finds words that twist and wind like salt water taffy at a state fair. It's mesmerizing. You'd better be patient. He'll out wait you. There's Central standard time and then there's Red Lane time! Then magic falls from his lips with simple words that will make you think, remember, cry and laugh at the same time. I love him.
Hallels: You have sung backing for many country albums including those of Marie Osmond, Tanya Tucker, Ronna Reeves, Johnny Lee, Lacy J. Dalton and so many others, what was your most memorable experience as a backing vocalist?
I spent most of my time in the studio for over 20 years, but I also sang on live gigs. One event sticks out in my mind: being walked backstage down a long corridor with security guards holding our arms, following Rosanne Cash and Vince Gill. We were at the CBS convention in Honolulu, Hawaii, the year of Michael Jackson's Thriller. Kenny Loggins was onstage and I could see Jackson's entourage. It was a feeling of no turning back and the security was so tight, I had never realized how possible it would have been for someone to come after one of the artists, and well, us. But then at that moment of fear, the curtains opened and we were suddenly singing Rosanne's "Seven Year Ache." I guess I had been having so much fun singing for so long that I never really stopped to notice that I was a professional and that we were important. We were just making a living and having a great time. Vince's voice and mine with Jennifer Kimball sounded like archangels in harmony. As always it felt way too short - it ended too soon. Every great moment of singing is too short a time. And then, we left the stage and I heard Michael Jackson's voice following us off stage. Again, it was surreal...
Hallels: Are you already planning your follow-up to "Consider It Done"? If you are, what musical direction will it be? Contemporary country? Gospel? Rootsy?
I have enough strong material for several more CDs. My husband continues to push and encourage. I guess that it will happen like the last one....soon but unexpectedly! I feel that I am also a blues and R&B singer at heart. I have many recordings I did of covers of famous hit songs (with my vocal stamp on them) that we'll release if we feel there is interest in them.
Hallels: For our readers who would like to read up more about you or purchase your new album, where can they go?
My website is a work in progress but the links are there for YouTube Videos, a biography, itunes and CDBaby.
My husbands website is http://officialkevinbeamish.com/
Thank you! Peace & God Bless,
+++++++++++++++++++++++c. 2014-2015 Jessica Boucher
Tags : jessica boucher shania twain Billy Ray Cyrus kevin beamish jessica boucher habits of the heart jessica boucher what a friday night is for jessica boucher news jessica boucher consider it done consider it done