Raised in rural Washington state in the log house built by her parents, Jessi McNeal has been singing and writing songs in some shape or form for most of her life. Simple hymns and old country tunes formed the soundtrack of her childhood, and her ear for melody and love of storytelling developed at an early age.
Stylistically, Jessi draws heavily from Americana, bluegrass and folk traditions in both her lyrics and music. The landscapes of country life weave their way into her songs, in an easy style with warm imagery. But she also doesn’t shy away from hard subjects like grief and loss, and finds that songwriting is a soothing balm for many wounds. Her faith is also a constant underlying theme in much of her music, with stories of hope and redemption running deep.
Jessi has released her new LP The Driveway. Billboard Magazine called the album “reflective.” “That’s definitely how I process life: pen and guitar in hand,” McNeal told Billboard. “I was letting the songs come. I let the pile emerge and then started looking and going, ‘What’s the overarching theme here?’ and then, ‘Which songs fit with that theme?’ Definitely the overall theme was transition and being in the middle of some really hard stuff, not knowing how or when it’s going to wrap up – and being OK with that waiting. I think you can hear that in a lot of the songs.”
Americana, bluegrass, and folk traditions are present and alive in her lyrics and music, as the imagery and landscapes of country life weave their way into her songs. Her sound is comforting and inviting, though she doesn’t shy away from the difficulties and struggles of life’s journey, instead, using songwriting as a soothing balm for many wounds, creating songs rimmed in redemption.
While The Driveway was created during a period of transition and encompasses heavier subjects like death, loss, houses on fire, and the push and pull of relationships, the songs are reflective and rimmed in hope and optimism, uplifting in tone and tender in their delivery. The album’s title track is her take on the story of the prodigal son; “I’ve come to see myself at times like the father and at times like the son,” she explains. “I want to be the one who comes running, and I also want to be the one who falls into forgiving arms. And here’s the real truth – sometimes those arms of forgiveness and grace need to be my very own.”
“The driveway on our property isn’t long, but it still feels like a sacred space between the world and home,” she continues. “I think we all need a bit of easement in our lives where we give ourselves permission to just be, without all of the pressure and demands that life can place on us – a place where we can have let ourselves have all those gut-level feelings about waiting and loss and transition. If we speed through those emotions, we’re going to miss a lot of things, mostly ourselves. Lately, I’m savoring those slow walks to fetch the mail, and I’m feeling a whole lot of grace to just be right where I am in my own unfolding story.”