As if opening for Saturday in the Park wasn’t exciting enough for Lil Red & the Medicated Moose Band, the husband-and-wife songwriting duo also get to say that they have indirectly opened for Jason Isbell, this year’s headliner and a songwriter they both admire and respect. Check that one off the bucket list for Bryan and Tiffany Jurries.
“That’s huge for us because we love the art of songwriting and that dude has mastered it,” said Bryan.
For Bryan and Tiffany, songwriting is a collaborative-but-separate process. Oftentimes the husband and wife duo work independently from each other to form song ideas, catchy choruses or other musical bits and pieces
Tunes begin to take shape when those ideas are finally exchanged between the two. Tiffany might bring in a clever melody while Bryan introduces a few guitar parts he’s worked on, and once something catches their ears that they like, that’s when the real fun begins.
“I usually come up with the chorus – I would have pieces of choruses everywhere – and I didn’t know how I wanted to start the story or end it, but I could tell him what I wanted it to say,” said Tiffany. “I just didn’t know how to do it. He’s a helluva writer and he’s good at that stuff.”
But getting those songs finished doesn’t come easy. There might be a constant back-and-forth between Bryan and Tiffany, ultimately deciding how the final product should sound or be presented. That’s when the compromising kicks in.
Afterwards, Bryan said, it feels like “you’ve really found something by the time you’re done.”
Seems like all that work and bickering paid off. So in some sense, is songwriting in any way like a marriage? Perhaps.
“It’s something that you have to spend time on, just like a marriage,” said Bryan. “That is real. You can feel inspired, but for us the creative process is in the moment. It will just hit us. There are times where we feel like we can’t write a song to save our lives. One day it will hit me or hit her. She can think of something and I can build off of that. It does take a lot of time.”
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For instance, Lil Red & the Medicated Moose Band want to release a follow-up album to their 2016 EP. Coming up with and refining 10 tracks has been an arduous task for the husband-and-wife duo. Bryan continued, “It takes a lot of work and a lot of commitment to writing the new stuff. You’re creating something out of nothing, so of course it’s going to take a lot of work.”
When performing live shows Bryan and Tiffany are accompanied by drummer Matt VanMeter. At Saturday in the Park, the trio will expand its acoustic set into a full-on band with musicians like Noah Towns and Drew Paulsen on keys and bass, respectively. In both iterations of the band, the husband-and-wife duo carries itself Johnny and June, bantering with each other in between and during performances.
Their interactions onstage, they said, are completely genuine. “What you see is us,” said Bryan. “We’ve been together a long time.”
Funnily enough, both were once shy kids and had mild cases of stage fright, which has since been remedied from Bryan’s repeated performances in the Sioux City blues rock band Premium Draft and Tiffany’s experience singing backup vocals in Emily Johnson Band. Both credit each other for breaking the other one out of their shell.
“That’s why, now, I don’t even realize anyone else is there most of the time,” said Bryan. “We’re laughing at each other and whatnot. That interaction makes us perform better.”
Tiffany added, “And if we’re feeling fiery that day we get into it more.”
Spousal arguments before a show can sometimes affect a performance, but never in a bad way. Most times the show helps dilute the dispute.
“Music is an outlet of emotion,” said Tiffany. “We’ll start with ‘Hit the Road Jack’ (by Ray Charles) and I then I feel better. It’s this amazing thing because you’re so passionate and in love with being onstage together that whatever happens before just disappears.”