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Jessie Mae’s fire gets rekindled

Singer-songwriter latest selection to 102.3’s Spotlight

Jessie Mae is in ALT 102.3's Spotlight.

Anthony Gadson

Associate Editor

Published July 27, 2022

All Jessie Mae needed was a little push.

At the urging of her husband, the singer-songwriter decided to record a number of her songs, one of which caught the ear of ALT 102.3’s Zack Skyler, who made her the radio station’s latest Homegrown Spotlight selection.

“Jessie Mae has such character, and the songs really touch the soul,” Skyler said. “She’s got quite a story.”

Getting back into flow

Saying she recalls writing “some garbage” in high school, Jessie Mae got back into writing late last year, and she’s already put nearly 40 songs together.

“They’re just flooding out of me, it’s really crazy,” she said. “I think I wrote four songs last week.”

With the songs flowing, she and her husband, David Schmoekel, former lead singer for the popular band Jettingham, decided to record some of them, leading to the six-song EP The Fireside Sessions, released July 1.

“My husband has really been pushing me to get my music out there, so we just decided to set it all up in my mom’s backyard one day and get it all recorded,” she said. “He thought it would be something different, because not a lot of people do that, so we kind of wanted to stand out a little bit.”

Recorded one song after another, with descriptions in between, Jessie Mae wanted The Fireside Sessions to be raw and real, complete with any mistakes.

“I feel like it’s so good to show the world that you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to be polished,” she says during the introduction of the album. 

Raising awareness

With eight kids and she and her husband operating three businesses out of their home, perfection can’t be expected, and she lets you know that from the get-go. 

Instead of pursuing perfection, she’s just doing what she enjoys.

“It’s always been a dream of mine, to record my own music and put my music out there,” she said. “It’s the only thing that brings me joy, really. It’s fulfilling passion that’s really my own thing, so I just decided to take the leap one day.”

A motivation to get her music out there is also her desire to spread the word about mental health, coining her catalogue as #MentalHealthMusic.

Saying she’s neurodivergent on her website, Jessie Mae is working on her debut album Spectrum, which she hopes to release by the end of the year. 

She says her music can help people in the neurotypical world understand those on the autistic spectrum.

“One of main things for me is effective communication, especially surrounding emotions,” she said about some of her struggles. “I’m trying to make the term mental health music take off. Music is kind of like therapy for me. Face-to-face with a person, I kind of shut down, and it’s pretty difficult for me to get across what I’m trying to say, but if I put it in a song, it’s smooth like butter.”

Getting on radio

One of the songs that could make it onto Spectrum is “Wild Baby,” which isn’t on The Fireside Sessions, but can be heard during ALT 102.3’s weekly Homegrown Showcase on Fridays at 7 p.m., as well as during Jessie Mae’s Homegrown Spotlight segments, which run again at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 28, and Sunday, July 31.

Jessie Mae is actually the second person from her family to be in the Homegrown Spotlight, following her niece Amara Gilraine. 

“I was at my mom’s house when they played (my song) for the first time on the Homegrown Showcase,” Jessie Mae said. “My daughter got a video of me, and I was crying and everyone was staring at me, so it was super embarrassing also. It was just kind of surreal and awesome. 

“I’m excited to be able to leave something behind for my kids. They’ll always be able to hear my voice.”

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