Song of the Week: Somewhere in the Middle by Wes Weddell

By February 7, 2018 Song of the Week
wes weddell new song somewhere in the middle

Awhile back I was fortunate to have singer songwriter Wes Weddell over in the studio. That’s when we tracked this gem of a tune that he wrote called Somewhere in the Middle.

You can listen to the song below.

Wes played all the instruments on the track while I manned the controls. I offered plenty of helpful producer type comments like “quit playing the guitar like an idiot,” and “shake it harder,” and “stop farting around!”

The song turned out great (mostly due to Wes). It took most the afternoon to record and a couple of mixing sessions afterward to complete. I think you will agree that it was time well spent.

I wanted to know more about the tune so I asked him a few questions.

Mike Votava: Tell me what this song is about and where it came from.

Wes Weddell: My folks met Jim and Zoe Cooley through square dancing a few years before I was born. They became deeply close family friends and grandparent figures to me and my sister. Around the time I showed up, they bought 100 acres in a remote canyon outside of Troy, ID, and homesteaded. I’ve spent nearly every Thanksgiving and Christmas with them. They’re two remarkable and resilient people, impossible to put into any particular boxes. The song is a tribute to them and the specialness of the place they built. Sadly, we lost Jim in 2017; he was 87.

MJV: Is Juliaetta a real place?

WW: It most certainly is, just down the road from what we affectionately call Cooley Gulch (at the bottom of which you’ll find Little Bear Creek, also real). When the song first started coming together (at an artist residency in 2014), I was humming some placeholder syllables and “California” came out. We’ve got enough songs about California, however, so I substituted Juliaetta and got my inspiration for writing about Jim and Zoe.

MJV: The guitar on the left channel has a unique sound. What kind of guitar is that?

WW: That’s an old Harmony dreadnought (c.1970s), strung “Nashville style” with the high strings from a 12-string set. The highest note is now the G (in the middle!), and not the first-string E (the E and B are unison in a 12-string set; the rest octaves). I like to use it for parts equally percussive and melodic.

MJV: What are you better at, “splitting that wood” or “driving that tractor”?

WW: I’ve had a lot more practice splitting wood. I prefer either to digging fencepost holes.

MJV: Imagine a scenario where you arrived “somewhere in the middle” and there wasn’t a “home cooked meal.” (I would be pissed.) How would you react?

WW: I like the idea of the “middle” being a compromise with regard to one’s expectations. Whether there’s a meal or not, there’s probably something short of what you hoped and something better than what you feared.

MJV: My favorite part of the song is the line about chicken arms. Is that also your favorite part of the song?

WW: I don’t know if it’s my favorite line, but it’s certainly accurate. When I was 17, I spent a summer working out in the canyon – ostensibly to help Jim as he got older, but he could still out-lift and outlast me every step of the way. That was more or less the case for everyone tasked with helping, but my stringbean build didn’t help.

• $$$$$ •

Somewhere in the Middle
by Wes Weddell

North of Juliaetta, where the road starts winding
Crest a little summit where there’s one lone pine tree
Look for the mailbox by the rusty wheel

Up at the top, there’re miles of wheat fields
Down at the bottom lies Little Bear Creek
Somewhere in the middle is a home-cooked meal
Somewhere in the middle is a home-cooked meal

Well, the first Thanksgiving that I remember
Had an old wood stove and lousy weather
That stove is still burning, the pies are still good

But I got older and the work got harder
Digging fencepost holes with my chicken arms
Tying that log chain, splitting that wood
Driving that tractor when they said I could

They say when summer finally comes it takes 24 hours
For ankle-deep mud to reach a fine dust powder
Take it all in, breath it all out

Storms in the winter might snow you in,
But you grab another log and fill the kettle to the brim
Drink it in deeply, let it settle down
Drink it in deeply, let it settle down

North of Juliaetta, where the clouds run sideways
Chase ’em all day on a two-lane highway
Wait for the sunset, it’s her show to steal

Up at the top, you can still see worry
Down at the bottom gets a little bit blurry
Somewhere in the middle is a home-cooked meal
Somewhere in the middle is a home-cooked meal
Somewhere in the middle…