Co-Mission Contributor: Louisa Branscomb

July 2, 2020

Meet Louisa Branscomb

We’re really always standing at the edge of the precipice, but we don’t look down until we trip.

Everything seemed perfect. I had launched a new all-woman band, Geez Louise, and we had some gigs and plans for an album. My regular band, Branscomb-Williams, was touring my new CD I’d worked on for 3 years, and we were at the top of the wave. Then came that that day in March. The full impact of the new pandemic hit me, and I got in the car in Florida and drove 13 hours home to my farm, non-stop.

I’m a songwriter, but my music has always been collaborative. I love the shared experience of co-creating a song together – it’s a special intimacy and bond. So not being able to hang and perform with my bandmates has been one of the hardest parts. When I heard about the project, I decided to take the dare. How could we fly over the landscape of loneliness between us and create again together, from 3 towns in 2 states?

The song that jumped to mind is one I’d never recorded, but one that gave me solace in another disaster –  when the tornado of 2011 destroyed my farm. I’d lost 75,000 trees and my home and barns. There had been no time to grieve and crying was a luxury I couldn’t afford. In a moment of stillness, sitting on top of the scalped hill, I saw a thin pine tree stripped bare that I had tried to save. There it was still standing – the skeleton of a tree, refusing to fall. I was flooded with grief. I thought, what redeems this tragedy – 460 people killed, all the destruction?

Suddenly I was filled with peace. We are all held by this benevolent old world that keeps giving us chances. It’s all we’ve got, and it’s not so bad. We are each the pine, sometimes stripped to the core, but… together or apart, as Ram Dass said, we are all just walking each other home.

I’m honored to be joined here by my distinguished band mates, Jeanette and Johnny Williams, (Branscomb-Williams) and Jody King, a gifted multi-instrumentalist, engineer, and friend who made it possible to pull this off in 2 weeks across 250 miles, with improvised studios lined with grandmothers’ quilts and flannel PJs, varying software, and makeshift equipment.

Sure, I’d rather we were on the front porch playing. And it’s quiet here in the country – I long for the songwriter retreats I’ve had here for 30 years, like in the picture (the lonesome pine that inspired the song is just to the right of center, top of the hill). And fear still lurks in my mirror. But it’s comforting that we are all on this walk together.

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