The harmony that nourishes the soul

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The Midnight Juliets are a newly formed country and western trio featuring the talents of Mel, Chrissy and Erica.

Chrissy moved from Portland to northern Idaho in 2015 for work. Her musical training was in theater rather than bands, which she says gives her a unique approach full of energy.

In 2018, Chrissy says a “lady in a bar” overheard her singing to live music and asked her if she would do a gig at a vintage fair in Hayden. She decided to do the gig, but needed a backing band. She was inspired by the band she heard at the bar which included a guitarist and a violinist, so she decided to run a Craigslist ad looking for the same combination – a guitarist and a violinist – and was pleasantly surprised. when the same musicians she had seen at the bar responded. The guitarist was Rusty Jackson, a prominent country musician from the northern Idaho music scene. Chrissy joined Rusty and his fiddler, Erica, and played with them for the next three years.

Chrissy found herself in 2021 performing four to five nights a week while working full time and wanting to complete a doctorate, so she gave up performing for a short while. She stayed in touch with Erica about her desire to eventually start an all-female group, which would become the Midnight Juliets. When they decided to start the band, they needed a guitarist. They met Mel during an open mic at Mad Bomber in Hayden – we’ll get to that after we meet the other two band members.

Erica is from Walla Walla and grew up studying and playing the classical violin. Before college, she spent a few years in Colorado as a ski bum, joined a rock band as a violinist, and ended up playing occasionally with bluegrass and funk bands. Erica describes herself as not being a “real violinist”, having done all her formal studies in classical music, but was able to learn enough to play by ear to develop her own style.

Erica returned to Walla Walla for an engineering degree, and the job eventually took her to northern Idaho, where she found plenty of country musicians looking for a fiddler. One of those musicians was Jackson and his Spokane River Band, which Erica played with for several years. She met Chrissy in the Spokane River Band and began looking for outlets to explore more folk, Americana and music from lesser known artists. Chrissy’s desire to create an all-female band after taking time off for her PhD was a perfect fit.

Mel grew up in western Washington and says she’s been singing all her life. The middle school choir introduced her to performance, and a “cute boy” her freshman year in high school got her interested in country music. She was drawn to ’90s stars like the Judds, Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks, who included elements of rock music but stuck to “country” themes in their lyrics, such as family and living a simple life.

Mel headed to the University of Michigan on a music performance scholarship where an opera professor encouraged her to switch from soprano to alto, exploring the low end of her range. This now guides Mel’s whole singing style.

Back in Washington, she found herself surrounded by rock musicians who wouldn’t do country music, so she joined Northwest Chill, a classic rock and blues band she sang with for nine years before finally moving on. in northern Idaho.

Both Mel and Chrissy say they weren’t looking to form a harmony duo, but after singing together they both realized that although their voices and styles are quite different, something magical is happening. when they sing together. Mel describes Chrissy’s voice as having a beautiful, clear high range and says singing alto under Chrissy’s melodies “feeds my soul”. Listening to the three of them perform together, it’s easy to hear why she says that – Mel and Chrissy are fabulous solo singers, but something really special happens when they start singing together.

The band describes their sound as “amazing harmonies applied to both upbeat country and soulful ballads”. Country and Western is the foundation of their sound with a mix of well known country songs and songs from lesser known artists. Band favorites include covers of “Little White Church”, “White Liar” and “Traveling Soldier”. Both Erica and Mel say they hold back their tears every time they do the last song. Erica’s favorite is the band’s cover of “Blue,” made famous by LeAnn Rimes, because she hears amazing vocals and she was able to create her own fiddle part combining elements of jazz, blues, and swing. Mel says their harmonies feed her soul – and audiences in northern Idaho share the same experience!

The Midnight Juliets can be heard this fall at:

• September 17: D-Mac’s at the Lake, Hauser

• September 24: Kootenai Farmers’ Market, Hayden

• November 18 and December 16: The Snake Pit, Kingston

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Tom Richards is a music lover, lead singer of local blues band Dr. Phil & the Enablers and owner of The Snake Pit.

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