Jennifer Mitchell Band took the local country and rock scene by storm after they debuted at the Hungry Buffalo in Loudon, New Hampshire two years ago. Now, Jennifer Mitchell and her band play at least 10 gigs a month in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts.
Mitchell relocated to southern New Hampshire from upstate New York near the Canadian border and fell in love with the less rural area where there were more economic opportunities. She was already in a couple of other bands previously but needed a vehicle for her own original material. She also wanted the independence of having her own group.
“We started out as an acoustic act. It just kind of evolved from there,“ Mitchell said.
What is the secret of their success? First, she gets along with her band mates and they are all on the same page musically. After working with egos in her previous bands, she found the right personnel. “It takes the right mix of people,” she said.
Mitchell’s duo act plays some of the same venues as her band, which accounts for some of the name recognition. Her duo partner is her band’s lead guitar player, Ronnie B. They play out as RJ Acoustic. Mitchell also runs a karaoke show and DJs at private parties, which got her band’s foot in the door at some of the venues. Winning awards was another factor in Jennifer Mitchell Band’s progress. It didn’t hurt that Mitchell and a duo partner named Charmaine Last formed Crystal Heart Angels that won New Hampshire Country Duo Of The Year for their song “Feels Like Home.” Mitchell’s duo went on to win an award in a regional contest as well as a competition in Tennessee. “Feels Like Home,” written on the fly, turned out to be a big game changer for Mitchell.
“It took us about 15 minutes and we had it done,” Mitchell said. “It just came out.” Mitchell and her band play a little bit of everything but are more geared toward rock and country. “It’s probably more rock and classic rock than country, which is weird,” she said, “because when I write songs I tend to write country songs.” Mitchell and her band have four originals worked out, two country, one rock, and a Christmas song.
The players in her Jennifer Mitchell band help her carry her message in swinging venues. Ron Bourgeois is the lead guitarist. Bourgeois has been in the local music business for many years. He also plays harmonica and does some of the vocals for Mitchell. Bill Nolin Jr. is the bass guitar player. Nolin too has been around the music scene for man years. Dennis Senechal is the drummer. Senechal is another veteran of multiple bands. “All of my musicians are pretty seasoned,” Mitchell said.
One weekend her Jennifer Mitchell Band might play Bonfire in Manchester, New Hampshire. Another weekend they might play The Phoenix in Shirley, Massachusetts. Other weekends they could be found at Hilltop Pizza in Epsom, New Hampshire as well as Forester’s Club in Newport, New Hampshire. The Hungry Buffalo in Loudon, New Hampshire is, of course, a staple of their gig schedule. “We go all over,” Mitchell said. “We do venues. We private parties.”
When playing country and western venues like Manchester’s Bonfire, Mitchell and her band will focus more on country. She used to play tons of country music at the old Circle 9 Ranch in Epsom, New Hampshire. “Those venues that mostly like country, we try to throw in as much country as we can,” she said.
Sometimes she just has to go with her feelings to see whether one of her songs turns out to have a rock edge or an emotive country vibe. Mitchell and her band recorded her original song “Gypsy Soul” as a rock song because the subject matter called for it. The singer-songwriter calls it her “angry song” because it’s about a friend who had died from a drug related suicide.
“It’s just something that I had to deal with through writing,” she said. “I was angry about it and obviously upset and that was how it came out. When it came out originally, it was just an acoustic song, just me and a guitarist. Then, I got the band together. That was one of the first songs we started working on. I told the guys my vision and what I wanted it to kind of sound like. Because of it’s content, I wanted it to be in your face, driving, hard rock because it’s a pretty serious topic to try to put it into words. That’s what they came up with. Every time I hear it, I can’t believe how it evolved from how I wrote it to where it is now.”
Some songwriters don’t like to let go of their initial concept but Mitchell was more than willing to give her band mates carte blanche to put in their lead guitar phrases, bass lines, and drums where they saw fit. “Right away I was like, ‘Yes. That’s it.’”
Mitchell’s Jennifer Mitchell Band get a good vibe going at the Hungry Buffalo in Loudon, New Hampshire where they debuted two years ago. They always pack the place. About 20 fans from the Hungry Buffalo drove out to upstate New York, near the Canadian border, to hear her band play a show near her old home town.
“I think in any of the venues, it’s about connecting with the people,” Mitchell said, “playing music that people like to come out and have a good time to.”
Three to four times a year, Mitchell, with co-producer Michele Doherty of Come Together Events, an organization that supports women in the music business, promotes women in music with her Siren Series. Held at the Shaskeen in Manchester, New Hampshire, solo female artists and female fronted bands will come together to put on a show. The acoustic solo act opens, followed by a duo or trio, then a full band will close the show. “We spent all last year building that event up,” Mitchell said. “It’s really been amazing. It just keeps getting better and better.”
A working musician, Mitchell makes half her living from her music and half from a booking job. She’s more of a musician-singer-songwriter than a business woman, though, she’d like to, at some point, own her own restaurant. “If I was gong to do something else in life, it would probably be own a restaurant. But, music has always been the only thing I wanted to do.”