Jenny Robinson was stuck overnight in a Minneapolis bus station years ago, en route to Duluth for a concert with her travelling band, when she started scribbling down lyrics about the people she saw milling around her.
“We had all our gear and we couldn’t go to sleep, because that would make us vulnerable to theft,” Robinson, who spent over 25 years touring across North America with various acts, told the Star.
“We were sitting on these terrible seats. I was watching the people and I started writing this song called ‘Long Lonely Road’. It’s mostly about people who are unsettled, not bound to anything, not grounded. A lot of people I work with in my career have been there, or are there. I think all of us have been there at one point or another.”
The resulting song is only one of the two dozen Robinson, who is also the executive director of Nelson CARES, plans to perform for the community during her fundraising concert on Sunday, Sept. 20. And she’s thrilled to get the chance to share this part of her life with a local audience.
“There was one point in my life when I was touring and I realized I’d spent three of the past five years in a moving vehicle. It was outrageously fun, and hard — especially in Canada where the distances were so long — but I produced four CDs and worked with some amazing people.”
That includes Bob Wiseman of Blue Rodeo and L. Stu Young, one of Prince’s producers. These days Robinson is teaming up with Nelson cultural ambassador Bessie Wapp, as well as local musicians Jesse Lee, Craig Korth and Kiva Simova, who are “practicing like crazy” in preparation for the event, which will also raise money for Robinson’s other passion: the Room to Live campaign.
Robinson is best known locally for her role in the campaign, which so far has raised $300,000 of its $690,000 goal in just over a year. The concert will feature a range of genres and styles, and Robinson said her songs will cover topics from “nuclear waste to love and garbage.”
“It will be eclectic folk pop rock — anywhere from ethereal ballads to punk tunes, so you’ll get a whole range. I always write with the intention of someone else covering my songs, so I’ve got a song for Sheryl Crow, a song for Justin Bieber.”
One personally meaningful song is a ruminative piece about a friend’s suicide.
“My friend committed suicide at 20, and I was really close with the family. It was so sad. Then I wrote it at 40, it popped into my memory and I sat down and wrote it in five minutes.”
Robinson said she’s thrilled to share the stage with her collaborators, especially new Nelson resident Simova, who moved here in May from Prague. And she’s also thankful for the support she’s received from the community thus far.
“It took years for us to get this plan in place, because fundraising is not what Nelson CARES does. We had to figure out how we were going to do this, what’s the story? It’s hard to raise funds for a building, but the people in this community are the story. The people we serve are the story.”
She said the need is urgent.
“Affordable housing is scarce, and my philosophy is I don’t want to live in a community that doesn’t care about everybody.”
The concert will be at the Blue House (503 Fourth St.) with doors opening at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15, and half of the 80 available seats have already sold.
Tickets are available at Urban Legends, Nelson CARES or at the door.
The concert will be followed up by a Room to Live concert on Nov. 20 and then the annual Coldest Night of the Year event on Feb. 20.
For more information visit nelsoncares.ca.