Everything you wanted to know about Wise Jennings...and probably way more....
Jeff and Melissa met in a northern Wisconsin wedding band in 2000. She was a singer and Jeff played keyboards. It was the typical wedding band...polkas, country, classic rock. The two soon became a couple and moved to Chicago from Northern Wisconsin to pursue their careers. They got married, had two wonderful boys and moved from the Chicago suburbs to southern Wisconsin in 2015. When they moved to Chicago they were finished with music, never wanting to do it again...fast forward to 2016, the music bug hits them once again. It was time. With the kids being old enough and their careers established, the weight of everything lifted and music seemed like a fun idea.
Now the question was what to do. They agreed it had to be just the two of them, but they didn’t want to do the typical guy on guitar girl sitting on a chair singing. So, Melissa decided to teach herself how to play drums and harmonica and they went out and bought cheap equipment. Having been out of music for so long they didn’t have a guitar, an amp, a cord, a speaker…nothing. Jeff had never played anything other than acoustic guitar and that was limited. He had never owned an electric guitar or an amp, and certainly didn’t know what pedals were for or how to use them. They didn’t own microphones, speakers, or cables and didn't even know where to beginwhen it came to running a sound system. But they didn't care...how hard could it be?
They began by learning some songs by their favorite bands...Shovels & Rope, The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, The White Stripes, etc. They played their first official paid gig on Labor Day Weekend in 2016. All covers and no originals. They played a few more shows and quickly realized that this was not fun like they thought it would be. They had forgotten how demoralizing it is to have people treat you like a jukebox. So, they sat down one night to discuss what they should do. The ultimate decision was to start to write songs and see how people reacted. They were fortunate to have a couple of people really support their original music and this was the catalyst for more writing.
Then there was the next hurdle. They were new to southern Wisconsin and had absolutely no contacts in the music world. They played every single bar gig they could get their hands on and the word started to circulate about Wise Jennings. In their second year they were invited by other bands to play on multi-band bills and really started getting their name out there as original artists. That year they played 60 shows including an invitation to Milwaukee’s Summerfest and opened for The Voice runner up, Addison Agen. They started to get into the festival scene with appearances at Glacier Valley Music Festival and Ragged Roots Music Festival. In addition to their busy performance schedule, they also participated in a multi-week song writing competition in Madison, WI held by a major radio station that introduced them to that part of the state. That year also marked the release of their first EP, The Year Mama Tried, followed by their first full length album, Jennings Holler.
As if writing, practicing, performing, holding down jobs and raising kids wasn't enough, the held their very first festival, Wise Fest, at their home in the fall of 2018. It was a word of mouth event featuring five bands (including Wise Jennings) and they had 300 people show up.
During their third year, the duo was invited again to Summerfest, were nominated by the Wisconsin Area Music Industry as best Americana Artist for 2018, and played coveted venues and festivals including The Levitt-Amp Artists Series for the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, WI, The Barn at LaGrange that invites select artists from around the country for a select artists series, The Horicon Phoenix Artist Series, Bastille Days in Milwaukee, Taste of Wisconsin in Kenosha, Homegrown Music Festival in West Bend, WI that features this biggest up and coming acts in Wisconsin, Featured Artist for Amplified Artist Series at the famed Saloon on Calhoun in Milwaukee, FemFest in Milwaukee, Jam for Jam Music Festival in Madison, WI, Glacier Valley Music Festival, Thorp Summerfest, Feed Your Head Music Festival and Wise Fest year 2.
Wise Jennings has been featured on The Jimmy K radio show out of Madison, is played on streaming radio stations across the state and was a featured artist on The Wisconsin Music Buzz radio show where they were awarded with the most listened to episode of 2019. They have been streamed live on the radio and have begun playing for national touring acts. 2019 also marked the release of their second full length album, Spit the Bit.
A new album is in the works, which they are hoping to release in early 2020.
When folks ask them what their style is, they often respond with "We sound like a Punk, Psychobilly, alt-Americana, Outlaw-country burrito if there was such a thing and you could listen to it."