Raised in rural Washington state in the log house built by her parents, Jessi McNeal has been singing and writing songs in some shape or form for most of her life. Simple hymns and old country tunes formed the soundtrack of her childhood, and her ear for melody and love of storytelling developed at an early age.
Billboard premiered her latest album The Driveway and called the collection of songs “reflective.” “That’s definitely how I process life: pen and guitar in hand,” McNeal told Billboard.
The album encompasses stories that illustrate the idea that McNeal calls the “messy” middle. “I feel like the overarching theme of the album is really about the middle ground – the in-between, the waiting, the hope-not-yet seen,” McNeal told Wide Open Country.
Americana, bluegrass, and folk traditions are present and alive in her lyrics and music, as the imagery and landscapes of country life weave their way into her songs. Her sound is comforting and inviting, though she doesn’t shy away from the difficulties and struggles of life’s journey, instead, using songwriting as a soothing balm for many wounds, creating songs rimmed in redemption.
In the premiere of album track “Out Of Reach,” McNeal told The Bluegrass Situation that she is “trying to rest more in what I know to be true as opposed to getting hung up on all of the possibilities and worst-case scenarios when I’m facing a decision.” With its darker tonal palette and simple, unfussy production, the album’s songs swirl with pedal and lap steel, vibe-y electric guitar, and banjo and mandolin, providing well-placed levity in some of the album’s darker corners
Jessi and her husband have four children, and they make their home north of Seattle in the Skagit Valley on their five-acre farm.