Local songwriter Jackson Emmer will ‘sing’ in new Colorado legislative session
Local singer-writer Jackson Emmer has penned songs about losing love, drinking whiskey and life’s struggles and triumphs, but his musical energies will take on a patriotic flair Thursday.
Emmer, based in Carbondale, will perform as part of the pageantry surrounding Gov. Jared Polis’ Colorado State of the State address before the joint assembly of the Colorado General Assembly.
“I got a voicemail out of the blue that said, ‘Hello, I’m from the state Capitol and we want to invite you to come do this,’ and that was maybe three weeks ago,” Emmer, an Americana music artist, said Friday.
Emmer later called back to confirm he would take the gig.
“So I said ‘yes.’ At the time I’d lost my voice to a cold, but I said I’m going to say ‘yes’ to it and hopefully I get better in time and learn the songs.”
Emmer said he’s been on the mend and will be ready. Now 33, the Colorado Rocky Mountain School and Bennington School of Vermont graduate said the vastly different nature of the songs has kept him busy practicing in his home studio.
His solo performances, with the aid of an acoustic guitar, will include “Where the Columbines Grow” and “Rocky Mountain High,” both official state songs of Colorado, as well as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Music, like politics, can be about connections, and Emmer noted he started one with freshman state Rep. Matt Soper, whose District 54 includes parts of Mesa and Delta counties, last year.
Soper and his wife, acting on the encouragement of Emmer’s father, Maurice, attended one of Emmer’s country/roots-inspired concerts in Telluride last year. Soper enjoyed what he saw and heard, especially Emmer’s performance of “My Love for You Texas,” a track from his second album, 2018’s “Jukebox.”
The two met after the concert, and Soper asked Emmer his thoughts about playing at future legislative session. Emmer was receptive to the idea, but it wasn’t until last month’s call that it began to take hold.
The Emmer son and father might sit on different parts of the political spectrum, but the two are just fine with that.
Maurice, an Aspen resident and one-time mayoral candidate, frequently writes letters to the newspapers critical of the Democrats’ politics on the national and global stages, while other letters take aim at the liberal leanings of Aspen City Council and local government.
Maurice met Soper in recent years though their involvement with Convention of States, a nonpartisan group with the ultimate goal to rewrite the U.S. Constitution through what would be a first constitutional convention. Maurice said he and his wife will attend Thursday’s event.
“He’s our governor,” Maurice said of Polis, “and I’ll be interested in what he has to say.”
Said Jackson, “What I will say about politics is I’m not really in the business of shutting out people who I don’t agree with, and I’m pretty liberal. I think for politics to work, it takes a lot of compromise.”
Jackson said it doesn’t matter that his meeting with an elected Republican — Soper — set the stage for his invitation.
“I’m happy to be there and have been invited by conservatives to celebrate,” he said. “I’m not conflicted about it.”
Emmer said he won’t have any surprises when he sings the national anthem, which has seen mangled and flawless public performances.
“My approach is to try and keep it simple,” he said. “There are a lot of great versions and a lot more (people) make it more complicated than it should be.”
The anthem’s lyrics came from a poem written in September 1814 by Francis Scott Key about the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The music behind it came from “To Anacreon in Heaven” composed by Brit John Stafford Smith. It wasn’t until 1931 that it was declared the national anthem through a congressional resolution signed by President Herbert Hoover.
That was actually 16 years after Dr. Arthur John Fynn’s “Where the Columbines Grow,” written in 1911, was adapted as Colorado’s official state song in 1915.
Throw in “Rocky Mountain High,” the 1972 hit recorded by John Denver, who wrote the song about Colorado with Mike Taylor, and Emmer will have plenty to sing about.
“All of these were written in pretty different times,” he said. “It’s nice for me to stretch my ear and voice.”
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