Ilona Pal’s Americana Single “A Farm In Indiana” Pays Tribute to James Dean’s Hometown

Ilona Pal cd single cover artwork

What you have written, and written well, obviously came from the heart and, for me,“A Farm in Indiana” has that same haunting quality as Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”. And it’s not because it’s about James Dean, it’s just a great song.  I have now listened to it repeatedly and I don’t tire of hearing it.” — Jim Hayes

Ilona Pal has travelled the rails between Montreal and Ottawa many times over, but in November of 2017, that train ride, and a movie about friendship, love and loss inspired a song that gave her wings to fly.

The movie was the 2015 feature film “Life”: the story of photographer Dennis Stock’s historic 1955 photo shoot of iconic actor James Dean in Fairmount, Indiana, for that still famous spread in Life Magazine.

“The song was a gift,” says Ilona. “I wasn’t looking to write a song about James Dean that day, the song was looking for me.” But when the last frame of the film faded to black and the words ‘James Dean died 6 months later’ appeared on the screen, she felt a wave of emotion well up in her chest. That wave soon reached her creative spirit, and all at once, most of the lyrics and melody that would become A Farm In Indiana were born.

Pal, an insightful singer-songwriter from Montreal, first emerged as an independent Canadian New Country artist with her debut single, Hold On Heart, and self-titled album. She landed a spot on the roster at Peter Asher Management in LA, alongside such notable artists as Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. French recordings of her songs have ranked #1 in Quebec and received ADISQ award nominations. Film credits include the closing theme song for Time At The Top (Showtime, HBO).

Produced by Les Cooper (The Good Lovelies, Jill Barber, Andy Stochansky, Craig Cardiff, Meaghan Smith, Madison Violet and David Myles, among others.), a Juno award-winning producer, Les is a songwriter, arranger and multi-instrumentalist, whose arrangements have frequently been compared to those of past greats such as Nelson Riddle and Duke Ellington, earning him a reputation as a composer with a classic and timeless sound.

A Farm in Indiana is their first collaborative writing effort.

Les brought in the magnificent Drew Jurecka to play violin. His soaring emotional solo was a first take, and captured the essence of the song beautifully. His passionate playing conjures up images of love and loss, as well as the sweetness of home and longing to be there. Stylistically, the down-home feel evokes genuine feelings of comfort. The solo is the heart of the arrangement, which features Cooper on guitar, lap steel and banjo, rounding out the ‘Americana’ folk tune.

“The train had a huge influence on this song. It was born on a train, inspired by a train ride when at the age of nine, James Dean brought his mother’s remains back to Fairmount, Indiana from LA, and it was the train that took me to Les in Toronto to produce the song,” mused Pal. “One thing I knew for sure was that the train had to be represented in the rhythm of the song.”

Pal then contacted the Main Street Fairmount organization in Indiana to propose a partnership. She would attach their fundraising initiative to her music video to aid the town of Fairmount in its ongoing effort towards the restoration and preservation of James Dean’s hometown. This was a complete leap of faith on their behalf, but the proposal was met with incredible enthusiasm and excitement, and soon, plans for a performance at the annual James Dean Festival in September were also underway.

“The highlight of making this connection for me was the day I called Marcus Winslow,” says Pal. Winslow, James Dean’s cousin, was like a little brother to him. To this day, he lives on the farm that both inspired the song and figures prominently in the photos of Dean from 1955. So, on a lovely summer afternoon, she called Marcus and told him all about the song. “He’s a gracious man of few words. He listened intently as I explained what I was trying to do,” Ilona recalls. It all seemed to come full circle as she recited the lyrics to him. The song had ultimately ‘come home’, to the place of its inspiration—the dream of every songwriter. 

In September 2018, Ilona performed A Farm in Indiana at the James Dean Festival in Fairmount, Indiana. Appearing on the Main Street stage and at the James Dean memorial service at the Back Creek Friends Church, a huge privilege and honour!

According to Ilona, “this song has legs and it’s moving on a mission unto itself.” She’s just very grateful to be along for the journey and happy the song chose her.

Today would have been James Dean’s 88th birthday.

www.ilonapal.com

Kirsten Jones Nominated For A CCMA Award!

I am so fortunate to be able to work with some exceedingly talented Canadian musicians and singer-songwriters, including Ann Vriend, Kelli Trottier, Sultans of String, Shari Ulrich, Jennifer Gasoi, and the fabulous Kirsten Jones!

Kirsten recently shared this news with her friends and fans in a newsletter and I am so proud of her that I would like to share it with you too!  Congratulations Kirsten!!

“Hello everyone!

I couldn’t be happier to share this great news with you – I just received a nomination for Roots Artist of the Year from the Canadian Country Music Awards.

There is no way this could have happened without YOU.  Some of you have helped in huge ways (years of friendship and support) and others in small ways (simply joining this mailing list).  But all of these actions – big and small – have kept me going on a daily basis and have paved the road to this award nomination.

I am most excited about this because it is one of the only national platforms for Americana/Alt Country artists in Canada.  Most are straight folk or country awards – and it’s a little bit of a “square peg in a round hole” situation for artists like myself.  So this is a real honour and a dream come true.

Thank you so much for all your help, support, love, purchases, and good vibes.  You can check out all the other CCMA nominees and other details about the upcoming awards at www.ccma.org.

My sincerest thanks,
Kirsten”

Introducing Alt-Country Angel Kirsten Jones!

Scully Love Promo is proud to welcome Alt-country, Juno nominee Kirsten Jones to our client roster!

It’s so easy to work as a social media manager and internet promoter for someone who has a voice like Kirsten’s.  Her latest album, The Mad Mile, has earned her 1 of Billboard’s Top 5 artists to watch in 2010, a Juno nomination and four international award winning songs.  It features superstar guests like The Jayhawks’ Gary Louris, Blue Rodeos’s Jim Cuddy and Americana artist of the year Greg Leisz.

These are just some of the kudos that Kirsten has accumulated:

“Kirsten’s Juno-nominated recent release, The Mad Mile, should be nestled comfortably in your CD-changer beside your copy of Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball, since the transition between the two discs will sound seamless.”
– Roots Music Canada, rootsmusic.ca

“Smooth-as-buckwheat-honey vocals…a bona fide comparison to Emmylou Harris is not out of order…”

– Eric Thom, Exclaim Magazine

Toronto-based singer/songwriter Kirsten Jones had only one producer in mind for her sophomore album, The Mad Mile: former Jayhawks front man Gary Louris.”  I knew I wanted to try getting in touch with Gary before even trying to think of anyone else, so I looked up his management online and just sent them a package.”  A few months later, Louris’ management e-mailed Jones, saying Gary was interested in the project.  By summer, Jones and Louris were writing in her Toronto living room, where they also finished all the preproduction for the recording in three days.  They hit the studio later that fall.  Creating a sound that combined her alt country and folk influences with her own unique writing style came naturally, thanks to Louris’ firsthand experience with some of Jones’ favourite artists (The Dixie Chicks, Kelly Willis, Lucinda Williams, The Jayhawks).

“She has interesting lyrics, pretty heavy duty lyrics and a hook sensibility.  She has it, you know?  I’m jealous – I wish I had written these songs…”

– Gary Louris

In what proved to be a banner year, Kirsten also received a coveted FACTOR award for over $20,000 toward the making of the new CD.  The Mad Mile was released on May 11, 2010, and is distributed through Fontana North/Universal. Guests include pedal steel player Greg Leisz (Emmylou Harris, Tracy Chapman, Sheryl Crow, Alison Krauss), Oh Susanna, and Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy and Bob Egan.

“The end result of their fruitful partnership (Louris/Jones) is ‘The Mad Mile,’ an alt country/roots record which could very well do for Jones what ‘Failer‘ did for Kathleen Edwards.”

– Jason MacNeil, spinner.com

Throughout the last two years, several aspects of Jones’ career have fallen into place.  She was chosen by Billboard Canada as one of five artists to watch in 2010, and The Mad Mile has already been nominated for a 2010 Juno Award, thanks to an early iTunes release.  Jones has been a finalist two years in a row in the International Songwriting Competition in the Americana category (out of over 15,000 entries), a Top 3 finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in the country category (alongside Canadian success story Gordie Sampson), was a finalist in the Kerrville New Folk Contest, and has received honourable mention in both the Billboard and Nashville Songwriter’s Association songwriting competitions. The Canadian Country Music Awards invited Kirsten to perform two years in a row at the prestigious Songwriter’s Cafe, alongside such celebrated songwriters as Victoria Banks, Lisa Brokop, Jamie Warren, and Jessie Farrell.  Kirsten wrote or co-wrote every song on The Mad Mile, and two songs were co-written with producer Gary Louris.

Most recently, Kirsten was invited down to Nashville to sing on WSM, the official radio home of the Grand Ole Opry, at the Country Music Awards’ Music Fest Celebration. Still eligible for the Junos next year, 2011 is shaping up to be a big year.

PREVIOUSLY…

Kirsten Jones released her debut album Drive-In Movie in 2005. It received airplay in all Canadian provinces, peaking at 3 on CBC’s Galaxie Folk/Roots chart.  She has toured in the US and Canada, including dates with Jim Cuddy, Lynn Miles, Oh Susanna, Corb Lund, Hayes Carll, Minnie Driver, Rose Cousins and numerous others.

“The music of Kirsten Jones combines the best elements of alt-country and contemporary folk.  She’s also an engaging live performer, bringing both introspection and high humour to her shows.”

– Mark Rheaume, CBC Radio

“The talented singer-songwriter is now busy winning the hearts of fans and breaking genres with her unique style of alt-country that she sings with heartfelt sincerity and catchy hooks.”

– Blue Rodeo website, “One Degree” section

Kirsten is extremely happy to report that she is one of 10 artists in the running for Roots Artist of the Year at this year’s Canadian Country Music Awards.  She has to make it one more round to get the actual CCMA nomination.  She’s in some pretty heady company, including past favourites like Corb Lund and Jimmy Rankin.  But she is unique in that she is the only female solo artist on the list, and one of the (very) few truly independent artists as well.  Only CCMA members can vote, so if you know any, please let them know about Kirsten’s spot in the Roots category.

Kirsten is currently on tour in Eastern Canada for the month of July and will be playing at Country Music Week in Hamilton, ON in September as well as at the American Music Festival & Conference in Nashville, TN in October.

Find Kirsten Jones online at:

Official website

Facebook

YouTube

Twitter

MySpace

CBC Radio 3