Steamboat Springs It was the middle of last summer, and Jimmy VanDeuson couldn’t get a gig. Steamboat was his new home, but his new home didn’t know who he was.
So VanDeuson played a gig anyway.
He found speaker equipment and set up on the corner of Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue with the attitude he’d ask for forgiveness later instead of asking for permission. He played his guitar and sang his songs on warm sunny afternoons as passersby threw bills his way and wondered to one another who he was and why he was singing in front of a hot dog stand.
He doesn’t mind that people remember him as "The Hungry Dog guy," because he’s found a place among the local songwriters and musicians.
“I think the community is great,” VanDeuson said. “It’s when you find someone you can collaborate with on that level, on a spiritual level.”
He’s now part of a casually organized group of Colorado Mountain College students and local high schoolers that play together several times a month. Known as Jam Sesh, the group has picked up new members during the past year under the encouraging eye of local singer-songwriter Henry Howard.
“All of the other things that you could play at in town, it’s just a bar,” Howard said Tuesday evening in the Black Box Lounge of the Chief Theater, cleaning up after an open mic night event. “This lets people who are good songwriters get up, and it’s about a voice, expressing a person’s voice.
“The valuable part is honoring everyone’s opportunity.”
This winter, the group recorded new songs, each highlighting a member’s unique voice and talent, in the old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and will be celebrating the release of the third Jam Sesh album, “The Songwriter Series,” with a free event Thursday.
The release party is at 6 p.m. at Steaming Bean Coffee Co. The album is available for streaming online or for purchase at www.jamsesh.bandcamp.com.
The CD features VanDeuson, Howard, returning songwriter Garrett Pugh, Niki Sylte, Carly Jo Hanley, Zachary Brown, Aubrey Rohde and Guerin Lewis relaying their hopes, dreams and pain through words they write and sing themselves.
Howard said he hopes he can give the budding artists something he never had.
“No one was ever able to sit down with me and say, ‘I recognize what’s inside of you, and I want to see it grow into the fullness of what it can be,’” he said.
“When you write a song and sing it in front of people, it’s like opening up a journal, opening up your heart.”