by Lorie Lewis Ham
2011 Western Music Association Entertainer of the Year Juni Fisher returns to the Valley where she grew up for a couple of concerts this week and next. KRL took some time to chat with Juni about her music and her love of horses.
Lorie: I understand you’re from the Valley—where exactly did you grow up?
Juni: I grew up near Strathmore, California, in the farming community known to the locals as Prairie Center. It’s about 7 miles west of Strathmore, which is between Lindsay and Porterville
Lorie: Do you still live in the Valley?
Juni: No, but my mother and one of my sisters still live on the family ranch, but I moved away from the valley in 1984.
Lorie: How did you get into singing and playing guitar? And how specifically into western/cowboy music?
Juni: When I was six, turning seven, my parents found me a kind guitar teacher, after a not so kind piano teacher punished me for playing by ear. I just wanted so much to play and sing. Growing up, our dad sang us cowboy songs, and he loved traditional, melodic music. Later in life, I learned that so much traditional Cowboy music is based on old Celtic music, and learning of my deep Irish and Scotch heritage confirmed why I was so drawn to those melodies.
Lorie: Can you tell me a little more about the type of music you sing?
Juni: The songs I write tell the stories of the people of the west…their joys, their regrets, their mistakes and successes. Much of what I write has a “folk” feel, because of my childhood listening to both Western and Folk Music.
Lorie: Is this something you always wanted to do? If not, what were your original career plans?
Juni: Well, yes, music was part of what I wanted to do from when I was pretty young, but by the time I was in high school I was gearing my life to train horses as a profession, which I did for some time. While in college, singing in a dance orchestra, doing “big band” songs, was my way of paying for horse show entries.
Lorie: How long have you been singing?
Juni: I did my first onstage solo, at my kindergarten graduation, at five. My sisters and I had a sisters singing act throughout our elementary school years.
Lorie: When did you first record and how many CDs have you made?
Juni: The first CD was titled Tumbleweed Letters and was recorded and released in 1999. I now have five CDs available, and am working on numbers six and seven.
Lorie: Do you write your own songs?
Juni: Yes, that has been my primary focus since around 1985 or so, to be a writer first, singer second.
Lorie: Tell me about your latest CD?
Juni:The latest (2010) is called Let ‘er Go, Let ‘er Buck, Let ‘er Fly and is a tribute to the Pendleton (Oregon) Round-up’s 100 year celebration, which was in September 2010. I’d been asked to do a special song to honor Pendleton’s 100th year, and I answered “heck, I’ll do a whole album”. I was hired in early 2007 to perform in Pendleton during the 2010 roundup, so it gave me a couple of years to first complete a project I’d release in 2008, and then start research on the album for the Round-up in mid 2008. The research was fascinating, and folks came out of the Washington with their stories.
Lorie: Where all do you tour and how much of the year?
Juni: Typically, my tour routing will have me in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma, and occasionally in the Midwest: this year I’ll be in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio for a few shows in the fall. Most years, I’m on the road 220 to 250 days.
Lorie: What do you love best about performing this type of music?
Juni: The people who follow Western Music, whether they are full time fans, or folks who want to “visit” the Western culture by attending a western Music and Cowboy Poetry festival once in a while, are the best part about what I do. They have great stories and histories, and they share them freely. And the other performers I’ve gotten to know over the years have become some of my best friends in the world. Because of my love of Western History, the editor of True West Magazine and I have become friends, and I’ve been featured in that publication, as well as being asked to be a contributing writer. So many interesting and wonderful characters inhabit the West.
Lorie: Tell me about your awards?
Juni: For Western Music, Starting in 2005, Academy Of Western Artists Female Performer of the Year, 2005 Western Music Association Crescendo Award (that is their award for a newcomer in the genre), 2006 Western Music Association Female Performer of the Year (and in 2009 and 2011 as well for that one) 2007 Western Music Association Song of the Year (and again in 2011), 2008 Western Music Association Songwriter of the Year, 2008 Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City, 2009 Western Music Association Album of the Year, and 2011 Entertainer of the Year. For the WMA Songwriter of the Year, Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy Museum, and WMA Entertainer of the Year, I was the first woman in the history of Western Music to receive those awards.
Lorie: Future goals?
Juni:An album of some of the old dance band standards and some blues numbers I integrate into my shows is in the works, and another album of stories and landscapes of the western slope of the Sierra Nevadas. The Western Music Association works year round to promote and grow this unique genre of music, and I work closely with them, helping with the annual event, and conducting workshops for performers.
Lorie: Can you tell me a little about your work with horses?
Juni: As a young teenager in 4-H, horse shows had a draw for me: it was a challenge to learn the ins and outs of all that, not being from a horse show family, but by the time I was in college and showing in Intercollegiate Horse shows and Quarter Horse and Arabian shows, I had a knack for getting on a horse for another owner or trainer, and being able to figure out quickly how to get it shown for them: it’s called “catch riding” in some circles…it just means other trainers might need a horse shown, and they are committed to show another owner’s horse in a particular class, to they need someone who can take quick last minute instructions on what the horse needs, get on, and make a good showing for them.
Then, in my twenties, I sent several years apprenticing under a cow horse trainer in Tulare, California, learning to start and train reined cow horses. He helped me greatly with my own young horse, which I showed in and won, at the 1981 IARCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, an event for young reined cow horses…it’s somewhat a triathlon for young stock horses.
I loved that kind of riding, and still have ties to some of those folks. In late 1984 I moved to Santa Ynez, California to work for a cutting horse trainer. It was really not my “thing” but at that time it seemed like the thing to do. I got out of training for a few years, concentrating on music, but by 1989 I was back in, foxhunting and point to point racing, moved to Tennessee in 1990 and by 1991 had picked up eventing, competing in horse trials all over the Midwest and adrenalin, and was galloping steeplechase horses as a sideline. Three cracked vertebrae in my neck and a lot of wear and tear injuries finally convinced me to retire from those rough and tumble adrenalin junkie sports, and concentrate harder on music again.
Lorie: Are you excited about singing where you grew up? Have you toured this area before?
Juni: There are a couple of places in the Valley where I play, one of them is Mavericks Roasting Company in Visalia, a neat coffee shop with a western theme, that hosts Western Music performers for concerts: I’ll be there June 22, and will do a show for the Tulare County Historical Society May 5, near Orosi. I’ll be at River Ridge Ranch just outside Springville, May 9, and of course at the Buck Shaffer Theater February 11 for a benefit show for the Strathmore High Band Program.
Lorie: What can people expect when they come to one of your concerts?
Juni: I hope they will be completely entertained and happy: folks who come in thinking Western Music is only what Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers sang are usually pleasantly surprised by the depth of contemporary Western/Folk music that is well written and well performed. I call it story telling through song, sharing quips and stories and history throughout the show. Sort of a female Will Rogers who sings and plays guitar, instead of doing rope tricks.
Lorie: Anything else you would like to add?
Juni: This is the most rewarding, wonderful work on earth for me right now, and I’m very thankful that I get to do what I love to do, and that people come and have fun with me at my concerts. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share what I do!
Upcoming Valley Concert Info:
Feb 4, Home Concert, Bakersfield, CA
call Lacey, 661-203-0336 for tickets or email her: email@example.com
Lacey and her Mom are hosting a concert at their place, in the barn…and they have already invited lots of friends and neighbors, so call early to secure your seats!
Learn more about Juni on her website.
Feb 11, Strathmore High Band Benefit, 7:30 Buck Schaffer Theater, Porterville, CA
$10.00 adults, 12 and under $5.00.
Get tickets at Jeff’s Music, 342 No Porter, Porterville CA 559-784-5333, or White’s Music 100 E Caldwell, Visalia, CA 559-635-0156, or Strathmore High School, Strathmore CA 559-568-1731
My Alma Mater, Strathmore High School has a remarkable band program, and I’m presenting a concert to help them raise funds for the band to travel to Scotland for an international band competition. If you can come that is wonderful, and if you can’t you can contact me, I’ll help you with getting your contribution to the band. I’m so proud of them! They will be performing a specially arranged song of mine with me, as well as some other selections, before my concert begins. Come meet the band, and meet my infamous MOM, who will no doubt be holding court.