Through all that, itÂ’s all got VeznerÂ’s own unique stamp. Several of the songs -- okay, many of them -- have to do with seeing yourself clearly, or not, and asking that of others. Who Am I Gonna Be, finds Vezner inviting you to ponder family and character connections along with him, while I Know looks at past mistakes and what to do with them. All Roads Lead to the River just might be a modern day gospel song, or a love song, or something else entirely. The title song, We Remember, is a graceful take on living with and learning from memories, a song that really fits the description of a song as a three minute movie. All Things Considered brings in VeznerÂ’s dry humor, while Tell Me What You Ache For is a song about a love that could be, a look at that moment in time of wondering and questioning.
Summing up Jon VeznerÂ’s songs in a line or two doesnÂ’t, of course, do them justice any more than writing down a conversation in a line would give you its substance. VeznerÂ’s best songs sometimes come form conversations, he thinks. When he has plans to write a song with someone Â“It really bugs me when they start reading this list of ideas. I mean, I can write a good song from that, but I would so much rather have a good conversation with someone, about life, about whatÂ’s going on, and tease an idea out of that,Â” he says.
Though they are rarely directly autobiographical, many of VeznerÂ’s songs have their roots in family situations. He grew up in Minnesota, where he played in bands during high school Â“and there was a conflict, because the guys in the band all wanted to do cover songs, and I wanted to write the stuff. IÂ’d get bored learning lyrics to cover songs, and start making up my own,Â” he recalls. He went to college and got a degree in music education but decided that wasnÂ’t the career for him, so he e worked in his dadÂ’s machine shop. Â“IÂ’ve always loved the mechanical side of things, really loved doing things with my hands,Â” he says. Â“When IÂ’m writing lyrics I always need to be doing something else, and so I was writing lyrics in my head while I was working in the machine shop back then too.Â”
Eventually, through the Minnesota Songwriters Association and the publishing company Wrensongs, which had started up in Saint Paul, he made contacts in Nashville. Â“I decided I needed to move, and it was the classic thing, pulling a U Haul trailer with all my stuff in it,Â” he says. Vezner was in his mid thirties when he made the move. Â“Sometimes I wish IÂ’d moved a little sooner, but I wasnÂ’t in a place emotionally to to do it,Â” he says. The timing worked for his song writing -- he got several high profile cuts in succession Â“ and I thought, this is going to be easy. Not!Â” he recalls. laughing. It hasnÂ’t always been, but that move was in 1985. VeznerÂ’s built a lasting career. Â“IÂ’ve never really chased the country thing, thatÂ’s never really worked for me,Â” he says, but in the lyric based world of country music heÂ’s found a place. One of his most respected and least likely hits is WhereÂ’ve You Been, a tale of love lasting through trials into old age, loosely based on a connection he saw between his grandparents. The song, which which won a Grammy as well as top country song honors, was recorded by Kathy Mattea. Â“It was supposed to be an end piece on the album,Â” Vezner says. Â“We were all very surprised when the label said they were going to put it out as a single. I said Â‘what? you want people to be crying on the the freeway during drive time?Â” Mattea recalls.
The songs Vezner is doing these days share the same spirit of characters connecting in the song, of real stories told, of people who remain in the mind and heart after the song is done. If you get the chance to hear Vezner play them live, take it, so you can hear the humor and passion of his music come through in person. All that travels well on record, too: We Remember is a fine next chapter for Jon Vezner, and a great way to get acquainted with his music and his voice if they are new to you.
Kerry Dexter, Music Correspondent Kerry's credits include VH1, CMT, the folk music magazine Dirty Linen, Strings, The Encyclopedia of Ireland and the Americas, and The MusicHound Guides. She also writes about the arts and creative practice at Music Road and contributes to Fred Bals' Series of Tubes.