“I was the youngest youngest (…) I am feeling older now… but inside I am younger than a lot of people”…“I wanna grab all I can because I am really enjoying it”: Marti Jeffers, 60ish, singer & songwriter, Amethyst, Akron, Ohio
I interviewed Marti Jeffers in our friend Stephanie Serna’s house where the crew and I were staying while filming in Akron. Stephanie’s dog Alvin was sitting on the sofa next to Marti. During the interview more guests arrived, another interviewee Marilyn Dirrig who played guitar for Marti to sing a song and Daniela Jauk who helped me find interview partners in Akron.
Marti did not tell me her exact age, the only thing she let me know was, that she was 60ish. “The age thing, I am just not accepting it well. Most of my life I was the youngest: in my family, in this group, the youngest in my class…” More recently her social life circles around younger people and “I am feeling older and I am really feeling that… the years… but inside I am younger than a lot of people” (…) “I wish it had happened obviously a lot earlier, but that wasn’t my life – this is my life”. “I was a shy child, I still am shy, but people who see me on stage say: wow, I didn’t know that you had that in you” Marti tells me with a proud smile.
She always sang. When she was little, Marti remembers her mother and the whole family singing, “she had music in the house, that was very influential”. Her mother sang old standards and country style music. Marti grew up on a farm in the countryside. Her grandmother who lived with the family taught her how to read and write before she started school. Her grandmother’s kindness and gentleness were very influential to her. As a child Marti was in music groups and madrigal groups, “there were periods, I guess, when music was less important — not less important — but when I was less active, primarily when I was married”.
When she went to a singer- songwriter retreat a few years ago “it just started a new chapter in my life and I hooked up with a lot of new people. Stephanie Serna (Pirate Jenny) was one” Since then she is doing a lot of lead singing, usually in the past it was group singing. After the retreat she went to the open mic which was then hosted by Stephanie Serna. At first Marti did not sing “I had no one to back me up” but then she asked friends to play with her. After that she and Stephanie became friends and Marti a part of The Pirate Jenny Band, a Rock Band. Together with Bev Hutchens and Stephanie Serna she founded the Moonflowers and she is also the founder and lead singer of Amethyst (with Amy Walker, Al Lytle, Marilyn Dirrig and Frankie ‘Ricardo’ Kuta). She also plays the bass clarinet in a community type band.
Sometimes when she’s going to sleep at night or waking up, she has an idea for a new song: “it has to be a positive period in my life (…) I need to be up, and feeling very vital and optimistic for words to come to me – I hear a phrase or a phrase will come to me”. But the blues is also a big part of her. “I have to be feeling some kind of passion”.
20 years ago, Marti did not do what she wanted, but now she is living “more authentically, I am doing what my passion is… I wish I were back there so I would have all that to experience, I feel like I started this so late in my life and now it is not even full time I work a forty-hour job in an office, and I work my passion in the rest of the time” (laughs). “That is why I stay in so many groups. I wanna grab all I can because I am really enjoying it”. Imagining being 80 Marti thinks she will sing the same songs but write different songs, because she has all this experience between now and then: ”It will still be busy” (laughs).
If she would write a song for women 50+ it had to include: “Every day is a new adventure, look for that spark, as you did when you were 40, 30 or 20 look for the spark, the vitality look for the life… the moment in your day and (she laughs out loud) try to forget that you are 50+”