Honoring Our Stories: The Music of Erika Jane

| By Haley Steinhardt |

Music captures our hearts in a way that few other mediums can. It reaches into those secret places within us where memories are stored, where wells of emotion remain untapped, lying in wait to be accessed by just the right resonant frequency that allows them to come bubbling to the surface of our consciousness. To those who make the music that feeds our souls, we stand forever in gratitude. Erika Jane is among these talented few, and she brings to us the gift of her voice, and her stories in song, right here in Western North Carolina.

Erika Jane

Erika Jane

Rock and Release

Some may be familiar with Erika Jane from her work with now defunct band, Erika Jane and Remember the Bees, who opened for the likes of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals and the Benevento Russo Duo. Erika Jane’s latest musical endeavor is called Red Honey, with band mates Brad Pope on guitar, Colin Townesend on drums, and Sam Steele on bass.
“These boys are so solid,” said Erika, “and we’re just like a crazy little tribe of hooligans that gets to run around and rock n’ roll and have fun! For us, it’s a total release. I think that we could all say that. We’re serious about it, but at the same time, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. That’s important, I think.” Red Honey is currently working on their second album and finishing up the filming of a new music video for their song “Blackbird” with the help of local videographer Aaron Putnam.

Building On a Dream

“Blackbird” was written in honor of the connection Erika feels to the Ojibwe people who built a sweat lodge on her family’s land. “I’m from Wisconsin,” she said, “and [my parents] have a house that overlooks the river. My dad kept having these dreams where he’d be in a sweat lodge. He tried looking around to see if he was supposed to get a sweat lodge, but decided, ‘Hey, this is kind of crazy. I’m just going to set that down.’ And then this lady contacted him and said, ‘My friends, who are the Ojibwe Indians, they’ve been looking to put a sweat lodge in this area for over 20 years. I thought I’d put you in contact with them. Maybe you can help.’ So, my dad calls this guy Lenny who says, ‘We’re looking to put a sweat lodge in. It has to be on a cliff overlooking the river. And my dad’s like, our house overlooks the river. ‘There has to be a family of eagles nearby,’ and there was a family of eagles. There are all these synchronicities. So, they came and they built this sweat lodge and, as a family, we’ve had an opportunity to get some immersion in some of that culture and history, and it’s really amazing and really inspiring.

“When the Ojibwe would come to sweat, they would also spend time sitting and talking with the family and their friends on the front porch. This lady came once and asked [one of the Ojibwe] how they could tell what weather was coming before there were weather reports, and he said they would watch the birds to see how they would take off and land. And so I started really thinking about that and thinking about the connection to feeling like you want to land on your feet, and you want to take off in a good direction. That’s what the birds are aiming to do, too. That’s where [the song] ‘Blackbird’ came from.”

The track is available on their first album, “Red Honey and the Pleasure Chest,” which is available in physical form now and will be released digitally this summer. While you wait to see what Red Honey comes up with for the official video release of “Blackbird,” you can check out an excellent live version of the song on YouTube as performed at the Visulite Theater.

A Universe of Support

As much as we listeners and audiophiles can soak up the art of song with ease, the business of being a working musician can be much more challenging. Erika Jane has learned a thing or two along the way and finds herself amazed and hugely grateful for the support she receives, both from the local music community in Western North Carolina and the larger music community she experiences as part of a touring band. “Asheville is a great place to be launching from because everybody knows it. There’s a definite Charleston-Asheville love, Knoxville-Asheville love; there are these connection points for when we go to play these cities. They are really warm and inviting because they love Asheville and feel like they’re a part of it in some way.”

Erika also has a full-time day job and is a wife and mother, and she has to find the time to balance it all. “People always say, ‘I have no idea how you do it,’ because I have a full-time job… and then [I’m] playing shows and trying to keep it all moving forward with the videos and the rehearsals… And when I say support, I should also say babysitters! I really feel like it takes a village, and this city is such a great village. [W]e have so much support and love, and I am so grateful. I feel like the universe is in support of us.”

Bringing It All Home

In August, Red Honey will share the bill with greats such as Merle Haggard, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, the Misfits and many more at the Ink-n-Iron Festival in Nashville, TN. Erika Jane is most excited about being billed alongside Wanda Jackson.

“Wanda Jackson is one of my all-time heroes. The very first show that [Brad] Pope and I ever played together was at Jack Of the Wood during [Asheville’s summer concert series] Downtown After Five, and Miss Wanda Jackson was out there rockin’ and rollin’ it at 84 with her fringe in downtown Asheville. We got all set up for the gig, we headed over there and we got to see her play. And it was so inspiring. So, playing [the Ink-n-Iron] Festival is really like bringing it all home because it was our first show playing together and now we get to share the same bill as Miss Wanda Jackson. My heart is going to explode! I can’t believe it! Pinch me!”

If you’d like to learn more about Erika Jane and her band Red Honey, you can find them on the web at TheRedHoney.com.

Haley Steinhardt is a freelance writer, editor, and owner of local business Soul Tree Publications, based out of Asheville, NC. Find her online at www.SoulTreePublications.com.

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker