By Marcy Stamper
In an uncharacteristically quiet moment in the beer garden at the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival, singer-songwriter Brittany Jean made her Methow Valley debut, captivating the audience with only her acoustic guitar and sensitive vocals as she performed what has become an anthem of the Carlton Complex Fire.
Just a year ago, as the wildfire descended on Brewster, and Jean’s family was evacuated, she began writing “Wildfire.” “It was snowing ash and the sky was orange. I’d never experienced anything like that, with the fire coming over the mountain,” she said.
Jean, 23, who has been writing songs since she was 16, said she often turns to music when she needs an anchor. “That’s how I process things,” she said. While “Wildfire” started taking shape in the midst of their evacuation that first night, she later wove in stories she heard around town and at the grocery store as she talked to friends and neighbors.
Jean said she never expected — or intended — for “Wildfire” to become an anthem. She recorded it in Nashville as she was working on her second CD and then shared it around town when she got back home. Eventually the song was heard by people involved with the Carlton Complex Long Term Recovery Group, who thought it would be the perfect soundtrack for a video to build support and raise money for recovery.
“It was perfect timing — they’ve taken me with them,” said Jean, who has since performed “Wildfire” at numerous fundraising events with the group.
Jean, who moved to Brewster from Chicago two years ago, was initially surprised to find so many musical opportunities in this rural area. But she has found a receptive audience for her country-folk style when she performs in local cafés and other venues.
While “Wildfire” is about a devastating time, Jean intentionally created the song to be sweet and gentle. “I didn’t want it to be too hard for people to listen to — people lost homes,” she said. Her lyrics balance the emotions people experienced: “But we are stronger than our fear/The homes we built are burning down/To the ground…. Call your folks and let them know/We’re okay…. We’ll be okay.”
Jean’s first CD, Whispered Stories, is available on her website. She is recording her second album, which she expects to release this fall.
“Wildfire” can be downloaded from the website of the long-term recovery group at www.carltoncomplexrecovery.com/wildfire. All proceeds go to rebuilding. There is also a link to the video that uses “Wildfire” as the soundtrack. Jean’s own website is www.brittany-jean.com.