This story begins in 2005.
I was seventeen and had just moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music. I had two friends when I lived there, Jess M and Jess L! Yep, two Jesses!
We were all pursuing music, but all in slightly different genres. We wrote music together, shared hopes and doubts, and had some great laughs.
I lived in Nashville for a year, then moved away to attend college. Eight years – and a whole lifetime later – I came back. I still counted both Jesses as dear friends, though Jess M had moved to Texas. (I would have to wait until AWTY times to see Jess M again…stay tuned for that story)!
Every now and then, Jess L and I would play out around town. It was great because we both knew each other’s songs so well, we sang great harmonies for one another!
One day, Jess shared a new song she had just finished with her Nashville songwriter, Colleen Francis. It was called “Wanderer”. My reaction was something along the lines of:
“Jess….that….that is my SONG!”
See, I had been pretty lonely for a spell. A breakup had left me pretty torn up, and after a few years of healing I was ready to find my person. I dated, but it was frustrating because nothing ever really clicked.
I learned the harmony to “Wanderer” and we added it to our setlist of songs. Every time we sang it, I remember feeling like I was sending a mantra out into the air. A little message to the universe, asking for a fellow wanderer.
A year later I put on my own wandering shoes again, and I moved to China. Two months after that, José Luis and I crossed paths.
It was as if the universe took my request to heart. José’s lust for travel made mine look like child’s play. At the time of our meeting, he had already been to seventy countries.
Well, the rest is history.
We lived in China for year longer, where we started learning to combine our contrasting artforms. Then we left back across the world to pursue the Art We There Yet project.
Fast forward two years, and we were on the road in a colorful beast of a bus! When our route passed close to Kentucky, I knew just who I wanted to stop and visit.
Jess and her husband, Neal, now own a farm in Kentucky, and what an incredible spot it is. We parked the bus right up next to the farmhouse, and shared a wonderful visit.
Back in those Nashville days, we never recorded together. I guess when you always have “next weekend” to do something, you never really get around to doing it!
So it was so special that we finally recorded and captured the sound of our voices in harmony. And I knew exactly which songs I wanted to record! “Getting Better Alright” was always Jess’s favorite. That song never sounded better than when she’s singing harmony! I am so grateful we finally captured that on tape.
And the other song? “Wanderer”. It just felt so right, like everything had finally come full circle.
Well, we recorded the tune and then it sat in waiting in a hard drive for a year. If you’ve read the story behind “Here We Listen” you know about how long it took to pull my many ideas into one cohesive musical project.
After “Here We Listen”, we were ready to dive into the next music video celebrating the landscapes of the Americas. When I started brainstorming the next song, it took all of five minutes to feel that one out. Of course, it had to be “Wanderer”.
There we were in Baja, one of the most strikingly beautiful places on the planet, fulfilling the very vision embodied in the song. We were about to head north, en route to Nevada to paint our most massive mural to date. So we would be traversing the entire Baja Peninsula, then grazing the Sierra Nevadas, then crossing the Basin & Range. We knew we would have amazing landscapes to celebrate into the video.
And so we began filming.
We started by filming me walking with the guitar through landscapes in Cataviña, Guerrero Negro, and Quinta Cristina, Baja. This was all José Luis. He took the reins on the creative vision for this music video. By weaving together a series of these shots, his vision was to capture the essence of being a wanderer.
Our next filming location was the cliffs of San Quintín, Baja California. There is a line in the song that goes:
Take my hand
Let me show you how it feels to be free
Here we stand
On the edge of everything
We didn’t plan it that way; we didn’t know the bus could park so close to the cliff’s edge. But it did, and it was so perfect.
Next came accordian. The summer before, my grandmother had passed away and I inherited her accordian. My grandmother was a world-class pianist, the real true deal. Music was a bond we shared, though her skills also made mine look like child’s play!
We filmed the accordian in California, tucked up against the Sierra Nevadas, en route to Nevada to paint our most massive mural to date.
Something the video never showed…if you were to pan this shot just a little to the left, you would see a wildfire in the distance. It had just started up the day before, and all that night we hesitantly watched it, ready to scramble and evacuate the camping spot if necessary!
We tried to get work done there next to the Sierras, but it was just too darn hot! So we decided to duck up into the mountains themselves, and hopefully our computers could continue functioning.
So we headed up into the pine forests, and there we filmed the bass.
The final track – the piano – was filmed in the most intriguing place. And it was quite an odyssey to get there!
Metropolis was once an up-and-coming town in Northeastern Nevada. But its story reminds us of our fragility and absolute reliance on natural resources. Without water rights to nearby Bishop Creek, the town eventually died of thirst.
This arch was once the main entrance to a high school building. It now stands alone in the middle of the desert. It was the perfect place to film the piano.
And so there it is. The story behind “Wanderer”.
Did you know?
The AWTY Patreon is home to a whole series of intimate, behind-the-scenes stories!
Complete with sketches directly from Cora’s journals.
The AWTY Patreon Family is the beating heart behind the Art We There Yet project.
…And they get a mountain of goodies in return!
40 unreleased demos from Cora
100 photographs from José
An exclusive discount code for José Luis Vílchez Fine Art Prints
Untold stories straight from Cora’s journals
Free downloads of new Cora Rose albums
Credits in the final film and book