Wise Jennings are a folk rock duo consisting of Melissa Weishaar and Jeff Jennings. They are known for running Wise Farm Productions, where they throw festivals and concert series across the Southeastern Wisconsin area. As far as performances go, Wise Jennings play enough instruments between the two of them to sound dynamically like a full band, so they’re certainly a live show to see. Their most recent record, “The Madness Inside,” they released in two parts.
ME: First things first – how did you guys get involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures?
MELISSA: Well, I was actually following their Facebook page for a while; I don’t know how I came upon it but I must’ve seen that they were doing events. Then a good friend of ours Ann Rakowiecki became a member and she’s been very participative in the discussions, so she was constantly tagging me in stuff, and I started interacting more with the group that way. Then funny story – one day Allison was doing a live stream and I just happened to be scrolling through Facebook and saw it, started watching her, and we just started chatting in the comments section of the live stream. We ended up doing a group video where she brought me on camera and we had this great conversation, and then she called me afterwards and asked why I wasn’t a member. I just kind of thought that it was for people that wanted to get gigs and that it wouldn’t be something that they’d be interested in us for, but Allison was really kind to explain it more to me and help me understand what it was really all about. So we became members because it made sense, and we really love doing anything to support the music scene from both a promoter perspective and a band perspective.
ME: Well all that’s good; I was happy to see that you were a part of it too.
ME: So that being said, can you walk us through what exactly Wise Farm Productions entails? Like, do you actually live on a farm?
MELISSA: No. It could be if we wanted it to be; we do have a barn. But if we wanted to we could have chickens and sheep and all the stuff here but we just don’t because we can hardly take care of our kids (laughs). We jokingly say that we don’t farm technically but we farm music, so we create these musical events and let people come be a part of that.
ME: I like that. It’s a good metaphor for the work you do. That’s sweet.
ME: Tell us about “The Madness Inside” and what went into this body of work and why you chose to put it out.
JEFF: We put it into two volumes because it was thirteen songs. We had a lot that we wanted to get out and the two volumes would make it more digestible, easier for us to release, and easier to promote.
MELISSA: We’re actually releasing a vinyl for it, and Side A is Volume One and Side B is Volume Two.
ME: Why is it called “The Madness Inside”? Is there a concept behind it?
JEFF: Yeah, actually, “The Clod” would have been the title track; it really is an autobiographical song about Melissa and I, and it’s self-deprecating. These ideas of wanting to tell people what you think but you just never do, and you’re nice to people, but then you turn around and wonder why you didn’t say something. It’s a feeling that we’ve known as a child and it burns even hotter today, and we’re both kind of that way. So we decided to call it “The Madness Inside.”
ME: Right on. Here’s a fun question for you: what’s your favorite fall activity to do in Wisconsin?
MELISSA: Geez. Probably if I had to choose one, it’d be the hikes out in the southern Kettle. Or biking there when the leaves start to fall.
JEFF: Ben, I’ve got one. This is what’s going through my mind right now: you and I are running through a pumpkin patch, getting cider doughnuts, going on hay rides, going down slides, eating caramel apples, and in the background – “people, let me tell you about my best friend.”
ME: That’s what’s gonna happen, actually.
MELISSA: Man, you just brought up cider doughnuts. How could I have forgotten those?
ME: Well say less; I’m in. I do enjoy all those activities. I love to hike in general but I love when it has that brisk air.
JEFF: We love mountain biking; our kids and us go, and the fall is great because you get past the oppressive heat, the bugs are gone, and in Wisconsin you can ride till it snows so you get to see that whole change from summer to fall. It’s great.
MELISSA: I will say, that’s a responsible activity, but when it comes to irresponsible activities I love that first evening outdoor show where it’s getting a little chilly so you throw a sweatshirt on and you’re standing around a campfire drinking beer with your friends. That’s always a self-indulgent, fun activity as well.
ME: My last question is, what are you guys working on right now? What can we expect from Wise Jennings in the next couple months?
MELISSA: Well, we just finished recording our fifth full album; we’re getting our first mixes now. Hopefully we’ll have that album out by the end of the year. We don’t have a title for that one yet but we’ve got nine songs on that one. We’ve got lots of shows planned between now and November so that’s exciting. We’re taking a trip out to South Dakota with Craig Baumann & the Story doing the tour with them. From a Wise Farm perspective, we’ve got a big birthday show coming up, Wise Fest in September, and I’ll be announcing the lineup for a big bluegrass show that we’re putting together in November.
JEFF: Let me interject real quick; Wise Farm did get shut down by the county, so it’ll now be at different farms. Melissa’s birthday bash is at a farm in Richmond, Illinois and Wise Fest is in Hebron, Illinois. Up in Eagle, Wisconsin at a place called the Kettle Moraine Ranch we’re doing this bluegrass show. People are gonna be stoked about the lineup; it’s pretty amazing.
ME: Sounds like great things to spill beer at.