A neighbor can be next door, down the block or down the road depending on how you define it. This week's featured artist can truly be called a Gonzales County neighbor, having been born on one side of the county line and raised across the other.
And if you frequent live music venues such as the Phoenix Saloon, River Road Ice House or the Pour Haus in New Braunfels, you can have your neighbor sing to you.
Around Lavaca County, the Patek name carries a great deal of weigh in the polka community and traditional Texas folk music in general. The Joe Patek Orchestra ruled the dance halls for decades with anthems like “The Shiner Song” and “Beer Barrel Polka.” And while the original Joes are no longer with us, their music carries on and can be heard almost daily on any polka show that airs in the state.
But now there is a new Patek taking the stage. Though polka is not her style of play, she does cherish that familial tradition that has formed her own songs and allowed her to perform at venues far and wide.
“I love telling the music history of my family,” says Jade Patek. “They were one of the best polka bands in Texas.”
She admits that she has some big shoes to fill. While growing up in Hallettsville, her and her sisters would sit with their grandfather and sing those old polka songs. She says that he is the reason that she began pursuing music, and figures he knew she wanted to before she did.
“We talked music a lot,” she said. “He was so excited when I started playing instruments. When he went to one of the first gigs I ever played he broke down in tears. He believed in me so much and all I wanted to do was make him proud and do something as amazing as what he did.
“I want to be able to do the same thing for my children and their children and so on. I want to create something that represents me that can last forever and be passed down for generations.”
Jade calls her genre of music “marble rye bread,” showing infusions of Americana with flares of blues, funk and soul. She likes to call it “Texas Groove,” which is a movement that seems to be sweeping over the New Braunfels and San Marcos music scenes at the current. While she's comfortable listening to Merle Haggard or jamming to Prince or AC/DC, her inspiration comes from greats like Janis Joplin, Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks and Tracy Chapman. There's a common theme there if you haven't noticed.
“[Those were] all powerful women with powerful voices,” she said. “They all had a lot to say and weren't afraid to say it.”
At Wednesday's Texas Thunder Radio Music Series showcase in Shiner, Jade's name came up on stage as Breelan Angel — the evening's featured artist — mentioned fellow female singers and collaborators. The question was asked what challenges women face in a very male-dominated Texas music scene with men like Kevin Fowler, Randy Rogers and Josh Abbott constantly grabbing top billing at festivals and major concerts. But with a recent push by female singer/songwriters like Bri Bagwell, Sunny Sweeney and Jamie Lin Wilson chipping away at the hierarchy, our local talent is poised to churn out hits that are as worthy as the boys' spots on the Texas music charts.
“It is definitely a challenge, being a woman in this industry,” Jade said. “I feel that we have to work a little bit harder. But girls like Breelan, Bri and me, we love the challenge. I think focusing on what is important to us, not getting caught up in what other people think, staying true to ourselves, holding our heads up high and writing quality music is key.
“But the most important thing for women in this industry is to empower each other. Women artists supporting other women artists is what will help us thrive. Bri is leading the pack right now, with so many of us up and coming on the rise. I can say both of those ladies are great friends of mine and we do nothing but support each other and lift each other up. If a female artist comes out with some new music, you bet we are on it helping promote her and her songs. It's not a competition or rivalry between us. It's nothing but love and respect.”
Recently, Jade decided to team up with another songwriter. Through a friend she met Bryan Catalini who asked her to sing harmonies on his next album. From there they wrote a song together and then decided to give it a shot as a duo act.
“I really enjoy our dynamic,” she said. “Bryan brings the male perspective, the country vibe and great energy. He really lets me work on so many other aspects of our sound. I love harmonizing and playing the tambourine or harmonica when we play the songs he sings lead on. He brings a lot to the music, but he also brings a lot to life.”
She also enjoys spending time with him and his fiance, which she calls her “SA family” since they all reside in the Alamo City. They have weekly dinners where they work on music and enjoy creative company.
That creativity has allowed the duo to thrive on stage and to land bigger gigs. They scored an official spot at the Steamboat MusicFest last January after running into the promoter who said that he had been hearing a lot about the team.
“We had so much fun,” she said. “The shows were great. My friends and family got to be there and it was an absolute blessing to be there.”
A bit of advice she carries around came from singer/songwriter Charlie Robison, whom she met at age 18 when she was first beginning to play in public. Aside from teaching her many things about music and the industry, it was this nugget about singing songs that stuck.
“He told me 'Look, Jade. Everyone knows you can sing. You need to sing that song and tell that story like it's your story. Otherwise, it's not believable and sounding good can only get you so far.' I've taken those words with me ever since. He is a great guy.”
Now when she attends one of his shows, he brings her on stage to sing the female part on his hit duet “The Wedding Song” that he recorded with Dixie Chick Natalie Maines. That's not a bad second-fiddle player, there.
“I think each person I've met in the business has somehow impacted me and my music,” she said. “It's admirable of anyone who can make it in this rough music business.”
Jade and Bryan head to the studio next month to record their first EP — a three-song record — which is her first crack at recording her music. It will include a duet and they will switch leads on the other two. They hope to drop the record this summer with a radio single to follow.
Meanwhile, you can follow their shows at www.jadeandbryan.com and watch some of their performances on YouTube. They have upcoming spots at Green Fest in New Braunfels this summer and will return to the Shiner Music Fest in October. The year is still young and they hope to book a few more larger shows in addition to their regular club gigs.
Someday soon she might be headlining the big stage at Steamboat, Larry Joe Taylor Music Fest or Medicine Stone. And we can take pride in knowing that she is our neighbor and comes from here. And just like the artists that passed along their words of wisdom to this latest Patek prodigy, she too has something to say to those that are trying to find a career on the frets, in front of a microphone.
“Don't ever let someone or something hold you back from pursuing your dream. You will have your ups and downs and your really low downs. But that's what makes this life worth living and your story a great one to tell. Be grateful everyday and be kind to others. Be patient, and most importantly, love yourself.”