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Our Door County: The Music Makers


Door County has a live music scene that is the envy of many small town communities. A summer day might feature steel drums in a century old barn, symphony in a state of the art auditorium, or a classic name on a secluded stage in an orchard. 

The list of big names who've brought their voice to the peninsula is astounding:  Jeff Tweedy, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, Lumineers, Melissa Etheridge, Lyle Lovett. 

But the lifeblood of the Door County scene comes from the local musicians who take to the bars, coffee shops, stages, and parks while cobbling together a career in and out of music. In the new episode of Our Door County, we talk to several musicians who are also year-round residents to learn about the musician's life in the Door, and what winter brings for them when gigs are few and far between.

"We have to do a lot of other things to survive here," says Jessica Holland, a Sturgeon Bay resident who plays several nights a week with Nick Hoover. She laughs as she says this, but it's no joke. Few can survive on music alone, which means most musicians work one or several day jobs to pay the bills. 

What do you do up here in the winter?

That's a question every Door County resident has been asked at least one hundred times, and understandably so. When the fall colors fall from the trees and the crowds make their way south for the winter, the scene changes dramatically, but this peninsula doesn't go into hibernation. While the opportunities to play live are harder to come by, the winter is a vital time for musicians to recharge. 

Jay Whitney, lead singer of Big Mouth, the longtime stalwarts of the peninsula's music scene, said winter brings fresh opportunities for creativity. 

"Summer to the winter is such a dramatic change...but for a writer, it's really kind of nice," he says. 

Holland agrees, saying the downtime frees the mind to write and do a little, um, research. 

"The winter's like a good time to study other humans," Holland says. 

And when the season comes around again, it's time to bring that study to life for the returning crowds.

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