By Ossie Bladine • Editor • 

Ready for what's to come

Sky Bound Blue: Jenny and Matt Behnke.

Back on the independent train, a recent record contract debacle hasn't slowed down McMinnville duo Jenny and Matt Behnke, known as Sky Bound Blue. 

Six months ago, the Nashville transplants signed a contract with New Jersey-based startup Smoke Tree Records. The company and its CEO turned out to be more like "smoke and mirrors records,” to use Matt's words, and the decision cost the couple a little revenue and a little time. But in the end, it's just more fodder for their brand of Americana: “sunny side up with a bit of grit.”

"Might be another rainy day / Or is there sunshine on the way ... Makin' ready for what's to come," Jenny sings on "Makin’ Ready," the title song from their 2009 self-released debut album, which has recently sold out. 

It isn’t as though the Behnkes are back at square one. They continue to pick up faithful fans wherever the play, and they also found a friend through the Smoke Tree journey in local social media expert Stephanie Findley.

"The thing about the record deal — we weren't even looking for one," Matt said. 

"It's nice to be back to doing it on our own will," Jenny said. 

The resilient couple recently returned from New York City, where they took up the gauntlet that is auditioning for a reality television contest. They tried out for NBC’s “The Voice” as a duo, although only Jenny got a call back.

"I was over the pity party pretty quick," Matt said. "It really made me decide that I just want to be a kickass guitar player."

Jenny reworked three songs to perform solo in the next round. Ultimately, the producers passed, leading the two to consider their situation over beer and chicken wings in New York City.

They talked "about how lucky we are and how beautiful our life is right at this minute," they posted to their nearly 3,000 Facebook followers. "We'll just keep doing what we do and being grateful for every second."

The two continue to focus on growing as songwriters. That includes meeting and playing with other songwriters, making connection where they can. They inked a deal with MXSoup Publishing to help push their songs, and are preparing to record demos at InStep Music in McMinnville.

And, of course, they’ll continue performing. "It makes you a better songwriter," Jenny said of each new gig. "You see what the crowd's energy is for certain songs, what works and when."

Sky Bound Blue will perform as the opener at the Walnut City Music Festival Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Granary District in McMinnville. You can also catch them Thursday at noon at the U.S. Bank plaza for the Brown Bag Summer Concert Series. For more information and to listen to recordings, go to www.thebehnkes.com.

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