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Holding fast to her hometown roots

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Photo submitted Crawford musician Jeneve Rose Mitchell poses recently next to a portrait of 'the queen of country comedy,' Minnie Pearl, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. The American Idol finalist will play a set Friday afternoon at the Farm to Fiddl

To say that Jeneve Rose Mitchell has done a lot in her 17 years is an understatement. She grew up living off the grid near Crawford, where she recently helped a mare having a difficult labor to deliver her colt.

Mitchell, the daughter of Tim and Jenny Mitchell of Crawford, was singing and playing fiddle by age 2. She has performed seemingly countless concerts and fundraisers, and raised the money to build her mom's Needlerock Family Health Clinic in Crawford. In 2016 she performed her way to the finals as a contestant on American Idol.

Mitchell was among some 200,000 to audition for Idol. In addition to her honey-sweet voice, country looks and spunky manner she brings a sense of humor to her performances. "My mom taught me attitude and facial expression," she said. "And my dad taught me vocals."

Mitchell will play a set this Friday at the Farm to Fiddle Festival. Of the 13 instruments she plays (she most recently took up the ukulele), she'll play about a half dozen. "I have a set lined up that's going to be really fun," she said. "It'll be a big ol' mix of genres so everyone has a good time."

After her Idol appearance, Mitchell gave a homecoming performance at the Paradise Theatre in Paonia. Since then she's played several local shows, has toured the region, and traveled to Nashville twice, the first time to record her CD, "Off the Grid," a tip of the hat to her family's lifestyle and one of the many things that set her apart from the other Idol contestants.

Mitchell spent two weeks working with Nashville producer Anita Cochran, who also plays multiple instruments. It was a wonderful learning experience, said Mitchell.

The CD includes four original songs, three of which were written by Mitchell, and three cover songs. Family friend and Crawford photographer Jaquita Watters photographed the cover images.

"I Will," is a song of hope she wrote at age 13. After writing songs like "Ragtime Grammy" and "Deck 'Em," and songs that tap into her fun side, she was inspired to write something more serious, said Mitchell. "I was thinking, what if I take all the things that mean something in one song? So I put as much good stuff in there as I could."

"Deck 'Em" is about a girl who takes matters into her own hands when her beau won't. She wrote it at age 12 when Jenny's clinic was under construction. A crew from the Delta Correctional Facility was working on it, and her mom urged her to "rile 'em up like Johnny Cash did at Folsom Prison." It was a hit with the prisoners.

On "Bad Man's Blunder," the classic folk tune made popular by The Kingston Trio, Ranger Doug and Too Slim of Riders in the Sky sing the back-up vocals, something her manager made possible. It was another dream come true, she said. "I was so lucky to have them on the album. They're kind of the cowboy face of the Grand Ole Opry."

"Colorado Skies" was written for Jeneve by her late uncle. He had recently found out he was dying of lung cancer and paid a visit. He was inspired to write the lyrics by all that he saw around him, said Mitchell: Needle Rock, and the beautiful Colorado skies. "He looked up at night and saw the Milky Way. He saw the rivers and eagles, and was amazed."

Her manager is pitching it to the Colorado State Tourism Board as a state song.

Her second trip was to promote the CD. When she got home she opened for Emerson Drive at the Montrose County Fair. It was her first opening, and a great learning experience, she said.

Mitchell will graduate from Hotchkiss High School next year, then tour for a year. She plans to attend Colorado Mesa University to study theater. It's close to home, and the university's 600-seat Moss Performing Arts Center is a top 25 university performing arts center in the nation.

While her lifelong dream of being an Idol contestant went beyond her wildest expectations, she still dreams big and works hard. Her No. 1 wish now is to play the Grand Ole Opry. On a recent visit she was allowed back stage, where she had her picture taken next to a portrait of one of her idols, Minnie Pearl.

Her dream of performing at Dollywood came one step closer to reality when she interviewed with producers and promoters in June. In October she will open in New York for Scotty McCreery, the 2010 Idol champion with whom she performed a duet on Idol.

Through it all, Mitchell has not lost track of her roots. Playing local shows like Farm to Fiddle "is one of my favorite things in the world." She's grateful every day for all she has and all who have helped her along the way, among them, David and Tamara Hauze of Crawford, who first saw her perform at age 7. They have been a big influence on her career, said Mitchell.

And the family is building a new house. "We're building a house out of straw and mud, literally," she said. They poured the concrete 20 years ago, with the goal of building a barn. They hope to move in this fall.

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