At a folk festival in Texas, Chris Kokesh and LJ Booth met and discovered they liked each other’s music.
“I was drawn to Chris’ music. I think we both love to choose songs that move us,” Booth said.
Kokesh describes the songs Booth writes as often being about the human condition.
“LJ’s songs are very real,” she said.
After meeting at that folk festival in 2010, they soon started writing songs and touring together.
It did not take them long to come to yet another realization.
“It’s not often you meet someone you can write songs with and get on the stage and feel comfortable with. After several tours, we decided we had more than a music connection,” Booth said.
In 2012, they married.
After living in Portland, Oregon, for a couple years, the couple moved to just outside of Scandinavia about a year ago.
“LJ came to Portland when we got together,” Kokesh said. “We decided to try his (home) a couple years.”
This weekend, they will be among those bringing their music to Arts on the Square.
The eighth annual arts festival is being presented in downtown Waupaca on Friday, Aug. 15, and Saturday, Aug. 16, by the nonprofit Waupaca Community Arts Board.
Friday evening’s free street dance, featuring Copper Box from 7-10 p.m., is being sponsored by Dr. Jan Bax.
The festival itself will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and is being sponsored by Community First Credit Union, with funding from the city of Waupaca’s hotel/motel tax dollars.
Booth and Kokesh will perform from 12:15-1:15 p.m. Saturday on the Main Stage.
She is known as the fiddle player with the band Misty River, which played in the northwestern part of the United States for 15 years.
He is a songwriter.
Neither one of them imagined being a professional musician.
Kokesh grew up in Oklahoma, where she was a Suzuki violin student.
She played violin through high school and sang in groups when she was a student at Pomoma College.
After graduating with a degree in biology, Kokesh moved to Portland with her best friend, planning to spend the next year deciding what direction she wanted to go in science.
Prior to her move, she was told about Portland’s music scene and how she might be able to join a band.
After moving there, Kokesh started working at an Irish pub, where she connected with three women who shared her love of music.
The four of them eventually formed Misty River.
Kokesh describes their sound as “acoustic Americana, folksy with lots of harmonies.”
Around 2005, she made her first solo record.
She likes singing her own songs but also singing harmonies and playing fiddle in duos, with Booth and Jonathan Byrd being the main two she sings with today.
Booth shared how he became a songwriter.
Born in the Philippines, he was 11 years old when his family moved to the United States.
He graduated from a Milwaukee high school and studied psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
He started playing guitar when he was in college.
Upon graduating from UW-Stevens Point, he went to Europe, where he played flute in pubs and on streets.
When Booth returned home, he wrote the songs that ended up being on his first album.
“I got a great review from ‘Sing Out!,’” he said.
That led to more attention, and his graduate school plans fell by the wayside.
Along with writing and singing songs, Booth has also worked in carpentry for years.
A year ago, he went back to school at UW-Stout, where he is seeking a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy.
Booth said that is one reason why he and Kokesh moved from Oregon to Wisconsin.
He wants his second job outside of music to be something less physical and will complete the program the end of next summer.
Of his song writing, he says most of it is nonfiction.
Booth also said that for him, music is not about perfect instrumentation and sound on big stages.
“We tend to play in intimate places. We don’t play in bars,” he said. “About half of our shows are house concerts.”
During the past year, the couple focused on other parts of their life together.
Today, both are beginning to think about new albums.
In addition to touring, Kokesh teaches guitar, fiddle and ukulele to students in Iola, Waupaca and Stevens Point.
Kokesh said Booth has an improvisational and spontaneous side.
“That wasn’t anything I had ever done before,” she said. “It was fun. It kind of stretched me.”