Esme Patterson.
Esme Patterson. (Courtesy photo/Todd Roeth)
If you go
What: TEDxMileHigh: Women | Values + Instrincts
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 E Iliff Ave, Denver, 303-871-6200
Cost: $39.50-$49.50

Saturday will bring another installment of TEDxMileHigh, an independently organized TED event in Denver, and this one focuses on women. Among the speakers is Esme Patterson of the Colorado indie folk band Paper Bird. As a successful woman in music, her qualifications are obvious, but we gave her a call anyway to get her thoughts on the subject. If this is any indication, her talk is going to be a good one.

Your TED talk is coming up soon. Have you done one of these before?

No, I haven't done one before. I'm pretty excited about it.

Did they approach you to participate?

They did, yeah. This one is particularly focusing on women. I happen to be one. Also, the timing was really cool because I just finished recording an album that I felt had a perspective on being a woman ... in songwriting and music. I did this project where I wrote an album of songs that were responding to famous songs where the title is just a girl's name.


I would write a song as that woman, responding to the material in the song. I wrote a song as Jolene. I thought that maybe that was a part of why they asked me to do that. I'm basically giving voices to women that have been archetyped in pop music, and I kind of tell the other side.

Was this a building frustration for you?

I wouldn't say it was a frustration, necessarily. Not all the songs are like, ‘You jerk.' Some of them definitely are like that. It's more like giving a voice to characters that don't have voices. The reason that it started was that I was learning the Townes Van Zandt song “Loretta.” That did make me mad. I was like, “What?! Come on. That's totally bullshit.” I was like, “Oh god I'm so sick of this.” Somebody should give the other side to the story of, ‘Oh I'm just a ramblin' man and I like you pretty much alright when I'm town.' And the rest of them came from there.

It's not so much aggression or degradation as it is casual misogyny.

Sure, or just assuming that you know how someone feels. One of the more interesting ones in that project, for me, was “Eleanor Rigby.” You know that song, “all the lonely people,” these guys are just looking at these people's lives and just saying they're lonely. I was like, maybe she's not. She knows she's about to die and she's living alone and looking out her window and putting on her makeup even though she's not going to see anyone. And I thought, maybe she's happy. She's totally at peace and she knows that she's going to die any day and she's ready to go and she's got what she needs.

I never thought about it that way.

It was also influenced by a person in my life at that time. My roommate's mom was dying of cancer and she faced it in such a brave way, it was amazing. Her spirit seeped into the song.

So, is that part of your presentation?

I'm gonna play the songs from it -- three of them … Actually, it's really cool, the other musician is a friend of mine who I had been involved in a project with a couple years ago, and she lives up Lyons, and I think there's an ensemble of musicians from Lyons that are gonna play some stuff and talk about the floods. I was talking to the guy who's booking these TED talks and it was cool that both of the performers -- it's not just, ‘I play songs. It's cool. Whatever.' There's a reason. There's a purpose behind it. Being a TED talk fan myself, I just think they're amazing. I'm a total fan. I thought, I really gotta step it up.