Jenee Fleenor Talks Pimento Cheese, Touring With Blake Shelton, And More on Biscuits & Jam
About Biscuits & Jam: In the South, talking about food is personal. It's a way of sharing your history, your family, your culture, and yourself. Each week Sid Evans, Editor in Chief of Southern Living, sits down with celebrity musicians to hear stories of how they grew up, what inspired them, and how they've been shaped by Southern culture. Sid takes us back to some of their most cherished memories and traditions, the family meals they still think about, and their favorite places to eat on the road.
Episode 5: April 27, 2021
Jenee Fleenor grew up in northwest Arkansas, and as a child, her obsession with the fiddle led to her performing with musicians often generations older than her. As she attended Belmont University, she split time between her studies and jamming with bluegrass bands around Nashville. And though she's now toured the world backing up stars like Blake Shelton, Martina McBride, and Rascal Flatts, she's also an acclaimed singer/songwriter in her own right–with legends like Dolly Parton, Kathy Mattea, and Gretchen Wilson all recording her songs. And if that weren't enough, she's the first woman ever to win the CMA's coveted Musician of the Year award—and she's done it twice.
On Growing Up In Northwest Arkansas
"It [Springdale] was a great place to grow up. Some people call it Chickendale because Tyson Chicken is based there and there's a lot that goes on there. Wal-Mart is based in Bentonville, which is up the road…The high school I went to was just a few blocks away. My elementary school was, just a block down the road. I still love to go back. And my mom lives in Van Buren now, which is just an hour away. So I love getting to drive over the Ozark Mountains there."
On Growing Up With Music
"My dad started playing violin after I did. And, he was 55 when I was born. So he picked up the violin, which is not an easy instrument to pick up. So I'm like 5 years old, learning 'Faded Love', and he's kind of learning alongside me. But he really sounded pretty good for just picking it up and he could play the guitar some. Mom would play the piano and dad would play fiddle or guitar. I never really wanted to be that family band kind of thing– and I don't think they did either. But it was kind of fun for them to jam…It just brings me to tears because it reminds me of my dad playing in the house."
On Inspiring Young Women Today
"I'm pretty active on Instagram and I get so many messages weekly from young girl fiddle players, specifically, but just musicians that are there... And I try to help them any way I can…I just hope it lights a fire in a lot of these girls that it can be done. I certainly have had some times, especially when I first stepped in the studio and they're like, 'Oh, gosh, here's the girl'."
On Food Growing Up
"My dad actually did most of the cooking growing up. I remember him making chicken and dumplings, which was one of my favorite dishes. And I remember helping him cut the dumplings into little strips and we'd hang them over the sides. That's a great memory for me. And his chili? We would go to these fiddle conventions and mom would say all the ladies would come over and go, 'George, that chili is so good. Give me that recipe.' "
On Her Mom's Famous Recipe
"The one thing my mom did make a lot was pimento cheese. And my family is going to laugh because during the quarantine when we were really locked down, I would talk to my family on the Marco Polo app and pimento cheese would come up, I swear, every other day. And her recipe is so simple. It is just Colby cheese, which, she shreds. You don't buy it pre-shredded. Plus, pimentos and miracle whip and that's it. And it's real good. And that's what we snack on… I guess cream cheese can be in a lot of pimento cheese recipes, but it wasn't. I don't even know if she put in salt and pepper. On my Instagram page over the summer, we did a pimento cheese party because a lot of people didn't know anything about pimento cheese. So we had a party talking about pimento cheese."
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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