from the desk of joseph

Obituary: Remembering Amy and Derrick Ross, Nowhere Man and A Whiskey Girl

NOWHERE

Yesterday afternoon, I was devastated by the news of the death of the husband and wife duo known as Nowhere Man and A Whiskey Girl. Amy and Derrick Ross were a loving couple, two unique individuals, and, to me, the epitome of what a loving relationship should be.

I first met them in 2004, when I was the editor of Mundane Sounds. That spring, they had sent me a copy of their debut self-titled album. It took me a little time to get around to hearing it, but when I finally did, I quickly fell in love, and had to tell the world about them. They were dark but not morose; they had a style that was both traditional and yet something different. Amy sang with a husky voice that was as warm as it was cold and off-putting. Derrick’s songwriting and playing was as natural and as appropriate for her voice; they were two artists who completely understood each other, knew each others styles, strengths, and weaknesses, and knew how to utilize this knowledge to full effect.

My review was loving, and as a result, a friendship took place. They really enjoyed what I had to say, and I exchanged emails with both Amy and Derrick. They told jokes, they told secrets, shared music they loved, and were two of the happiest, most interesting, most unique people you could meet. I enjoyed their conversations, I loved their emails. My birthday came up, and I was shocked to get a package from them. Cookies, books, postcards, and a CD of them goofing off, playing some of their songs, and performing live. On the CD, they performed a wonderfully hilarious cover of Dan Baird’ “I Love You Period.”

But online friendships can be ephemeral, and after a little time, our brief friendship faded away. Nothing happened, nothing personal; they went on with their lives, and I went on with mine. A few years later, they sent me a copy of their follow-up record, another record I enjoyed; it was a covers record, with a Edward Gorey-style cover. It was a great little record; their Jolie Holland and Gillian Welch covers weren’t surprising; their cover of Jimmy Eat World, local musicians and friends, was a bit more. (I had forgotten that on the cover, the two of them are pictured in front of a tombstone. I tried to forget about that yesterday.)

I wrote about the record, and received a nice little email, and we briefly exchanged emails. I was on the cusp of giving up music writing at the time (I was painfully burned out), but it was nice to have a conversation with an old friend and a band I had supported.

Then, as people do, we fell out of touch. It happens. It’s nothing personal. They continued to make music, and released a few more records, continued to play live, and continued to be in love. Life happens. I stopped writing about music, and though I didn’t forget about them, I, admittedly, didn’t keep up with them, either.

Yesterday, I was reading my Facebook news feed, when a friend posted an article about their death. There’s no need to go into those details; the gist is, Amy succumbed to her health problems; Derrick went home and took his life.

It’s a sad ending to a talented duo’s life. Last night, I tried to listen to their music, but I was just too emotionally overcome by my shock and my grief. I don’t know when I’ll be able to listen to them any time soon–it may be a while, it may be a long time from now. Confusion and anger set in; why could this happen to them, this loving, happy, weird, funny couple? Their love was deep, it was powerful, but this ending is disturbing. I cannot romanticize Derrick’s actions. I don’t understand the power of being that in love, so much so that when it ends, one sees no point in continuing to live. As angry as I am about his actions, I ultimately realize I cannot condemn him for doing so.

Mainly, though, it’s heartbreaking to know that the world has lost a talented young couple, and my regrets and my feelings have more to do with not having reconnected with them–and, more importantly, not being able to tell them that I loved them, that I admired them, and that tragedy will eventually be replaced with love. Could I have said something to help Derrick? Probably not. Do I wish that I could have? I always will.  Upon doing a Google search, I discovered that my words–written nearly a decade before, words I must admit I had forgotten until yesterday’s revelations–were still being used in their concert biography up until their deaths. That revelation caused me to break down; words live on, even when the friendship moves on. It’s an honor to know that what I said meant so much to them.

Their music, however, will live on. I suggest you buy their music. Support them; in so doing, keep them alive for eternity’s sake. I’m sure they’d like that. I know I would. God bless this loving couple, and may God comfort their grieving families at this tragic time.

UPDATE 11/13/15: This is one of The Recoup’s most googled articles, and as a result, there has been a recent interest in the Amy and Derrick. If you are a writer, blogger, or documentarian, I kindly ask that you not contact me for comment. It’s not a subject I want to talk about. You may quote the obituary, but please, kindly respect my desire to decline to discuss it with you.

2 replies »

  1. I am feeling your loss right now too. I am shocked and a bit overwhelmed. I got to know them at the Copper Queen in Bisbee and they will always be my introduction to that incredible town. They will a leave hole in the music scene that can not be refilled sadly. We traded cds and sent emails talked about playing a show together, how much we liked each others music, but nothing became of it. We were just in Bisbee and I was in such a hurry to set for show that I merely waved to them as they set up to play the same evening.It still warmed my heart to see them even briefly they were such an inspiration. My wife and I also play music together and they were my model for such a team heroes of mine really.
    The music is such bitter sweet sadness mixed with the frailty of life it tore me up some times to listen to it, now I don’t know when I will able to listen to them again.
    I hoped to catch up with them at the Side Pony Festival hand them our new cd and hopefully rekindle our friendship. I will live with the fact that I didn’t stop to chat with them or make time to hang out for the rest of my life, but how could I have known then that it would be the last time I would see them. I guess the moral is that you don’t know how much time anyone has, and why artists are such precious and rare substances.
    I feel lucky to have heard them, to have known them and they will always have a special place in my heart.
    Johnny (The Upper Strata)

  2. Thank you for sharing your story, I feel a connection now with everyone who cared from them! I recommend listening to Gillian Welch, it is powerful medicine for our loss, “The Harrow and the Harvest” album is mind blowing…… and of course their song!
    ~Kate

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