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Local alt-country singer John Meeks says he searched long and hard before he found the female vocalist to accompany him on his country duets. He had two songs ready but no singer. He looked all over town, scouring websites of San Diego’s female vocalists to find the right voice, the Tammy Wynette to his George Jones, the Kitty Wells to his Red Foley — country voices he grew up listening to.

“I was keeping an ear out for a female voice that didn’t make me want to throw up,” said Meeks. “Seriously, the whole baby talk and marshmallow in the mouth thing needs to stop.”

The search ended when he found singer-songwriter and 2008 SDMA nominee for best pop album Joanie Mendenhall.

“I stumbled on her MySpace page and couldn’t get the chorus to her song ‘Total Wreck’ out of my head for days. I ended up meeting her at the Whistle Stop and let her know what she had done to me.”

Over a few drinks at the bar that night, Meeks asked Mendenhall if she’d like to sing the female parts for his duets.

“Actually, I think his words of choice were, ‘Hey, thanks for not singing like you have marshmallows in your mouth, want to try some of these duets?’ It was a funny invitation from a stranger, but I took it as a compliment,” wrote Mendenhall in an email.

Though, for Mendenhall, performing as a duo has taken a while to get used to.

“It’s a total pleasure to step into the shoes of the girl characters he writes. I just sing the songs as honestly and as best I can. The weirdest part for me is standing there and just singing without a guitar or a keyboard in my hands — that’s definitely a first for me.”

Since that meeting, the two have performed several times together around town and plan to start recording the duets this month at Mendenhall’s recording studio. Their next show is at Evocal in Costa Mesa on February 20.

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