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According to a recent press release: “Siren Songs (the brand-new musical collaboration between Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels) is set to release its first album, the eponymous Siren Songs, on May 29, 2020.  Recorded by David Streit at The Hallowed Halls (Portland, OR) and Bryan Daste at Dream Tree Studios NW (Portland, OR), the album features a mix of both original songs written by Grinels (“Goodnight Sun, Hello Moon,” “100,” and “Gray”) as well as a selection of folk and Americana favorites (“Jolene,” “Edelweiss,” “Chelsea Morning,” “Angel from Montgomery,” “For Good,” “Time After Time”).  Powerhouse vocalists, musicians, and national touring artists, the longtime best friends showcase gorgeous harmonies and unique arrangements performed on a variety of stringed instruments (banjo, dulcimer, viola) on Siren Songs.” We get Jenn and Merideth to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

Photo Credit: Chelsea Donoho

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

MERIDETH: The album was recorded almost completely live together in the studio. Just a couple mics and us and a great recording engineer, and we took the best performances – which is very in-line with the simplicity of a folk sound. It’s not a very produced-sounding album, it’s very simple and raw. It really is a dream collaborative project between two best friends and longtime performers. There are a couple songs on this album we’ve been singing together for years. (And I mean YEARS.) We’ve been singing the song “100” for so long; as long as we’ve known each other! It was so fulfilling to finally record it! The song “Gray” we weren’t planning on recording during the session, and I just said, “Hey Jenn! Let’s do ‘Gray!'” It was a song we had performed together a long time ago and had never recorded. We played it on the mics, and there’s this care-with-abandon that was miraculously captured.

JENN: We didn’t even practice it, just went for it and kept the take! Another hidden nugget is during Merideth’s long, held note in “Time After Time,” a truck drove by and you could hear it on the recording. We loved that take, so we kept it and played around with the EQ to minimize the sound of the truck. That’s what led to the intro for that song. Also! Fun fact: Merideth played Elphaba in the National Tour of the musical Wicked, so it was fun to do our own acoustic arrangement of the song “For Good” from the musical.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

JENN: I think a lot of little kids want to be stars! Singers and actors. And that just never went away for me.

MERIDETH: Same for me. I had that ‘singing in the hairbrush’ phase like every little kid, but there was never that moment when I was like, “OK, now I have to get serious.” I mean, I think I sang into my hairbrush in the mirror this morning.

JENN: So there wasn’t any specific moment. I always wanted to be a singer. I lucked out in that I had teachers and choir directors around me who guided and encouraged me.

MERIDETH: I actually have a college degree in neuroscience, and when I was in school I would have my music teachers say to me, “Wait, you weren’t planning on pursuing music as well?” A series of people told me I was good enough, and it kept it going.

JENN: The truth is we’ve been working at it our entire lives.

MERIDETH: So true, we just keep working.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

MERIDETH: Joni Mitchell’s Blue album changed the way that I listen, hear, write, and perform music. That’s a big one.

JENN: Fiona Apple’s When the pawn….. is a genius album. I was obsessed. The lyrics and wordplay are so brilliant. I also remember seeing Marc Broussard early on, and I LOVED that he sang as if there was no tomorrow, no concert the next day. He left it all on that stage. I LOVED that. I also opened for Steve Poltz a couple times, and he was so playful, so spontaneous – that definitely had an effect on me and the way I like to perform. And then all things Ani DiFranco. OH! And a while back, before his first major album, Merideth and I saw Jason Mraz together, and something clicked for me. Something to do with a person knowing exactly who they are and what they are meant to be doing.

MERIDETH: It was truly magical. It was 2001 at Twiggs Coffee Shop in San Diego. There were maybe 12 folding chairs in the audience? It was tiny! Being in that room, at that time… he wasn’t famous yet, and it was just mind-blowingly beautiful…

JENN: Merideth and I also read the book Girls Like Us. It’s a Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Carly Simon triple biography. There’s something about the tone of that book; their stories, their music and the energy surrounding it that informs and inspires what we’re doing with Siren Songs.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

JENN: I think both of us would say Simon and Garfunkel , Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, Carole King, and John Prine.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?


JENN: Check.

MERIDETH: If you don’t say Merideth I’m coming over there!

JENN: AHAHA! This IS the dream collaboration.  But! It would be so fun to do a song with Jamestown Revival. They’re so fantastic!

MERIDETH: Dolly Parton!

JENN: Definitely!

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

MERIDETH: It’s easy to listen to. Straight up folk-Americana. Acoustic with harmonies.

JENN: This project is so new, we haven’t had the cringe comparison yet.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

MERIDETH: I cook! Jenn has the ideas and I implement them. For example, Jenn is like, “we should cook for our audience!”  And then I bake three types of cookies. So I guess we both cook! Jenn cooks up the ideas, and I cook the food.   Well, we both like to host, make food and drinks, take care of our friends, have fun – and neither of us will pop out the guitars for a sing-a-long.

JENN: Ha, we’re not “jammers.” One of my biggest fears in life is probably a song circle. We are drinkers.

MERIDETH: We’re kind of like introvert musicians.

JENN: But, I do think that every musician is just a certain amount of alcohol away from singing “The National Anthem” on a table.

MERIDETH: Or “Defying Gravity” at a birthday party.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

MERIDETH: I saw Patti Lupone backstage in 2016.  I couldn’t believe how little she was!

JENN: Kevin Bacon in 2017. I was opening a show for him in DC. I win Six Degrees now.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

JENN: I like performing the best.

MERIDETH: I like seeing life through the eyes of music.  As far as something else, I don’t know – I’ve never seriously considered anything else.

JENN: Me neither.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

MERIDETH: What did you eat for breakfast? Oatmeal.

JENN: I wish they would ask “Tell us about that night in Vermont…(!!!)” And what is the answer? It’s longer than we can answer here.

MERIDETH: Or maybe about the time we stayed at a bar so late that when we left we thought we had found a 24-hour Starbucks.  Regarding questions that we’re tired of answering, “Who are your musical influences?”  It’s hard there are so many.  Everything has influenced us – musical theatre, folk, rock, Whitney Houston, Live…

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

MERIDETH: Everything that comes up when I think about it I wouldn’t do differently because it would change who I am now, if it hadn’t happened.  And like where I am.

JENN: I wish I had started touring earlier, but I suppose I hadn’t written an album yet so I wasn’t ready. So perhaps I wish I had focused on writing my own music earlier – who knows if it would have changed anything. It just took a while to discover that those were the things that I love most. Ultimately I’m happy where I am now, so no regrets.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

MERIDETH: I would be singing a third harmony in “You’ve Got A Friend” from Carole King’s Tapestry.  I would have done the background vocals with James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. Tapestry is on my list of perfect albums. And I love to imagine what those sessions were like in Laurel Canyon, those three masters. I think I’ll go put on that record right now, as a matter of fact.

JENN: Joni Mitchell’s Blue. Just to watch, observe. I love how simple it is and how live and alive it sounds. It’s moving and effective, and a good reminder you don’t need a bunch of production to connect with the listener.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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