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A Dirty Dozen with JENN GRINELS – November 2020

| 17 November 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “A tremendous vocalist, compelling songwriter and dynamic performer, Jenn Grinels is shockingly talented and unexpectedly sincere. The singer/songwriter recently relocated from Nashville to Portland after years spent on “perma-tour”, headlining hundreds of concerts across the country and abroad, as well as supporting artists like 10,000 Maniacs, Marc Broussard, Edwin McCain, Christopher Cross, Marc Cohn and many more. Grinels is as grassroots as it gets, having created a groundswell of die-hard fans in small towns and cities across the U.S. who consistently buy her records and offer direct support though Patreon. The result is a blossoming career, built with literal blood, sweat, and tears.” We get the Jenn to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

Photo credit: Anna Haas

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?

“Resilience” is a song I’ve been performing in concert for years. It always makes for a big, dynamic shift in the concert, and I love having someone in the band improvise a solo that leads us into the song. There have been so many beautiful players over the years who have started the song off with cello or an upright bass, even an electric bass solo. On the record, Michael Elson plays an emotional, inspired introduction on piano, so when it came time to make the video, I really wanted to feature him actually playing it. Same goes for the gorgeous arrangement and performance by Grammy-nominated cellist Dave Eggar. I loved that we were actually able to feature both of them playing their instruments in the video. It was definitely a challenge to make a music video like that during covid times, and it also made it a really emotional project. Arden Thorsell is the little girl in the video – she’s 3 years old – and she was incredible! When her little face crumpled in the car with the “I miss you” sign, everyone on set cried.

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

I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, my first musical was at age 5. I always wanted to be a singer, but I thought I’d be in musical theater. I started writing in high school, but it wasn’t until college – probably when I wrote a song called “The Toothbrush Song” – that I thought maybe I’d add the “songwriter” part to my occupation. But truth be told, I didn’t really make the switch from musical theater to singer-songwriter until after I’d done musical theater for about five years after college. I always joke that as much as I love tap dancing, at some point I realized I didn’t want to do it eight shows a week.

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

I saw Marc Broussard perform for the first time in my early 20s, and the way that he sang like there was no tomorrow – like he was giving that audience everything he had – that had a big impact on me. I always try to leave it all out on the stage, even though that can be problematic on longer tours – my voice gets tired, it’s exhausting – but I like to sing like it might be my last chance and not like I need to save something for the next night.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Right now I’d say Eva Cassidy, Fiona Apple, Martin Sexton, Andrew Bird, and Otis Redding.

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

I’ve always said it would be Marc Broussard, and then this year I wrote a duet and convinced him to sing it with me – so DREAM COME TRUE!!! It was the first single off my upcoming album Go Mine, the duet is called “Evidence” – and I’m so THRILLED about it, sometimes I still can’t believe it happened when I listen to it.  His voice is just ridiculous.

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?

I’d call it dynamic, personal, emotional. I’d like to say it’s sophisticated; I love adding string arrangements, horns, sometimes jazz elements. Recently I asked my fans to name “like artists” – I think a lot of times people will just equate me with their other favorites, which I like, even if I don’t see the similarities. I think Sheryl Crow came up the most – I think she’s great and I don’t think that’s a wild comparison or anything, but sometimes I wonder if it’s more that I look like her? Or have a similar vibe/energy? Someone recently said Badfinger… I need to go look them up!

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?

Oh man, this question makes me sad because I haven’t seen played with a full band since pre-covid days. I have a new folk duo called Siren Songs with my best friend Merideth Kaye Clark, and we’re “podding” together, so we still rehearse in person, play, etc. She cooks for sure. And probably pours the wine as well. I’d say we never bust out the guitar for an impromptu anything – but that would be a lie, because I definitely busted out the guitar at a campfire this past Saturday after a concert in Bend, OR. It takes a few drinks, I guess. Shout out to the Campfire Hotel in Bend.

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

I was backstage with The Avett Brothers once and one of them asked me a question… and I couldn’t talk. No words came out.

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?

I love the feeling of finishing a song – it feels like magic – but THE BEST thing for me is performing. This past Saturday, I got to the end of the concert and said, “I didn’t realize how much I missed performing,” and then burst into tears. It was intense. If I couldn’t be a musician, I’d want Padma’s job on “Top Chef.” DREAM. JOB. Except the part when she has to say, “Please pack your knives and go.” That part would not be dreamy. I’d hate having to send a chef home.

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?

The question I’m tired of answering is probably about my genre. I can’t really pinpoint it; it’s nothing way out there, but I don’t think the industry has created the perfect genre name for me yet. I wish an interviewer would ask me about stupid human tricks, because I just discovered that I can cause a ringing in my head that’s always a G-flat!!!! So I’m, like, basically a human pitch pipe now.

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?

I’ve been taken advantage of – financially speaking – and that just sucks. This industry is full of shady people.  It’s tough to navigate, and I’ve made some excruciatingly costly mistakes trusting the wrong people.

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?

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – it’s just such a trip, so creative, so all over the place.





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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