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Interviews, Music

Learning Through Life: An Interview with Jenn Grant

By: Kayla Beattie – 

Jenn Grant.

Jenn Grant.

We caught up with Jenn Grant while she took in the stunning ferry ride from Victoria to Vancouver, during the western leg of her current Canadian tour. Her latest album, Compostela, was released on Oct 21, and harnesses the songstresses’ soothing vocals, deep lyricism and a dynamic soundscape that challenges typical alt-folk releases. Grant gushed about the great turnouts at her recent shows and how everything is simply coming together.

This is your fifth studio release, can you tell us how your progression as an artist has grown throughout the creation of these albums?

It’s progressed hugely. For example, when I wrote The Beautiful Wild in 2011I spent 10 days just writing in the studio. I love writing and I can do it under duress, which worked for that album, but for this latest record, Compostela, I decided to take my time and write as much material as I could. I dedicated a month or so to writing in the camper trailer beside our house, where I would lock myself in for six hours a day. I ended up choosing 13 songs out of 30 for the album, and then spent a whole year working on it.  My husband is a producer, so we were doing all the work in a recording studio beside our home. We’d work on it a bit, like just the bed tracks, and then leave it and come back.  That gave the album the space it needed to solidify what I wanted it to sound like. It was a really great experience, but very different from the approach I took on previous albums.

What are some of the central themes you focused on when writing Compostela?

A lot of the themes and influences stemmed from a trip I took to Spain. It was right after my mom died that I went there, so I did a lot of grieving on that trip and then I waited for a year until I wrote. When I did write, I went back to that same spot, and all the beautiful parts of that experience transcended into the writing.

Although there are those elements of my life and my own experiences in the writing, I also harness my imagination as well. I wanted to focus on story telling and balladry on this album, more than before when I was mainly focused on song writing as a craft.

Your songs sound like they’re coming from a heart that has felt a lot of pain but also a lot of love, where does that range of emotions come from?

When my mom died I got a lot of creativity from that experience. It was a lot to process but I learned a lot from it, so the beautiful moments of that resonated with me. But I’ve always been an emotional writer, so I always try to grab at all those different various feelings and share those. Overall, I just wanted to make a warm sounding record that had a bit of a groove to it and creates an enjoyable listening experience.

Jenn Grant collaborated with several acclaimed Canadian musicians on her new LP, Compostela, including Sarah Harmer; Ron Sexsmith; Doug Paisley; & Don Kerr.

Jenn Grant collaborated with several acclaimed Canadian musicians on her new LP, Compostela, including Sarah Harmer; Ron Sexsmith; Doug Paisley; & Don Kerr.

You worked with a lot of different people on this album including Sarah Harmer; Ron Sexsmith; Buck 65; Doug Paisley; Don Kerr and many others. How did collaborating with all these different people influence the outcome of the album?

Sharing is what makes me happiest, so to share this with so many people who I love and respect was a really beautiful thing. These are people whose music has influenced me over the years, and some of them are new artists that I wanted to introduce a bit. So it was all part of the openness of recording, and I just really wanted to share and sing with those people. Those people lending their energy to this album made it a really special unique thing and I think you can hear it in the album’s delivery.

What artists were you listening to that influenced the writing and recording of Compostela?

This album was influenced a lot my artists like Father John Misty and Damien Jurado. Father John Misty inspired because I loved the groove and story telling aspect of his music. I wanted to hone in on my story telling and lyricism like him, and I was also inspired by the psychedelic folk nuances in his album. On my album I feel like that psychedelic folk is there- it’s subtle so you really have to listen for it, but I love those moments. With Damien Jurado I really fell in love with his record over the last couple years with his interesting words and unexpected moments that I wanted to include in my record too.

As a Canadian artist, what areas do you think Canada’s music scene excels in, and in what areas could it improve?

In Canada there is a big sense of community in the music scene. It’s a really strong connection, which is inspiring to bepart of. And right now it feels like a really great time to be here, there is a lot of really great music coming out, and it feels like there is a resurgence in music and I hope to see that continue. Sharing music is a great communicator and I feel like people really need it in their lives. Canada’s music scene is doing a great job at bringing people together.

Where it’s lacking, I feel like everyone is always hustling, for lack of a better word. It’s like we are all hustling to sell records and get people out to live shows. And it’s too bad that we need to do that. I wish more people bought records and came out to see live music, but hopefully we see that improve over time.

If you could go back to talk to yourself when you were first starting out in music, what advice would you give?

I feel like I’ve grown 100 years since that first EP, and especially with all the touring, recording and people I worked with. I kind of went into it blindly with no fear; I trusted myself and trusted that I was on the right path. It was a huge learning curve. It’s been almost a decade since I started, but I don’t think I would tell myself anything. It’s one of those things you have to go through to figure out. You either commit to it and grow with it or not. Taking that risk was a great step, so I’d just let myself figure it out.

What does the future has in store for Jenn Grant as a musician?

Right now, my main focus is to build up my show and build up my audience. I’m writing for my next record- it’s all very loose right now. And I have a side project called Aqua Alta, which is an electro pop project and will be coming out in Canada in 2015. To share music is always my main goal and it’s something I work towards every day. I hope that never ends.

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