We’re living in a weird time with the current events of the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement. Everyone’s lives have been turned upside down. How are you currently holding up with everything that is going on in our world right now?
I’m doing alright, all things considered. It’s definitely a strange time. I use hand sanitizer about 20 times a day.
And yes, #blacklivesmatter!
How did you get your start in the music industry?
I’ve always been very involved in music, and took voice lessons for a long time as a child. In college, I formed a band and we started performing at local bars and things like that. I ended up getting to know lots of people in the New England music scene. Eventually the band I was in started opening festivals and doing tours. It was a great experience, and it just sort of grew. I grew a lot as a musician too. Through performing live, you meet a lot of people and it can sometimes shape the type of songwriter or artist you become.
How did your rock solo project come to be?
I’ve actually been writing this solo music for many years. I felt like I didn’t have the resources to release it all by myself for a long time. But finally I said, screw it. I love these songs and I definitely want them out in the world. I realized I was holding myself back for a while due to my own insecurities. I also started directing my own music videos, which was a big step, and I definitely learned a lot. Most of the songs that will be released this year have actually been written for quite a while. I worked with a few amazing people to help bring them to life in terms of production, mixing and mastering. But it feels good to finally release music that has been a part of my life for a while.
How does your solo project differentiate from your other musical endeavors (previous solo material, your works with prog rock act Mimesis & gothic metal band Novarium)?
After writing a lot of songs over the years, I realized I had a large body of material that really wouldn’t fit in with any other project or band. Not always, but sometimes, the subject matter is also very personal and it just feels like there should be a separate outlet for it. Mimesis is a challenging, high energy progressive rock act that I absolutely love. But it is very different. My rock material has elements of rock and electronic influences. For Novarium, the influences are more gothic metal and rock. When you write with a band, it’s wonderful because you learn a lot from each other, but it can feel a bit confining sometimes, because the songs need to fit in with the project. With my solo project I’ll be in control of what direction it goes in, so if someday I want to do something crazy, I can. If I want to have a sitar solo or a string quartet or something random, I can. I like that freedom.
What is your writing process like?
It depends, sometimes I just write if I’m sad, kind of like writing in a journal. Sometimes I have no desire or inclination to actually record what I write. But then later I might go back to it, and want to release it publicly. Other times I form lyrics around a central concept and try to write based on that concept. Then I use a piano and put music to it. Other times an instrumental melody will just sort of pop into my head if I’m in the shower or something (usually a very inconvenient place). Then I rush to write it down and flesh it out a bit more. I’ll eventually put it all into my DAW (digital audio workstation) and record vocals at home. Then I have someone who helps me with the right production, drum sounds, guitar sounds, etc. I’ll record final vocals. and after that is finished, I send it off to be mixed and mastered.
Who/what are some of your influences and inspiration for your sound?
I listen to a lot of different music. Currently some of my biggest influences are Chelsea Wolfe, Poppy, Muse, and Ioanna Gika. I love when rock and heaviness is blended with something lighter and “pretty” too. A lot of my future music will incorporate more piano and lighter melodic elements over some heavy sounds.
Who are some of your favorite artists? If you could have a dream collab with anyone, who would it be and why?
I think my dream collab would be with Poppy or Chelsea Wolfe. I love Chelsea’s songwriting ability and her voice. I love how she is able to make a dark song sound very pretty and beautiful at the same time. For Poppy, I think she’s created an incredibly interesting image and sound for herself. I’ve always been drawn to people who blend different genres really well and she definitely does that.
“Possession” will be released across all music platforms on July 8th, and “I Don’t Belong” will have its worldwide debut on July 31st. What else can we expect coming up this year?
I have four other singles on the way. One was written during the shelter in place, just about a month ago and deals with themes of loneliness, and other things I’ve felt during this time. Two of the songs were written a long time ago. The fourth one is arguably the heaviest one, and deals with what it is like to be a woman currently in 2020. I think this one will sound very different from the others when it’s finished, and I think it will surprise a lot of people. I also recently learned how to scream correctly, and I think this might end up being my first song within the solo project itself, that features that style of vocals a bit.
What is one cause or organization that you are passionate about?
I’m extremely passionate about education. There are so many people within the United States (and also around the world) without access to adequate education, even in public schools. Of course, many people also don’t have access to higher education such as going to a college or university. I don’t think this will ever happen, but if I was able to make a lot of money I’d want to start a scholarship fund for students who would be the first person in their family to ever attend college. My college experience was extremely important to my growth as an adult. I grew up in a very small town, and I think I’d be a very different person if I never went to college. I’m really grateful that I was able to broaden my mind and meet lots of different students from different walks of life, simply by attending college. Now, more than ever, I think it’s important for students to understand how to think for themselves, how to form their own opinions on issues based on factual research, and how to find credible information. It’s also very important to vote, and to understand exactly what you are voting for. Education can sometimes help bridge this gap.
I’m also passionate about education internationally. I spent a month in Cambodia a few years ago teaching English and mathematics to children. It had a big impact on my life. I ended up being invited into their homes and neighborhood, and saw how a lot of children in other places live. The organization is the EYC school (Empowering Youth Cambodia) and I highly recommend looking into it, or donating to it. They provide education to hundreds of students that otherwise would never be able to go to school. I ended up going back last year to visit, and there was also a big fire that destroyed a lot of the children’s homes. Many of the families became homeless, so the school was trying to raise funds for that. Overall, we don’t recognize in the US how lucky we are to have the public education system that we do have. Although, I think it’s always good to think about how we can keep improving it! There is always work to be done. A good education can be the difference between a child (and their own children) living in poverty their entire life, or not. It’s a cycle that can be broken with education and I think this is incredibly important.
I love your sense of fashion. Who/what inspires your gothic style and where do you like to shop to pick up your staple pieces of clothing and makeup (thrift, department stores)?
Lots of things inspire me. I’ve always been drawn to darker, jewel toned colors, like dark green, maroon and deep reds, deep purples etc. I love pairing black with another color, for a nice monochromatic color scheme. I don’t really have a specific place I always shop. Some of my pieces are from Forever 21, Dolls Kill, etc. I also brought back some clothes from Harajuku, Japan last year and I was pretty excited because it’s known for being a huge fashion district. Sometimes I shop at thrift stores, too. You never know what you’ll find. I don’t think I have any influences really. I just know what I like when I see it. I really enjoy Dita Von Teese’s fashion sense. I really like pairing something feminine and pretty, with something very dark. I think she does that well.
For makeup, I’m obsessed with Nyx’s lipsticks and lip creams. Their soft matte lip cream and lip lingerie stays on for a very long time and is super pigmented. They also carry tons of fun colors.
What is the main thing that you would really like for people to take away from your music?
For me, I just want people to enjoy it. During these uncertain and unique times, I hope I can offer an escape. I think a lot of people right now just want to be entertained and taken out of their own lives even for a few minutes. A lot of people are consuming more entertainment based media.
It also depends on the song - some songs that I’ll be releasing later this year, deal with important issues. I hope that in the future, my audience will be interested in what I have to say, and be interested in the lyrics. I hope that my lyrics might provoke interest in other subjects. For example, in one of my previous bands, each song on one of our albums represented a different lobe of the brain. I had some awesome conversations with people at shows, talking about psychology. It’s really fun when I meet someone who took the time to look into the lyrics and try to understand where I was coming from.
Due to our current circumstances, live shows are placed on hold indefinitely and touring is at a standstill right now. However, many artists are finding new creative ways to interact with their fans amidst all of the chaos; utilizing their social media platforms to share content, check in with their audiences, participate in live streams, perform songs and put on “virtual concerts”, and provide insight into their new routines in quarantine. Do you have any plans that are similar in nature, to help pass the time until shows are back up and running again?
Definitely. I would really like to grow my Youtube a lot more. I started doing videography last year and I really enjoy it. One of my goals for this year is to create music videos for every song that I release. I will actually be doing a livestream instagram takeover with Starry Mag on July 19th also: @starrymag.
Do you have anything that you would like to tell our readers?
I love staying in contact with people via social media, and I love hearing what everyone has to say when a new song is released. Feel free to leave a comment on a post if you’d like to say hello! You can also sign up for my email list on my website jenjanet.com if you’d like to be notified when a new song is out.
Thank you so much for your time, Jen! I look forward to the release of your upcoming singles and hearing more new material from your solo project!
Stay safe and take care!
Interview By: Bri Rodriguez
Photo By: Jeremy Saffer