Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In the Studio w/ Jenny Owen Youngs

When you’re a talented singer and songwriter that has poured all of your soul into what you do, it gets to a point where you seek inspiration anywhere, for you have already may have said everything you wanted to say by now. For Brooklyn via New Jersey artist, Jenny Owen Youngs prepping album number three has become quite the task, yet she is doing it with such poise and grace that the end result will be exactly what her fans are yearning for. A singer/songwriter in the current music market seem to be a dime a dozen and the competition has forced many to stop and others fall by the wayside. For someone like Jenny Owen Youngs equipped with her clever personality and intimate songs, she has managed to stay afloat and develop a throng of fans around the world. I caught up with Jenny as she is currently writing and recording the follow up to her acclaimed 2009 sophomore release, Transmission Failure.

“The new album will feature an emphasis on weirdo percussion, some grittier songs and arrangements, but ultimately I think the people who are already into my music will find plenty of the things they like and are familiar with” Jenny says of recording her yet-to-be-titled next record. She continues to work with producer Dan Romer, who has produced her first two albums and she says “our working relationship and our individual careers pretty much kicked off together, with Batten the Hatches, which was recorded in the 48-track studio at SUNY Purchase where we met in the Studio Composition/Studio Production division.” The two inspire and push each other in all the correct directions that an artist needs to go to. For Youngs, she has been finding stimulation for her latest record in various places from “the Jonestown Massacre, electro-convulsive therapy, human sacrifice and then of course all the lovely stuff. But it's a bit darker, less moping and more understanding of less seemly human motives.” When I asked Jenny how her songwriting has evolved through the years she playfully said, “Gosh, well, I hope it's gotten better,” then she elaborated “I'd say my primary focus has moved from lyrics to melody, which is not to say that I'm not still neurotic about the words... just more neurotic about the melodies than I used to be.” When I asked Jenny if she has run out of ideas by now she said, “always, but then I always prove myself wrong. The key is to continue to take in work that inspires you.”

In June, Jenny released her first new song, the non-album track “Great Big Plans” which she worked on with L.A. singer Greg Laswell, the song is available via Jenny’s website and Bandcamp page. She released the song as a way to let her audience know that new material is on the way, “I just released the song because I knew it wouldn't be on the record, and I know the record still won't be out for a bit. I wanted to put something fresh in people's ears in the meantime.” While the record is still being worked on, Jenny will hit the road this fall with her friends in Motion City Soundtrack and then on a small fall tour. She will have a packed schedule from September on and hopes to get the record done after her work on the road is finished. When I asked her what has been the most challenging thing she has encountered in this whole process, she says, “In an industry that makes business out of art, it's easy to get confused about which is more important. For me it's a challenge to remember every day that perfecting the song is more important than the weight of all the business tasks that go hand in hand with releasing that song.”

Though her road to album number three has been a journey of self-discovery and pushing herself as an artist more and more, she is still having the time of her life simply living out her dream. “Once in a while I get a letter in my PO Box, or handed to me at a show, that tells me about how my music has helped a person get through something terrible - a break-up, the loss of a loved one, a struggle with a life-threatening disease. When someone reaches out to thank me for something like that, it reminds me that however down, hopeless, or aimless I may feel, what I do actually matters. Maybe to just ten people, maybe just to one person, but one person is enough for me. […] A smart man once told me that music is necessary to civilization because it makes us feel like human beings.”