INTERVIEW: Jenn Rawling
Hi Jenn, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Hey- I’m doing great. Just moved to Durango, Co- so life’s been pretty busy.
Can you talk to us more about your song Golden Colors?
I hang out with a lot of makers and artists, people whose impulse it is to create, often just for the hell of it. I really like people like that. Folks who make things by hand, gardeners, artists who bring beauty to the world- in spite of how broken and messed up things are.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
I went to my friends house and she’s one of these people, she’s an herbalist, and there was the plant Mullein all over the place drying like she’s a 14th century bruja. It inspired me. I went home and wrote this song. The first line is “There’s mullein on the floor. The witch is making something, beautiful, with her hands- just like that. Smoke and fire and rainbows”. This song honors our beauty makers, the ones who work for a more creative and imaginative world.
Any plans to release a video for the track?
Not yet- but I hope so.
Why naming the album after this song in particular?
I thought I’d call the album ‘Old Medicine’ but this song captured me creatively and became my favorite so I switched gears. ‘Golden Colors’ is a cooler name anyways.
How was the recording and writing process?
Recording was amazing. I rented a small house in my friends back yard and invited a handful of musical friends to co-produce and create the album. I think we all feel really overwhelmed right now politically, so to sit in a room with kindred friends and use our energy to create something positive during such a fractured and painful time was really powerful. We stayed on site together, which afforded us the luxury to work long hours and create a strong container. We had so much fun making this record together. There was a great synergy in this group of people. Lots of laughter. Everyone really showed up and brought their whole selves to this project.
I wrote these songs in the last three years while I was going through major transitions and taking a musical break after touring a bit too much. The songs were free and they just showed up without agenda or purpose. There was time to develop them and give them space to evolve without pressure to do anything with them professionally.
What made you want to record the album in a different, non-traditional studio?
As a DIY person, I’ve always wanted to home record. Transforming the small house into a full on recording space was super magical. There were lots of challenges and things to figure out but that added to the fun I think.
What was it like to work with Awna Teixeira and Inaiah Lujan and how did that relationship develop?
Well, they are wonderful human beings who are both wildly talented. I love them dearly as people and am very inspired by them and their work. When I thought about who I wanted to record with their faces just came to me. I’ve known both of them for years, met them through music, and our relationships have developed slowly over time and I’d see them mostly when we’d play shows together. I toured with Awna a few years ago. The three of us worked great as a team. Very supportive. Awna has this rare quality of making me giggle like a 6th grader- which I think really helped, since I had a lot on my plate.
How much did they influence the album?
The songs were pretty much written before I got on site so the bones of the songs were there and I knew what the spirit of each song was, if you will. There was lots of room for developing instrumentation and vocal harmonies and they, as well as Fred Kosak-guitar, Desirae Garcia and Chela Lujan- harmony vocals, Alissa Wolf-Violin, contributed massively to this. I was very open to them bringing their creativity to the table and collaborating. Some of the songs went to a level I didn’t imagine because of their ideas and contributions. We experimented some, then during mixing were super discerning and took a lot out.
What role does Portland play in your writing?
Portland. I tap very deeply into the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and this relationship plays heavily into my songwriting and visual art. The winter is a very melancholic one and writing songs always helped pull me through. The rain kills me though, and I think has contributed to my propensity to sing in minor keys. The city buzzes with creatives so it’s a great place to be an artist. I did just move to Colorado for the winter to get more sun. We’ll see if I now turn into a bluegrass writer. Highly doubtful.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
As a songwriter and visual artist, I’m inspired to contribute something that shifts our culture from violent and toxic to something more sustainable and just. I’m interested in using my energy this way, to mending the broken parts with a lot of intention, to bring something beautiful to the world, despite the current climate. So I work artistically towards the goal of healing. As soon as Trump got elected I knew I had to create and collaborate even more. Somehow art and music feel like an act of resistance right now.
I took a lot of creative writing classes way back in college so I wax poetic very easily. The lyrics are super important to me and I want them to stand on their own, be interesting and atypical. I write from personal experience. I have to know something in order to capture it’s emotion. But I also write songs that come from the land or a place, so they feel less about me and more channeled. At the end of the day I don’t care at all about song structure and am more interested in capturing an essence.
Any plans to hit the road?
Yes! Soon! I leave next week- heading out for a short SW tour with Awna Teixeira in support of the new record. After that, maybe a late Spring or Summer 2018 run.
What else is happening next in Jenn Rawling world?
It’s been a great year creatively and I did just move to Colorado so my roots are a little exposed. After this fall tour I hope to ground myself and take a breath. Making a record is exhausting! I’d love to spend the winter painting and writing new songs, settling into this new place.