INTERVIEW: Jenn Grinels

Pic by Ana Haas

Singer-songwriter Jenn Grinels is overflowing with talent, a dynamo on stage known for her sometimes-intense, sometimes-intimate, sometimes-lighthearted live shows, as much as she is for her relatable, sincere, and vulnerable lyrics.  Now calling Portland home, she spent year on the road on what she calls “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. 

Her new album, Go Mine, is set to be released on November 20th, and it features elements of soul, jazz, folk, blues, pop, Americana, and rock. The songs on the album showcase Grinels’ varied influences, remarkable songwriting abilities, and vast vocal range. Her voice can go from Fiona Apple’s intricate, visceral vulnerability to Eva Cassidy’s haunting clarity, hitting every timbre in between. She can belt like a powerhouse, coo like a baby bird, punch like a raw rocker, or deliver a pure, innocuous soprano warble.  A stand-out track on the album is the emotional, healing “Resilience,” which was released recently as the fourth single from the album.

“When I wrote ‘Resilience,’ I never could have imagined just how much our resilience would be tested in these times,” says Grinels.  “I hope this song reaches all who need it. I hope it provides catharsis and serves as a glimmering reminder that we will get through this: we humans are incredibly resilient creatures.  The video for the song was championed by my Patreon patrons, who not only funded its making, but were the voices that suggested and encouraged its creation. They reminded me that music helps get us through difficult times and this is a song some people might really need right now. It was made through laughter and tears with an incredible group of artists, all intent on portraying just how amazing humans are.”

Vents Magazine sat down with Grinels to talk about “Resilience,” how the song and video resonate during these trying times, her new album, Go Mine, as well as what fans can expect from her beyond 2020.

Vents:  Your single, “Resilience,” and the video for it, came out recently. How does it feel to have that song out in the world now?

Jenn Grinels:  It feels cathartic, honestly. We hadn’t planned on “Resilience” being a single initially, but when the pandemic started, along with all the other intense things that have happened this year, we knew we needed to put it out. The pandemic made planning and shooting a music video extra challenging though – it took a good five months from conception to release – so it feels AMAZING to finally have it out. 

Vents:  Obviously, the title of this song, “Resilience,” is timely, given what’s going on right now with the pandemic.  What is the song about?  What inspired it?

Jenn:  The inspiration for the song was a friend going through a difficult time, before the pandemic. But the meaning of a song can evolve, and with the whole world experiencing the effects of the pandemic, resilience became such a universal theme. Now I can’t perform it without thinking about this difficult year we’re all enduring, and hope it offers some comfort. 

Vents:  Please tell us about the video.  Who came up with the concept and who directed it?  Where was it filmed?  What do you hope the video conveys to those who see it?

Jenn:  I wanted the video to reflect what we’re all experiencing during the pandemic, but in an artistic and emotional way – like the isolation, but not a ton of people in masks. I wanted to capture the difficulties and resiliency specific to this past year, but also hardship and the strength of the human spirit in general. Conceptually, the video was a collaboration between myself, my best friend and producer, Merideth Kaye Clark, and One27 Media House, Nicholas Lamendola and Chelsea Donoho. Nick shot most of the footage and the rest of us were there to give input. We shot mostly in Portland. The cellist, Dave Eggar, was filmed in Tennessee. 

I think the video provides some catharsis to people. That’s overwhelmingly been the response because we’re still going through it – we’re still isolated and don’t know exactly how this pandemic is going to play out – so there’s a visceral reaction. Tears of sadness when you first glimpse the little girl standing six feet from everyone in the grocery line. And tears of happiness and hope when she’s able to hug her grandmother again. Because that really is her experience right now, and we’re all hoping for the day we can hug our loved ones again.

Vents:  “Resilience” is the fourth single from your forthcoming album, “Go Mine,” which comes out November 20th.  Can you tell us a little bit about the album and where “Resilience” fits into the overall themes and vibe of the record?

Jenn:  This record took me two years to make, and it is by far the happiest record I’ve ever made! There are a couple of edgier, sassy songs and many love songs, so “Resilience” is definitely the slow, intimate outlier. It is the closing song on the record, and in order to transition into this delicate, emotional place, we gave it a long, gorgeous piano intro. Whereas before, my records were about breakups and self-examination, Go Mine is definitely a self-actualization and “hooray I got married!” record.

Vents:  You’ve toured a lot for years now.  Given the circumstances, we probably won’t see you touring any time soon, but what are your plans in the coming months and what else can fans look forward to from Jenn Grinels in 2021?  

Jenn:  Touring has been my main focus for the past eight years, which is why this is my first studio album in all that time! The pandemic really forced me to shift gears, to literally take a break from touring, and focus on writing. If there’s any silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that it has forced me to be the most productive I’ve ever been. Earlier this year, I formed a folk duo with my best friend, Merideth Kaye Clark, called Siren Songs. We put out a record in May and are continuing to work on new material. Our next single is a collaboration with Alfred Howard called “Letter to Your Heart,” and it’ll be out in December. Alfred is a lyricist in San Diego and he’s doing this colossal project  – he committed to putting out 100 songs with various artists over the next year! I have another single with him called “Take” that just came out last week. In February, I’m releasing a live record, which I hope will be the first of many, so it’s called Live Volume 1. I’m so excited about it, and I’m putting it out on vinyl as well. 

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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