Name: Jenny Kern
Recent release: Jenny Kern's new single "I Should Lose You" is out now.
Recommendations: Book: Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert); Music: Hats (The Blue Nile)
If you enjoyed this interview with Jenny Kern and would like to find out more about her music, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I played a lot of instruments growing up, including piano, saxophone and guitar. But it wasn’t until about 2018 when I started writing and singing.
I wanted to play a show in NYC but no venue would give me a slot unless I had original music. A friend suggested I write a song and, while I thought she was nuts, I tried and I haven’t looked back. I feel in love with writing right away and knew I wanted to pursue it more. Since then, I’ve just been working at building my skillset as a songwriter, singer, instrumentalist and producer.
Growing up I also listened to a lot of artists that inspired me not only to be a better musician but a more introspective and empathetic person. Musically I was exposed to everything as a kid from Motown to 80s pop and 90s female singer songwriters. I’ve really always admired artists who write from an honest place, who don’t sugarcoat the truth and who help me understand myself a little better.
Sonically I’ve just always gravitated to sounds that put you in another space and transport you mentally. I want to get chills when I hear music and feel real feelings. I think that’s what I was able to experience with the music I grew up with.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
I can’t say that I see vivid objects but I do feel something that nothing else makes me feel. Music brings out a very physical reaction (everything from laughing to crying to dancing). I just love the feeling when I can connect with something sonically.
I listen to a lot of music and constantly feel like I need to be surrounded by it, especially new music. When I’m writing or we’re in production I need to consume it because I’m trying to find new ways to get creative with sonic palettes and I want to feel new energies.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
Honestly, I’m all over the place all the time but in the best possible way. I, like many artists, experience ups and downs. I’ll get a phone call with some amazing news and then the next week I’ll play a show and maybe the turnout wasn’t what I expected or I didn’t get a playlist spot.
But the truth is I feel more and more connected to what I want to say and what my sound is every day. I’m constantly learning and taking risks which is half of the fun in doing this. There’s never a point where you’ve “made it” to me. I always want to keep getting better and keep connecting with more people. I think what’s cool about this career path is there’s no real end point
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
Not really sure how to truly describe my identity and how it influences my preferences because I think something that I love about myself is that I’m really open to a lot.
I’m always interested in taking risks with my own music and creative approach and I’m also always open to hearing new sounds and music.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
I think the beauty is that it changes a lot. I think it is fun and freeing because sometimes I’ll get a melody or lyric idea and just start messing around with it but sometimes, I need to work from the demo / production first. The most important thing for me is to be honest and not hold back from my emotional intent. I want to be open so that people feel a sense of confidence being open themselves. I want to show that it’s okay to be vulnerable. It makes the best art in my opinion.
I obviously get very scared when I share these things with the people who know me because there’s security in anonymity (easier to share with a stranger than an intimate relationship). But I love how deep music can be and I want to push myself to do even more of that.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I think there’s something special about infusing influential sounds and music in your art. I believe that all types of music overlaps with each other in one way or another and there’s something beautiful in paying tribute to something.
That said, I of course always love knowing that my sound / voice feels like my own. I want to be innovative where and when I can!
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
I have always been one to be an advocate for mental health needs because I want to be part of a shift that prioritizes mental health over results. Since I’ve started making music, I’ve been a huge proponent of therapy. I usually see my therapist weekly and it helps me really understand some of the things I’m currently going through and the things I have experienced before.
Social activity is also really important because depression and anxiety wants to isolate you and if you are able to get out and see people or do an activity you can fight back. I think nutrition and exercise is essential for me to maintain good health vocally and mentally.
Lastly, I think that journaling and creating lists can really help ground you and keep you in tune with your schedule and emotions. All of these tools have and continue to help me as I develop in the industry.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
Morning routines are everything to me. I start with my coffee, some breakfast and hydrate. Then I check emails and catch up on the news. Then I usually get some exercise in. I’ll make a list for the day of what I need to get done work wise. I try to set aside a few hours a day for creativity (writing, production, practice etc.). The most important thing is that I feel a little sense of structure and make sure I’m prioritizing what I need and not overwhelming myself.
Also, I try to call or talk to one person every day to make sure I have a solid sense of human connection. It’s essential!
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
Producing the last two singles “Feel It Again” and “I Should Lose You” was really fun because it was a different energy. There’s more rhythm, which is something I felt new to.
One of the things I really wanted to explore with production was layering sounds and utilizing electronic elements. I wanted to get creative with instruments. Working with Carson Cody has been an incredible experience because he challenges me to take risks with the music. To really explore grooves and new synth sounds etc. I can’t wait to make even more rhythmic music!
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
When I first started writing I was very new to it so I didn’t want to collaborate with anyone. I felt like I needed some time to really figure out how to approach writing and what worked for me. Now I’m very open to collaboration so much so that I have been co-writing and producing a lot.
One of my favourite collaborations was with Jacob Neverhill on our song “Say We Tried” we co-wrote / produced the song together all virtually and then finished and recorded the final elements together in the UK last January. It was an amazing experience and helped me realize how much I love sharing creative space with other people.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the art of creating for myself and being in tune with my own emotions but I love what happens when multiple creative minds come together.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Music plays such an important role in society but for me the most important thing I want to do is use my platform musically and otherwise to create positive change and push toward a society that prioritizes mental health.
I think music is an incredible tool to help people understand themselves and the world around them and I feel honoured to be a part of that space.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
Music has become a really important way for me to process these things in my life (as I can imagine it does for others).
When something major happens, I feel this connection to translate it into something sonic and musical. I’m really grateful for that ability because it’s helped me so much in my own struggles and my own process. Whether that was the loss of a friend or family member, heartbreak, friendship breakups, mental struggles, depression or anxiety I’ve used and continue to use music as a tool to work through it.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
I’m sure that there are many articles out there that indicate direct relationships between music and both the human body and other biology but I’m not much of an expert.
My guess is there’s something to be said about communication in nature and also music that can be used to actually heal. I’m a big proponent of that.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
First of all, there’s nothing like a great cup of coffee! I think there’s something special about the little things that bring us joy and help us feel things.
Music is a huge part of that but I don’t think it can take away from the other things we do every day that help us. Everything from a good walk to talking to a friend to good food etc. All of these things to me are equally as valuable as writing or performing music.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
I have absolutely no idea scientifically how it works (truly) but I do believe that there’s something biologically that happens in our body when we feel certain vibrations. I think that’s why different music resonates with different people because we all experience these things in our own way.
I think there’s definitely evidence to show that music can be used to communicate messages and there’s something physical in that process. We can feel the music and that’s something really really special.