Jenn Grant crafts songs of heartbreak

Justin Brake
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If you don't know who Jenn Grant is yet, you should. She is, after all, St. John's come-from-away musical sweetheart via Prince Edward Island and Halifax, and music listeners across the country and continent are beginning to hear her name and voice.

In her late-20s, the pop-folk chanteuse has drawn comparisons to Feist and Sarah Harmer, but embraces a sound and approach to writing music that is distinctly her own.

Singer-songwriter Jenn Grant will perform at The Ship Inn Thursday and Friday. - Submitted photo

If you don't know who Jenn Grant is yet, you should. She is, after all, St. John's come-from-away musical sweetheart via Prince Edward Island and Halifax, and music listeners across the country and continent are beginning to hear her name and voice.

In her late-20s, the pop-folk chanteuse has drawn comparisons to Feist and Sarah Harmer, but embraces a sound and approach to writing music that is distinctly her own.

In February, Grant released "Echoes," her second album and first on Six Shooter Records, a renowned Toronto-based label that boasts the slogan, "Life is too short to listen to shitty music."

So it's fitting that her latest effort is anything but shitty.

If anything, the followup to 2006's wildly popular independent release "Orchestra For The Moon" affirms Grant's staying power and establishes her as a capable singer-songwriter - adept in evoking the power of sentiment in song and of pinnacling her own potentiality both lyrically and vocally.

From her home in Halifax, Grant recently spoke with The Telegram about the new album, her recent vamoose from the craziness of public consumption, and the upcoming show at The Ship Pub in St. John's that will mark the end of her brief hiatus - all while making a pot of soup in her kitchen.

Heads south

Immediately following the release of "Echoes." Grant and her band travelled to Los Angeles to perform a series of gigs the week leading up to the Grammy Awards, then to Austin, Texas to play South by Southwest, the mecca event for emerging musicians to showcase themselves to industry insiders.

But she's much more anxious to talk about her recent escape from the clamour, perhaps for a few reasons.

"I was feeling pretty tired, and we bought a house - my boyfriend bought a house - and we've just been renovating," she says buoyantly.

"So I've sort of been writing, and we know that we have a bunch of festivals and stuff coming up in the summer. So I've had more time off in the last month and a half or so than I have in two years," she laughs. "I really needed it. I just wanted to be home."

Grant's answers are quick-witted and candid, with the occasional pause likely resulting from her intermittent visits to the stovetop.

The rest of the time she seems restless and I envision her pacing around the kitchen. During one part of the conversation, however, she escapes the living room so we can speak privately about the story behind one song in particular.

Substantial inspiration

Another possibility for her eagerness to talk about the present and near future may be the substance of "Echoes'" inspiration: a breakup that seems to have torn at her heartstrings and liberated her at the same time. The album is a melancholic, heartfelt attempt to musicalize a struggle that she outwardly understands not just to be her own, but everyone else's, too.

"The only way I really know how to make music is to be personal and to write about things that I know," she explains. "When I was doing that, it sort of felt like a breakthrough for me to be able to express it, so it made me feel really confident. It stems from my own personal things that I went through, but I make it for other people.

"I write for myself, but when I make an album I want to be able to give it to the people who come to my shows. I want them to be able to make it about their own lives and take some comfort."

With songs like "Heartbreaker," "I Was Your Woman" and "I'll See You Again," the record's key theme isn't hard to distinguish, but it's the cohesion of the songs and their unfettered progression that makes "Echoes" a rare and delicate oeuvre that would fall apart if constrained by industry customs like singles, videos and radio edits.

"It's not a very single'y record I don't think," she says, pausing for a moment. "It's like a movie record ... I think."

"Parachutes" is Grant's take on a phone conversation between her and friend Tim Baker, frontman of local rock act Hey Rosetta!, who wrote and recorded his own abstract on the heart-to-heart last year for his band's album "Into Your Lungs."

And the daring rendition of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" has drawn praise from music critics who understand that artists seldom cover Young's tunes successfully while leaving their own mark on it.

It helps, but isn't a coincidence, that the song slides right into the mosaic as if it were one of Grant's own.

"Whenever I feel like I'm letting go, something takes over," she says, attempting to articulate the origins of her inspiration. "That's what happened when I was playing that Neil Young song. It wasn't a planned thing, and I think that's why the song worked well."

Pair of shows

Grant returns from her hiatus with a pair of shows at The Ship Thursday and a special performance at the "Magical Cabaret and Fundraiser" for her sister's non-profit organization For The Love of Learning, which takes place at the Gower Street United Church Friday at 7 p.m.

Accompanying Grant for The Ship shows is violinist Kinley Dowling and opening act Daniel Ledwell of Halifax's In-Flight Safety. The early show begins at 7 p.m. and the late one at 10:30 p.m.

At the time of publication, only a handful of tickets remained for the late show, at O'Brien's Music Store, but there were plenty for the early show. They can be purchased at Fred's, The Ship and O'Brien's, or at the door, if any remain.

For information on the Magical Cabaret Fundraiser, contact For The Love of Learning at 738-7911 or info@fortheloveoflearning.org.

Organizations: Accompanying Grant for The Ship, Gower Street United Church, Music Store Fred's

Geographic location: Halifax, St. John's, Prince Edward Island Los Angeles Austin, Texas

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