Jen Kearney brings groovy sound to Askew

Posted 1/10/23

Jen Kearney brings groovy sound to Askew

Boston musician Jen Kearney puts a lot of heart & feeling into her music. This emotional injection helps create a cool blend of funky, soulful, jazzy …

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Jen Kearney brings groovy sound to Askew


Jen Kearney brings groovy sound to Askew

Boston musician Jen Kearney puts a lot of heart & feeling into her music. This emotional injection helps create a cool blend of funky, soulful, jazzy and groovy tunes that are fun to listen to. This is especially the case with her latest release, the Atlantic EP  that came out in March of last year. On January 13 at Askew on 150 Chestnut Street in Providence, Kearney will perform with her band for what should be a really cool time. Fellow Boston act Savoir Faire will open up the show at 7 p.m.

We had a talk ahead of the upcoming evening about living in two major cities over the past few years, working with a bunch of musicians on her latest EP, the way she approaches songwriting and hoping to have a new full-length album out by the end of the year.

Rob Duguay: Your Atlantic EP comes from the years you spent living in both London and Boston. What would you say are the striking similarities and differences between both cities?

Jen Kearney: The striking similarities I guess are that they’re both pretty cosmopolitan, they both have amazing music scenes & art scenes but they each have a totally different culture. You’d think that two English speaking countries are pretty similar, but they’re totally different. Just the way it works over in London is certainly a bit different than in Boston, but both cities are equally intense and great at the same time.

RD: With it being your first release since your 2015 album Age Of Blame, what was your vision going into making the Atlantic EP and how were you able to translate it into the recording and songwriting process as it went along?

JK: I obviously had a long time to think about how to approach this record and a lot has happened since my previous release with me moving around to different parts of the world. I pretty much approached it similarly to how I approached studio time in the past, which is to try to have everything together as much as possible. This time around, we all as musicians had Covid to contend with so there was kind of a hybrid version of using a bit more of at-home studio stuff. I had never really done it before but I have Logic Pro so I did some things there, including some of the backup vocals and some of the tracks. We were able to do some of it during the summer of 2020, a bunch of us got together after getting tested and went into the studio to do the rhythm tracks.

Then from there we overdubbed things and we were able to get back into the studio towards the end of 2021 where I went in and recorded “Spinning” in particular. We did that at Chillhouse Studios in Charlestown, Massachusetts and we were able to do that track a little bit more traditionally, but unfortunately I had Covid around that time and I had difficulty singing for a bunch of months. Luckily I was able to sing on that track but it took a few sessions to be able to get my voice back to 100%.

RD: I can totally imagine that, especially with Covid running rampant during that time.

JK: Yeah, I had the delta variant.

RD: I have a few friends who had it. You had a few different collaborators for the EP with Peter MacLean on drums, Domenic Volpe Davis on bass, Steve Fell, Jason Yost and Aaron Bellamy on guitar, Amy Bellamy on the Hammond B3 organ, Yahuba Garcia on percussion, Theresa Cleary on violin & viola, Sarah Nichols on cello, James Calandrella on sax, Brian Thomas on trombone and Alex Lee Clark on trumpet. How did you get this ensemble cast of musicians involved? Are these all long time friends of yours or did you meet each of them in a different way?

JK: They’re all people that I’ve played with for a long time in various formats. Some of them are in the band that I usually play with when we play out and some are people that I’ve played with in the past, I was really lucky to assemble this cast of characters.

RD: They each have a substantial presence on the record, you can definitely hear the horn and various instrumentation everybody has to offer. I thought it was really cool while listening to the EP.

JK: Thanks.

RD: No problem. Your music touches on various styles including soul, funk, R&B, rock and Latin in a very fluid way. With this being said, how would you describe your approach to songwriting with this wide range of elements coming into play?

JK: I think in songwriting there has to be some sort of balance between structuring it, figuring it out and sort of letting things happen. If you do either one too much it’ll probably take you too long or it’s going to drive you nuts so I think the way I approach it is that I don’t aim to write something in a particular genre. I’ve tried exercises like that and usually what happens is that I end up coming up with something while I’m practicing an idea and I have a million of those little voice memos in my phone. Some of those get finished, some of those hang out for years and I usually end up doing two things every day. One is practicing instruments that I play and usually somewhere in that practice session when you’re kind of just noodling around you come up with something cool.

Similarly, I do journaling in my morning pages and that’s where the lyric ideas will come from. Sometimes things are simultaneously lucky and a whole song feels like it’s materializing and sometimes it’s straight up puzzle pieces where I’m putting what I can together. It’s hard to say, for me there’s kind of no formula that’s solid. I just try to get to it as much as I can and nowadays I’m certainly resolute to not have such a big gap between releases so I’m trying to be better about getting some songs done. Doing that every week is kind of my resolution for this year whether it’s a good song or not, it’s all about just trying to get something out.

RD: It seems like you have a very transitional approach. 2023 just started, so after the show at Askew what are your plans for the next few months? You just mentioned how you want to write a new song every week, so do you plan on just doing that to see what you come with and put the songs that stick out into your next record?

JK: I definitely hope to put out a full-length record, that’s been the plan. It kind of got delayed due to Covid and all the elements that surround it but now since that seems to be leveling off I hope to get an album finished and hopefully put it out on vinyl at some point. It’s just about the money at that point, but I’d really love to get a follow-up while incorporating the songs off the EP into a full-length. If I end up writing a ton of songs that I love it’ll maybe be a separate full-length, but that’s the goal of this year is to have something like that out as soon as I can but I don’t want to promise any dates because that can be silly to do.


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