Jenn Grant is not a well-known name to American music fans. Yet.
The Canadian singer-songwriter is working hard to be noticed in this country. She toured across the upper midwest with Erin McKeown, took a brief break back home in Nova Scotia, and is back at it with a show at Madison's High Noon Saloon Thursday evening, also in support of McKeown.
Her latest CD, "The Beautiful Wild," has been out in Canada since September, but was just released in the United States a few weeks ago. Grant tells Lake Effect's Mitch Teich that the album came together differently than her three previous full-length efforts. "I wanted to change my style of writing," she says. "The songs came really quickly, and I threw away all the [other] songs I had sort of been working on."
Grant and her three bandmates, including her husband - producer and keyboard player Danny Ledwell, retreated to a house on Prince Edward Island and cranked out the album. "Every day I would write a new song in a different way," Grant recalls. "I made my voice be the catalyst for the songs instead of falling into the same musical patterns I was using before."
Sometimes haunting and ethereal, sometimes anthemic, "The Beautiful Wild" took on a new set of meanings - even after the songs were written and recorded. Grant's mother fell seriously ill, and as the other band members took on projects last winter, Grant went home to be with her. "My mom was my best friend," she says. "And I would play all these songs for her. And it felt like, as the winter progressed and she and I were together going through her cancer treatments, it felt like all the songs were about her, and they were almost like gifts given to me that week we were making this record."
Grant believes the music - and the time she spent with her mother - were a comfort to both of them before her mom died. "Now that it's been a couple months that the record's been out," she says, "it feels that - to me - that's what this record is about. That the songs were meant to be, that they helped her with this process of passing away. And she felt really honored to be part of that experience with me."
It was later in the Spring that Grant and her brother discovered 16mm film of a 1973 pageant in Norfolk, Virginia, in which her mother was crowned Queen of the Azaleas. Grant put the footage together and used it in the music video for her song, "The Fighter." "We had always heard about her being this Azalea Queen, and she was really amazing," Grant explains. "So it seemed really fitting to use that footage."