Interview by Scott Preston
Photos by Mary Abreu
Singer/songwriter Jenn Cristy launched into the music scene in 2003, wowing listeners from the start with an old-school rock ‘n roll style with a decidedly contemporary flair. Her piano-driven melodies are supported by a dynamic voice and vibrant stage presence that gets audiences on their feet — and leaves them wanting more. Jenn’s memorable lyrics, incomparable piano skills and straight-to-the-heart musical themes are further testament to her years of writing, recording and performing. Add three remarkable musicians to the mix — band members Dave Dwinell, Oliver Wittman and Andy Stocker — and it’s no wonder Jenn’s loyal fan base continues to grow at an explosive pace. Jenn has shared the stage with a veritable who’s-who of artists: Shawn Mullins, Antigone Rising, Indigenous, Bree Sharp, Jeffery Gaines, Danielia Cotton and Michael Gabliki (Rusted Root), among others. With her third album on the horizon, Jenn continues to meet the demand for her music and make an indelible mark on today’s music scene. (from myspace.com/jenncristy)
Cincy Groove: When did you start playing piano? Do you play any other instruments?
Jenn Cristy: I started taking piano lessons at the age of 4. I play guitar, the flute in high school band, then came percussion. My senior year in high school I switched to the violin. I started playing guitar in college and picked up the oboe as well on a whim. My most recent instrument I have picked up is the digeriedo. I just love learning new things.
Cincy Groove: Do you play any other instruments besides piano on stage?
Jenn Cristy: Just keyboards. I did play percussion and flute when I toured with John Mellencamp. I have played guitar a few times, but I can’t seem to take myself seriously when I’m playing it. I think my band get a kick out of me trying to play something new on stage.
Cincy Groove: Are you working on a new album?
Jenn Cristy: Well, we are hoping to get picked up before we head into the studio for the third album. If we don’t get any backing, I hope to have the new album out by early next year. We do have 4 new songs on my myspace page that will be appearing on the new album.
Cincy Groove: What kind of music was playing in your house growing up?
Jenn Cristy: Zamphir, who was a pan flutist, Elvis and Celine Dion were the main three. There wasn’t really influence from those 3. I was classically trained, so there was a lot of classical music as well. My dad bought me a double cassette of Queen when I was younger. Probably Queen and Weird Al Yankovic were the first bands that I heard on my own. My older brothers listened to Pink Floyd.
Cincy Groove: So how did you end up going on tour with John Mellencamp?
Jenn Cristy: I was a swimmer at Indiana University, where I had won 3 Big Ten championships my senior year. To announce the accomplishment, they had me sing the National Anthem at a Indiana – Illinois mens basketball game. I had song the National Anthem a few times at swim meets and one previous time at a basketball game, it was a fun thing to do. But John Mellencamp was in the audience at the basketball game and ended up asking me if I would be interested in coming out and talking to him at his studio, and possibly recording and touring with him. The next week was the NCAA’s and right after that I went straight into the studio.
Cincy Groove: What was it like the first time you went out on stage with John?
Jenn Cristy: I believe it was out in California. We recorded the album and then we rehearsed so much that by the time we went out on stage, it was almost like it came automatically. It was very cool standing back stage hearing the crowd start screaming. But once I got on stage the adrenaline took over and it was really overwhelming, but a great feeling.
Cincy Groove: I understand John still lives there in Indiana. I think its really cool that somebody of John’s fame decided to stay in a small town.
Jenn Cristy: Yeah he lives just about 15 minutes from me. You know its really hard to get started in an area and break through, which we have finally done here in Bloomington. It was estimated there was 1,100 people at our last outdoor concert here. Last year there were 500 and 2 years before that, nobody knew who we were. People would ask us why we are staying here in Bloomington. I told them John stayed here and he is doing pretty well. Its kind of like an oasis in the middle of Indiana. Once you have been here a while you will realize why John stayed. Its just a really cool town.
I have known a couple bands that had really good followings here and they left to try and break through somewhere else. I always said why would you do that? You can stay here play for 500 people and make money. Slowly the word will get out, you just have to be patient.
Cincy Groove: What is your songwriting process like?
Jenn Cristy: Usually when I get an idea I will write it down in a composition notebook. If its something that I think will come together quickly I will sit down at the piano and see if I can get a verse or a whole song done. The songs I get done in 15 minutes are the ones people seem to like more. Because they are more simple and not over done. Others will end up taking a month or more. It varies.
Cincy Groove: What do you like to so when you are not performing?
Jenn Cristy: I really think I would rather be performing over everything else, outside of being a mom and a wife. I have some friends I like to hang out with on a regular basis. I’m a big, big movie person. I think we have close to 600 dvd’s, so we are always watching movies. But as far as free time goes, I try to spend as much time as I can online doing research, looking at other bands, looking at other venues, doing anything I can to get the word out.
Upcoming Jenn Cristy tour dates:
for complete show details visit http://www.myspace.com/jenncristy
Jul 14 2008 Player’s Pub Bloomington, Indiana
Jul 17 2008 SPIN Indianapolis, Indiana
Jul 26 2008 Parky’s Smokehouse (duet show) Lebanon, Indiana
Jul 29 2008 Assembly Hall (national anthem) Bloomington, Indiana
Aug 1 2008 International Tea & Coffee (duet) Indianapolis, Indiana
Aug 16 2008 McCormick’s Creek Ampitheater Bloomington, Indiana
Aug 30 2008 Roosters Bloomington, Indiana
Sep 6 2008 Kammy’s Kause Fortville, Indiana
Sep 12 2008 LayFlats Arts and Music Festival Lafayette, Indiana
Sep 13 2008 LayFlats Arts and Music Festival Lafayette, Indiana
Sep 20 2008 Player’s Pub Bloomington, Indiana
Oct 18 2008 Locals Only Indianapolis, Indiana
Oct 25 2008 venue tba Indianapolis (Broadripple), Indiana