Interview by Scott Preston
With the soothing sound of piano accompanied by a strong voice and an electronica edge, Jennings creates a sound all her own. Drawing inspiration from musicians like Imogen Heap, Annie Lennox, Kate Bush and Moby, each song Jennings creates is unique. With “Femtastic” and now “Storybook EP” complete, Jennings has built on the lessons of her life and musical journey and courageously perfected the delicate balance between vulnerability, honesty and grit.
“I believe that the difference between an artist and the average person is a fearless and relentless willingness to expose their quarks, oddities, secrets, and passions for all of the world to see and hear.” Jennings is certainly no exception to the rule. Her voice and words are her ways of expressing happiness, mourning, anxiety, anger, and excitement, allowing her listeners to laugh, cry, and live every one of her emotions. Although she is small in stature, Jennings’ music reflects an enormous strength and drive that is uniquely hers.
Cincy Groove: What was the inspiration for your latest release “Storybook”?
Mary Jennings: I’m always writing and I have this batch of new songs since the Femtastic record that I wanted to start promoting and I have been playing them at shows a lot. My fans wanted the new songs on a cd so they could put them on their ipods and computers. I chose those 5 songs from probably 7 or 8 that I was considering. Those five just really stood out from the rest.
Cincy Groove: I see that Femtastic was released in 2007, but don’t you have a few previous releases?
Mary Jennings: Yes, the first album I ever came out with was in 2001 and was self titled “Jennings”. I made that album the summer after my mother died and I had all these songs I had written. My dad told me he said I needed something to make me healthy, so he told me I could either go to therapy or I could make an album. I said I would make prefer to do an album because it’s something I can hold on to and treasure. Then the very next year I had 13 or so new songs so I paid for it myself and worked with the same producer I worked with on the first album. Those 2 records were more like therapy. I made them more for me than for anyone else, but if other people liked them then that’s awesome. At the same time I was still in college pursuing my degree so it was just something I had to do for myself. The Jennings record was my mourning and the Recovery cd was my recovery from that mourning. I then didn’t record anything until 2007. When I recorded in 2007 I knew I wanted to do music as a job, there wasn’t any question at that point. I had been living in Nashville and performing a bunch of shows. The Femtastic and Storybook EP are songs that are still therapeutic for me, but at the same time are more applicable to everyone else.
Cincy Groove: I really like that you do a monthly video blog.
Mary Jennings: My manager and I had been talking about how important having a connection with the fans is. I want my fans to see the same person on stage as I am off the stage. I want it be friendly, I want you to feel like you know me. So my manager suggested I do a video blog. I do them once a month and try to keep them short and sweet. I just thought doing the video blog was something different that not everyone was doing.
Cincy Groove: I see that you are playing with a full band, is that a recent development?
Mary Jennings: It is recent. I had been playing solo with a piano and looping station. But recently started playing with a bass player and a drummer. I have the same bass player that played on the Storybook EP but a different drummer. We do a lot of Connecticut and New York shows, shows that are close to home and easy to travel to.
Cincy Groove: If there was one person you could open for or collaborate with, who would it be?
Mary Jennings: That’s tough to answer because I’m inspired by so many artists. Tori Amos would be amazing to work with. But at the same time something that would be interesting for me would to maybe work with a DJ, do something out of the ordinary for myself.
Cincy Groove: When did you start playing piano?
Mary Jennings: I started playing around on the piano around age 5 or 6. My parents then got me into piano lessons but that didn’t last very long because I wasn’t trying that hard. I ended up picking it back up later in life. I had the coolest piano teacher. I told her that I like to write music and I pretty much play by ear. So I wanted to learn technique and start from there.
Cincy Groove: Are there any upcoming shows your excited about?
Mary Jennings: I’m always excited about all my shows. I do have one coming up on August 27 at the R Bar in New York City and it will be a full band show. That show will be right in the middle of us recording in the studio , so I think that night will be a lot of fun. It will be nice to play in front of people instead of in the studio.
Cincy Groove: Tell me about your upcoming studio time.
Mary Jennings: I’ll be in the studio for 3 days, August 25, 26, 28. Just going to record a couple songs and put them out as digital downloads. I think it keeps people interested in your music if you can offer them at least one new song every few months. Once I release enough songs as digital downloads I might put them together in album form.
Aug 27 08:00 PM | New York, NY R Bar
Sep 11 07:30 PM | New York, NY Caffe Vivaldi
Sep 22 08:00 PM | Nashville, TN The Basement
Fri Oct 10:00 PM | Dewey Beach, DE Dewey Beach Music Conference
Fri Oct 02 10:30 PM | Dewey Beach, DE Dewey Beach Music Festival
Thu Nov 12 08:45 PM | New York, NY Rebel