Portland artist Jenn Grinels releases her new album, “Go Mine,” on Friday. The collection shows off Grinels’ powerful voice and songwriting range, starting with the brassy title song, through tender ballads, a duet with Marc Broussard and the hopeful album closer. Grinels celebrates the release with a livestreamed concert Sunday night at 6 p.m. available on StageIt.com.
I asked Grinels about making the record and releasing it during a pandemic.
David Christensen: Your new record has a gorgeous sound and instrumentation. Who did the arrangements and where and when did you record it?
Jenn Grinels: Thank you! It is wonderful to hear that after working on it for so long! I came into the project with my own arrangements, but they certainly evolved quite a bit throughout the recording process. This album has actually been in the works for 2 1/2 years, involved two different producers, four recording studios, and a whole boatload of people to give credit to. I think what made this album so challenging was that I had a really specific sound in mind, but I also wanted it to feel very organic.
The process kept surprising us with intensely magical moments. We decided to try recording the title track “Go Mine” live in the studio. We did a take where we all started improvising during the instrumental section. Everyone kept eye contact and it kind of became this free-for-all jam session that builds and builds -- that was the take that went on the album — MAGIC. The strings in “Resilience,” “Hands Down” and “Right From The Start” were arranged by Grammy-nominated cellist Dave Eggar. When we sent him the songs, we had no idea what to expect, and he sent back brilliance. There’s always that dance between control and being open to the muse.
Most of the tracks were recorded at Jackpot Studios in Portland and Nettleingham Audio in Vancouver, Washington. We started recording in May of 2018 and finished in August of 2019.
David Christensen: The title song starts off the album, and it’s the best kiss-off song I’ve heard in a long time. Was it inspired by anybody in particular?
Jenn Grinels: Nobody that I will name...but I will say that I didn’t write it about personal relationships so much as professional ones. I also get a lot of unsolicited advice about what I should be doing with my career. I know some of it is very well-intentioned, but it can still get to me sometimes (obviously). All that said, I do love that the lyrics can apply to any variety of kiss-off scenarios.
David Christensen: Did you write the song “Evidence” to be a duet with Marc Broussard, and how did that meeting come about?
The minute I finished writing it I knew I wanted it to be a duet and I knew Marc’s voice would be perfect. But at the time I didn’t know him, I was just a fan! And then the universe conspired to have us tour together. Still, it took me TWO YEARS to get the nerve to ask him.
David Christensen: You’re releasing the “Go Mine” in just about the worst time imaginable to drop a record, without concerts or touring. What made the decision to do so now?
Jenn Grinels: The release date was chosen last year. And we just stuck to it. It maybe got delayed a little bit because making music videos during quarantine was challenging, but mostly, I just didn’t want to wait. I just wanted to get it out into the world.
David Christensen: Your press materials say this is only one of three records you have ready to go. Is that right?
Jenn Grinels: Yes! I took a break from touring even before this year and that resulted in quite a bit of new music. The pandemic just kind of forced me to continue to focus on creating, and now I’m almost overwhelmed with material. In May I put out a folk/Americana album, “Siren Songs,” with my best friend Merideth Kaye Clark and I have a completely live album I’ll be releasing in February 2021. I’ve also been collaborating with lyricist Alfred Howard the past few months, and we’ve already released two songs with three more on the way. Those are part of a big collaboration project I’m honored to be a part of called Alfred Howard Writes. I suppose if there’s a silver lining with this pandemic, it’s all the time it’s given me to just make music. I also have an amazing fan base on Patreon that motivates me to keep putting out new work.
David Christensen: You’re playing a livestreamed show on Sunday via StageIt. How challenging is it to create an experience for people with just a camera and microphone?
Jenn Grinels: I’ve been playing livestream concerts for seven years. So they’re nothing new for me or my long-time fans, but I know they’ve gotten a lot more popular during the pandemic because it’s kind of the only opportunity artists have to perform. I’ve always made an effort to have the best lighting and sound possible. I really try to be interactive and responsive to the chat room. I enjoy the dialogue back and forth with the audience online. It’s incredible to ask where people are watching from and see the list of states and countries flash on the screen! The other thing I like to do is make sure I’m darn close to the camera because that intimacy is one of the benefits of online concerts. Everyone has a front-row seat.
David Christensen: The album ends with a beautiful and hopeful song, called “Resilience.” At first, I thought it was the perfect song for the near-ending of this very strange year, but then again, “Go Mine” might be the better song for 2020. What song on the album speaks to you most now, for this moment?
Jenn Grinels: A ha ha! A kiss-off song for 2020 is appropriate for sure. But I do think “Resilience” has unexpectedly become the one that speaks to me most right now. I wrote that song knowing it would be relevant to some people, I never imagined that this year we’d have a pandemic and suddenly the idea of resilience would be relevant to everyone. We made a music video and it was a really cathartic experience. We cried a lot while we made it and I still cry when I watch it. It starts with the isolation, the darkness, but it ends with the light at the end of the tunnel. The reunion of loved ones. We wanted to show the strength of the human spirit through all this. So by the end of the video, I’m crying happy, hopeful tears.