Jenn Bostic makes her return to the UK shortly for a run of dates which include a Manchester gig at Gullivers on 2 May. The Manchester gig comes towards the end of run of dates in support of her upcoming album, Revival, which is due for release just a couple of days later on 4 May.
We caught up with Jenn whilst she was in Nashville to chat about recording Revival, returning to Manchester and shooting the artwork in Iceland no less.
“A lot of those writing sessions ended up being almost like therapy sessions”
Revival has been inspired by life events, Jenn Bostic explains, “Every single song has some correlation to my life or a parallel that I had written with a co-writer and the nice thing about this record too, is all the cowriters are some of my best friends in the whole world. A lot of those writing sessions ended up being almost like therapy sessions, you know? … for both of us. The whole album kind of has this thread of strength. I write songs that I need to hear – the messages of hope where you can be honest about what’s going on, but you need to find the silver lining. You need to find the hope in order to keep going.”
The album was recorded in Nashville, at the House of Blues Studios, and saw her return to her roots recording the album live in the studio. “This is my fourth record now and I’ve done a lot of different styles of recording” she tells us. “On my previous album, I did a lot of contract based recording where I was working with a producer and I would lay down the piano vocal and then I would go away and I would just get files sent to me. My first album was live in the studio where all the musicians were kind of feeding off one another and we were capturing a moment and I really wanted to get back to that. I kind of missed that experience and I learned a lot through the process.”
“But I also learned you realise what you love about music and recording and the things that you really want to be a part of, you know – future projects” she continues. “This was that for me. I got to go in a studio with some of my favourite musicians and best friends. I had Paul Salveson producing it and he is such a great producer – he’s got so many Grammy’s under his belt. He’s been working on so many projects, but he truly listens to the artist’s vision for the project. He gave me so much freedom, and yes he would have opinions and guidance, but he would never override where I felt like the music needed to go.”
“This is the first time I really knew what I wanted to record”
“That was a really important key to me because I think this is the first time I really knew what I wanted to record. I knew what the sound I was going for was. In the past it’s kind of been, “Well here’s a song. I don’t really know how it’s going to come to life, but let’s go into the studio and see what happens.” Whereas this time, I thought, “No. I want to draw from my bluesy influences like Bonnie Raitt and Tedeschi Trucks and Bill Withers.” That was kind of like soulful sounds and I want it to all be organic. I want to sound like real instruments and I’ve kind of gotten the comment of like, “Wow this sounds like really old school with like a contemporary vibe.” That was the goal so I’m glad it worked out that way!”
One of the first tracks off the album is the beautiful Faint of Heart which Jenn Bostic describes as “probably the most vulnerable on the record and maybe the most emotional” amongst a very strong empowering record, “it’s got some fun stuff, it’s got some really bluesy rock stuff too” she continues. “The message is all the same that, let’s go out there and you can overcome any obstacle that you’re facing. I think that that’s just an important message to speak into the world right now.”
Faint of Heart was released as a charity single in support of Whole Planet, a charity which provides micro-credit to entrepreneurs in 71 countries, giving away almost $70 million to entrepreneurs, 87 percent of which are women. It felt like a natural connection for Jenn Bostic. “As soon as I heard their mission and I realised what they were about, I thought “oh my goodness I want to do something with them” she enthuses. She had already written Faint of Heart and had an immediate emotional reaction to the song, knowing that there was something special about it – “I think that that happens when you’re really honest and vulnerable in the writing” she elaborates. I knew that right away with Faint of Heart. I hadn’t even finished it yet. I got through the first chorus and I thought there’s something really to this. I’m not really sure what it is yet, but I know it’s powerful. I really felt like the song, I wrote about myself and I felt like it was bigger than me, that it just dropped into my lap and I felt that because of the way it encouraged and empowered me as I was writing it, if there could be some sort of connection for that as well [for others]. Women entrepreneurship just kept coming into my mind. That second verse is all about, the fact that as women there is that, I guess, struggle as ‘okay I’m following this amazing dream and I’m chasing this business, but I also would like to have a family someday and how does that work together?’”
“Those are really honest and real feelings that I feel like people don’t talk about very often. It’s an important element to it all that I think it’s an honest interpretation of ‘here’s what’s happening.’ I think that that’s the only way I really know how to write is to be completely transparent and through that I’ve found that there’s been just so much connection. When I finished the song and it was recorded I sent it to a good friend of mine who helps with my web design and she had said, “you know, this song resonates with me as a business owner and I know that it will resonate with some other people.”
Once Jenn became aware of Whole Planet, she had a chat with the foundation and found a mutual feeling that the charity and song were a perfect connection, leading to the single be released to raise funds for the charity and Jenn being an ambassador at their Southwest Invasion event. “I just made sure people were aware of what they were supporting at the show” she explains “and the amazing work that Whole Planet’s doing. It all comes back, I mean I feel if we can encourage and help each other to fulfil their dream, naturally doors open for you as well. So it’s just a mutual thing that if we can all support each other, we’ll all get where we’re going!”
One of the more unusual aspects of Revival is that the artwork, which is stunning, was shot in Iceland. This was something which originally started off as a joke, but quickly gathered momentum. Jenn tells us the origins of the artwork and the decision to head over to Iceland for a photoshoot, “I sat down with a good friend of mine named James Muriel and we did a bit of a branding workshop. I’d never done this before, but he kind of challenged me to look at some of my images online and he’s like ‘it’s not all cohesive. I would love for your next project, especially since you love it so much, to just take everything up a notch’. We got together and we were pulling images of what the music represented. Power and strength and overcoming and all of those images had to do with forces of nature. Waterfalls and mountains and just really strong imagery.”
“We joked that day basically what we want to do is go to Iceland and shoot the photos and we kind of laughed because I thought yes I’m working a ton of hours. There’s no way I’m going to be able to afford to go to Iceland. I was laying in bed later that night and I was staring at the ceiling and thought, ‘you know, I wonder how much it is to go to Iceland’. I just did a quick google search and it wasn’t crazy. I called my good friend Sara Krauss who’s an amazing photographer and I said ‘hey, what are the chances you’d be willing to do a girls’ trip to Iceland to shoot these photos?’ And she was like ‘absolutely I’m in, it’ll be a great adventure’.”
So in December, they set off for Iceland. “We spent three days there and shot in every kind of weather. It was insane” she laughs. “The first day was like pouring down rain and windy. The second day was super windy. Like our car was shaking as we were driving. But the sun kind of came through a little bit so that’s where the Faint of Heart picture came from. Then the third day was snowing. So we got every side of the weather which I think was really neat for me, my music and my songwriting.”
“We had about four hours of daylight”
And of course, shooting in Iceland in December brought challenges beyond the weather. “We had about four hours of daylight every day as well. We had to plan very well” she laughs.
“You kind of take things as they come in life. That’s kind of what we had to do at the photo shoot too. It totally made sense even though I think everybody on the team was really positive and nobody ever said anything negative, but I think deep down we were all kind of like ‘really? This is the weather we get for flying over here?’ It worked out perfect and I love the images and Sarah just captured them so beautifully and James put them together on the artwork really well. It was quite an adventure.”
Whilst Revival may be new to most, a few lucky people who have supported the recording of the album through Pledgemusic managed to get a sneak peek a few weeks back when Jenn performed an exclusive show at The Hospital Club in London, she explains, “I had a chance to play a pre-release album show so that was really fun with the full band that I’ll have on tour in April and May. We did a show at The Hospital Club as part of PledgeMusic Presents and it was great. It was a packed house and it was just really, really nice to play with the band again. It’s been a while since I’ve performed in full band in the UK.”
It’s been a few years since Jenn Bostic last performed in Manchester, although she did headline last year at the nearby Buckle and Boots Festival and has toured the UK over the last couple of years with her Nashville in the Round shows which she put together with Sarah Darling, who we also interviewed recently, and performed with Kyshona and Michael Logen. And good news – “We’ll definitely be back with it. We love doing it. It’s just a matter of spreading out the time” she enthusiastically declares.
But now she marks her return to the city by bringing along her full band to perform tracks from Revival. “The music, if you’ve heard it, kind of needs that full band sound.” And it marks a return to the city where she has previously played at Band on the Wall and the Deaf Institute (in support of her 2013 album Jealous). “I am looking forward to coming back to Manchester” she gushes “it’s always been one of my favourite cities. I actually have a song that’s floating around on YouTube called Manchester, so they might have to follow up for this on the big screen. We’ll see how it goes!” she laughs.
“There’s going to be moments of really intimate just me and the piano sharing stories, I want to share the stories behind the songs. There’s going to be the full sound of the full band with a little bit of rock, a little bit of blues, a touch of country, some gospel. It’s going to be all over the map and it’s fun. One of the biggest compliments people say to me when after a show is, they say, “I laughed and I cried and I just had such a great time.’”
“Just enjoy a moment with your audience”
“That to me is if you can hit all those emotions and just enjoy a moment with your audience. The show to me is about them. It’s about the experience that they have. Yes, I’m so grateful that I get to play music and I have so much fun in that moment but for me, it’s about reaching into somebody’s soul and helping them either think about the world differently or just be encouraged about how to move forward with their own lives and their own dreams.”
But once the tour is finished, there’s still more for Jenn Bostic fans. She will be returning to the region to perform again at Buckle and Boots Festival. “That festival is amazing. It’s one of my favourites!” she has no hesitation is letting us know and tells us just how much fun it was headlining at last year’s event, “The people involved have just become incredible friends as well. I remember last year I was all over the map. Somebody had dropped out of a round so I got to play two rounds and finished [headlining] with a full band show. I led worship on a Sunday. It was just a really beautiful event and I feel like I met a lot of really wonderful people. It’s the kind of festival where the artists are hanging out at the bar, dancing with you, and that to me is just the coolest thing.”
When does Jenn Bostic headline at Gullivers?
Jenn Bostic headlines at Gullivers on 2 May 2018. Jenn Bostic also performs at Buckle and Boots Festival taking place at Etherow Country Park from 22-24 June 2018.
Jenn Bostic’s new album Revival is due for release on 4 May 2018.