Most of us, whether or not we consciously realize it, create our own personal music album defined by various influences and events. Mine is a recipe that includes recommendations from friends, a few timeless college unforgettables and a personal fantasy to have lived as a hippie in the 1960s and 70s.
As I listened to Jen Hirsh's newly released album, Myself In Two, my personal album instantly switched on. I heard the influences of Natalie Merchant and a sprinkle of Sarah McLachlan. Some Sufjan Stevens and a splash of Bob Dylan.
While these connections drew me in, it became quickly clear that Jen has a distinct voice all her own. The self-defined "soulful pop songstress" just released her debut album Myself in Two on March 1. It's a colorful, relatable collection of 10 songs that capture her experience over the past year: heartbreak, feelings of self doubt and "living in LA with my heart in New York."
We recently had the chance to chat about her world, inspirations and a few words of wisdom for other songwriters. Certainly, Jen weaves in the influences of her own musical mentors, but she distinctively recognizes the collective efforts of her experienced team to bring her art alive, including guitarist and writer Adam Tressler and industry veterans Patrick Warren and Bob Clearmountain. She's no novice either: Jen is a Berklee College of Music grad and has since shared the stage with music icons including Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock and Gloria Estefan.
I'm glad to now include Jen in my personal album -- here is a bit more from the interview:
Laura Cococcia: Was there a particular moment you realized you wanted to be a singer/songwriter or did it evolve over time?
Jen Hirsh: Ever since I was a little girl, I was always singing. I think I dressed up as Mariah Carey for Halloween four years in a row. Having a career as a singer has always been my dream, and I've never steered away from that. My interest in songwriting was sparked and honed at Berklee College of Music, where I spent many late nights in my dorm room tooling around on GarageBand.
Through that process, I also found that I work better in collaborative settings. My songwriting partner, guitarist and fellow Berklee alum, Adam Tressler and I have been working together for about three years. Our collaboration resulted in Myself in Two.
LC: What are some of the most satisfying aspects of songwriting for you? The most challenging or difficult?
JH: The most satisfying aspect of songwriting, to me, is the moment where a fan reaches out to me saying that my song has really touched them or hit a nerve. Songs are personal, but one of my main goals is to relate my listeners. One of the more satisfying aspects of Myself in Two was working with Adam who listened to my emotional babble and helped created these tremendously healing songs.
Music is extremely powerful, and singing these ten songs over and over again has molded me into a happier, more stable person. That is satisfying. As far as challenges go in songwriting, I'd say finishing an idea that has been started is really hard without the right amount of motivation and inspiration.
LC: Where do you get most of your inspiration for your lyrics?
JH: Most inspiration for me comes naturally with day-to-day happenings. Conversations, feelings, emotions -- anything. I just try to soak it all in.
LC: What advice can you offer other aspiring songwriter and singers -- or even other writers -- as they start their artistic journey?
JH: Write what you feel. Feel and believe what you sing. Nobody wants to see somebody who is not connected to what they are singing.
LC: What's next? Where and when can we come see you?
JH: The next step is to play out as much as possible and spread the word. If you're in the LA area I'll be playing April 7th at Harvelle's, and April 24th at Room 5 Lounge. NYC and Boston CD Release shows are in the works for spring/summer.
Find out more about Jen on her site and follow her on Twitter.