By Alix Bruch
CALGARY – Jenn Grant admits to having a bit of an addiction to reinvention, so it should come as no surprise that her latest record Paradise is different than anything she has done before.
“People would say to me, ‘You are good at this folk thing. Why don’t you do that all the time?’ But I feel like the truth of myself is that I always want to push myself, and I also feel like the risks that you take in music and art is where growth happens. The fear of it is the tiny little bit of rebellion that I let into my life.”
Paradise, Grant’s sixth full length album and follow up to her Juno nominated record Compostela (2014), takes listeners to another dimension with its soul-charged galactic resonance. What she describes as an “other worldly feel, a calling to home, and sense of lost,” is an impressive, yet effortless combination of piano, synth chords, and drum beats. In other words, musical genius of epic proportion. However, perhaps it’s the Halifax native’s undeniable vocal ability that underscores the sublimity of the record – the voice of an experienced and deliberate singer-songwriter, proving that she’s only getting better as her career goes on.
“My goal was to make a dynamic record, and I think that is the simplest way to put it.” Grant explains. “I wanted my voice to be a focal point; I wanted it to be dynamic too.” The ’80s’ style rock anthem “Galaxies”, in particular, demonstrates this that then slides into the silky ballad “In My Dreams”, before leaping to the more familiar folk tune “Lion With Me”. Grant’s voice proves remarkable diversity, but still remains recognizable to fans of her previous work. It was her first time writing the majority of her songs on piano, and also her first time co-writing with her husband and producer, Daniel Ledwell.
“The challenge of this record was definitely trying to create one world where the songs all lived together. I was hoping that it would work I guess, and in the end I feel like they do all fit on the album together.”
This world in which many of the songs were born is telling in and of itself: Jenn Grant’s dreams. Amused, she says that for a long time she thought everyone had really vivid, lucid dreams. It was only after she started talking about them that she realized she possessed a unique gift. Grant likens the harnessing of this creativity to something Ron Sexsmith once said, explaining “he felt like songs were being passed to him from somewhere else, and you have to catch them. That’s how I’ve always felt about songwriting – they jump out at you”.
An exceptionally visual person, Grant can’t help but talk about her music synesthetically, as if it were a myriad of colours. “This is going to sound weird”, she remarks before diving into the intricacies of her thought process. “I always do numerology for the titles of my albums- I’m a little bit obsessed with it. So for Compostela, that’s an 11, and that equals silver as a colour, which is a magical, kind of other worldly number, but also is a bit out of reach from people. So in order for all of it to be brought down to earth, I needed to rein it in with rusty and earth colours. That’s why the album colours for Compostela are shades of orange. I feel like where Compostela is in the atmosphere and I was trying to drag it down a bit, Paradise is bigger and belongs in the galaxy. So the Paradise album is all blues, blacks, and hot pinks, which goes with sounds on the record, whereas the rusty colours from Compostela go with the warm and 70’s kind of sound.”
All method aside, Grant modestly expresses that music for her is simply “a gift if people hear it; if it meant something to them and they share that with you. It’s nice”.
Communitea, Jenn Grant, Paradise, Theatre Junction GRAND
Jenn Grant performs Wednesday, Jan. 31 at Theatre Junction GRAND (Calgary), Thursday, Feb. 1 at Communitea (Canmore).