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Allen Mendenhall interviews Mary Jennings, Singer-Songwriter

In Art, Artist, Arts & Letters, Creativity, Humanities, Melody, Music, Singer, Singer-Songwriter, Song on June 1, 2011 at 6:52 am

The old adage “big things come in small packages” has perhaps never been more fitting for an artist than in the case of Jennings, the one-name moniker of New York based siren Mary Jennings.

Standing just a shade over five feet tall, Jennings delivers a robust and heartfelt sound that is anything but small-scale.  Her music reflects an enormous strength and drive that is uniquely hers, combining a deep range of rock and pop influences with an unabashed sense of vintage style that few, if any, could ever pull off. 

“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,” says Mary.

Mary’s surge in musical expression started after the sudden death of her mother in 2001.  “This tragedy rocked me to the core, but there is so much beauty in what it allowed me to do,” she says.  “All of my emotions came pouring out in the form of melody.”

At the time, her father, a former musician himself, gave her the option to go through therapy or record an album.  He knew both would be equally helpful to her, but by recording her music, she would be able to have something to hold on to and share with others for a lifetime.

It was on that first album that Jennings established her creative foundation, crafting music that bonds her to the listener in a genuinely honest and relatable way.  That openness, and the raw emotion that she has shared on subsequent records, has attracted praise from fans and press alike.  “Jennings’ music is sweet, lush, powerful, full of great hooks, intelligent and meaningful to boot! I love it!” said Heather Miller-Rodriguez of 100.1FM KRUU.  Platinum award winning producer John Rowe agrees, calling Jennings’s music “creative and original… A breath of fresh air!”

Recent years have seen Mary’s musical aspirations starting to take shape.   She has worked with Billboard-charting songwriters, toured with national acts and has had a number of her songs placed on popular television shows.  While the professional growth and the accolades are nice, she values most the simple act of connecting with a live audience.  “Live performances give me such a rush,” she says.  “They are one of the best parts about being a musician.  To me, they are what really brings the music to life.  To know that you only have a few moments to capture an audience and keep them engaged long enough to fall in love with you and your music is a difficult task, but one that I wouldn’t trade for any other profession.”

Jennings’s growth continues with the release of her latest album, Collapse Collide.  It’s a project that reflects an artist, and a woman, who has confidently found her voice over the course of a long, and, at times, heart-breaking journey and the beginning of what many have already predicted: a bright and promising future for a truly one-of-a-kind talent.

The Interview:

Q:  Mary, before I ask you about your music, I’d like to ask you about yourself.  I first met you in 2001, before you started gaining such celebrity, and you were an artist then, but not quite on the same scale as today.  What changed? 

Well, I think in college, in many ways, it was still just for fun.  It wasn’t until I got out of school that I really started pursuing it hard.  In 2007, I signed on with a manager too, which took it to a whole other level.  I think it went from hobby status to professional status.

Q:  When did you know you were going to become a singer/songwriter?

I first started writing music in high school so at that point I knew I loved it.  After I lost my mom in 2001, I knew I needed to pursue my passion even more.  I think it reminded me that, as cliché as it sounds, life is short and I need to spend everyday doing exactly what I love most. 

Q:  How and why do you write your own music?  Or, what do you think about when you write?  People?  Places?  I guess what I’m asking is, where do you draw your “inspiration,” if that’s the right term?    

Inspiration is the perfect term and for me, it is everything around me.  I write only about what I know, experience, and feel.  Some people write about fictional stories or history and that’s not really me.  I want the listener to feel like they know me.  I write about everything from life, death, love, loss, to just a 5 minute interaction I may have with something.  Nothing is safe from my music.

Q:  Who is your favorite artist or musician? 

That is the most impossible question because I have so many!  I have grown up listening to Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, celtic music, and the like.  My musical family has also heavily inspired me.  So I can’t say that I have a favorite.  It depends on the day.

Q:  What’s your favorite song by another artist, and what’s your favorite song that you have written or sung?

My favorite song is “Smile” writer by Charlie Chaplin.  I just love everything about it from the lyrics to the music to the emotions it evokes.  I don’t have a favorite of my songs because they are all like my children.  My biggest accomplishment in songs would probably be “Move.”  It was a song that took me 9 years to really nail down.  When I lost my mom, I knew I would write this song but I just couldn’t ever seem to get it out.  When I finally did, a huge weight was lifted.  So, it is my biggest accomplishment, but still not my favorite.  That wouldn’t be fair to the other songs.

Q:  Why do you sing?  How does singing make you feel?

I sing because it keeps me sane and happy.  Singing and writing for me is a necessity like breathing, eating, and sleeping.  I need music.  I need to sing.  It is my passion, my life, and truly my favorite thing to do.  I know it may sound cheesy but it is completely true.

Q:  Tell us about your music.  How would you categorize it by genre, or does it explode genre altogether?

Loosely put I would say my genre is piano and vocal based pop/rock similar to Sarah McLachlan with more edge, Tori Amos with less anxt and Imogen Heap (Frou Frou) with fewer tricks.

Q:  I have heard your music referred to as “poetry.”  Would you agree with that characterization? 

Sure!  I think all lyrics in music are a sort of poetry. They just become songs with the addition of music and melody.

Q:  This site is called “The Literary Lawyer,” and it addresses topics across the arts and humanities.  What do you think readers of this site will and should get out of your music? 

Oh I don’t know.  I hope that they will find music that they enjoy and see that it comes from a genuine and true place.  My goal with music is to write songs that people can relate to and I hope the readers get that.

Q:  Where can readers find out more about you and your concerts?

Readers can find out all of my information from my website www.jennings-music.com.  From there you can get on my mailing list.  I also have all of the social networks as well so people can follow me on all of those too if they like.

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