Jenny Gillespie is a songwriter currently based in San Francisco. She released her latest album, Cure For Dreaming, back in January, a record which combined her earnest folk with dashes of progressive jazz and sunny 60s/70s pop. The themes of the album are pretty serious, ruminations on motherhood, marriage, spirituality and, almost inevitably, death, give the songs a depth that far exceeds much of its contemporary genre-mates. We were pleased indeed, then, when Jenny agreed to answer some of our questions about the record, her influences and her record label, Narooma Records. Without further ado, check out the interview below!
Hi Jenny, thanks for speaking with us! How is life in California at this time of year?
It’s cool and rainy, every day is different weather wise and there aren’t really any seasons so it can feel disorienting!
Your latest album, Cure For Dreaming, sounds like your fullest, most polished release to date. Was this your intention going into the record? Or do such things evolve as the songs take shape?
I think my intention was to work with someone and hand over the production “polishing” reins so I could really focus on songwriting and singing. My previous efforts have been looser and more experimental and self produced, which was fun but I had an eight month old baby at the time of creating the album so had to think of how to simplify and delegate. My main goal was for it to sound beautiful.
I was trying to decide if the album is sad or uplifting and came to the conclusion that it’s both, which I suppose isn’t all that surprising considering the existential themes of mortality, motherhood and spirituality. I’m interested in how the songs feel in your own mind? Does the binary happy/sad idea even occur to you?
I feel the songs are hopeful-someone once told me they were drawn to my music because it’s about the survival of your spirit in the difficult situation of being human. So not really happy or sad, just about loving despite suffering. I liked that reading very much.
Who/what do you consider as the biggest influences on your writing? Are they musical or from personal experiences? Do any other art forms (literature, film, visual art) play a role?
My biggest influence is probably my mother who gave me her 1972 Martin when I was thirteen and played tapes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Dionne Warwick, Dolly Parton and other greats in our house and car while I was growing up. I am constantly reading three or four books at once, and poetry definitely influences me–I think for this album a poet named Patrizia Cavelli was really getting to me, her clarity and directness. My friendships with women have also really affected my songwriting and depicting their strength and intricacies, and motherhood has been a huge part of my recent writing.
Your record label, Narooma Records, is a home for “genre-defying”, “offbeat” female artists. How important is it to set up networks of support and collaboration in today’s saturated music industry?
I think it’s very important and if you find other female artists to support and who in turn encourage you, it makes you feel like you can keep going as a woman artist in your 30s or 40s–there isn’t a whole lot of support for that in the mainstream music world.
What’s next for Jenny Gillespie? Do you have clear plans for your future, or is your creative process a little more intuitive?
I would like to keep writing and recording but probably under a new name, I think it’s time to shed and renew. I am interested in blending synthetic with organic as I did on my album Chamma-but also getting it into a jazz/r and b place–that’s my intuition right now! But probably not for a few months, since I have a new baby coming in July.
Finally, could you name 4-5 artists you yourself are currently enjoying? They can be brand new or old classics, super-popular or barely known, whatever you find yourself returning to.
Joanna Newsom, Madeleine Parrenin, Beyoncé, Julie Andrews