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Funk from the Forest – An Interview with singer/songwriter Jenny Brooklin

19 January 2011 No Comment

Funk from the Forest – An Interview with singer/songwriter Jenny Brooklin

By Lindsay Williams

Jenny Brooklin is an independent singer/songwriter living on Galiano Island. Her bubbly personality and streamlined musical talent has her hosting “Open Mic with Jenny Brooklin” weekly at Galiano Grand Central, one of the nightlife hubs of the small Gulf Island. She was born to two artists and breathes art and music. Her first instrument was a ukulele given to her by her father at age three. When her parents took her to France for a year at age 12, she packed her violin. Somewhere between Avignon and Provence, she ditched the violin for a guitar in an attempt to play the kind of music she so loved to listen to; Classic rock, blues, jazz, anything with attitude.

Jenny welcomed me into her home with a cup of tea and brief apology for the state of her house, which I found to be clearly an island musician’s abode. Musical instruments hang on the wall, stand in the corners, and hold each other up, gathering almost as an audience around her huge piano. Headphones and a microphone take the place of a coat rack near the front door, and sheet music is everywhere. I asked her about the real inception of her life as a musician, and how much living on Galiano Island inspires her. “After I moved to Galiano, I rented a cabin and started making friends with people on the island who played music. I was just dabbling, basically. And then Gary Cramer (a local musical legend who passed away in 2006) lent me his four track, just to play with it, and I started recording a few songs.”

She got a job at GIFTS, the Gulf Islands Film & Television School on Galiano as a composer and jettisoned herself into creating music. Life on this tiny island played right into her creative energy. Parties on Galiano quite often involve musical instruments, and she’d pick up a violin or a guitar at a beach or fire pit jam, and open mic nights. She started to sing and had friends that told her she had a nice voice. With Bonnie Raitt’s gravelly blues style as her music mentor, Jenny belted into singing and began writing songs.

In 2000, she migrated back to her roots in Vancouver and joined a band. Now she had equipment that she bought to record with, but didn’t know what to do with all of it, and was frustrated. She went to Columbia Academy to learn how to record. This is where she wrote, produced and recorded her first album, Now That I’ve Got Your Attention… She did all backing tracks on her computer while her kids were running around in diapers, carving out time for herself wherever she could. Walking in the evenings with a colicky daughter strapped to her chest, her son in a stroller, she’d roam Vancouver listening to music on her headphones and recording ideas and the sounds of the city as she walked, writing what she calls “love gone wrong songs” following the end of a turbulent relationship.
Jenny describes her sound as bluesy influenced, indie rock pop. I call it uniquely island and incredibly beautiful.

Today Brooklin is focusing on writing new material that can stand on its own, and adapting old material. She says “I’ve been working with a computer making backtracks, so I decided I had to strip it down, pare it back to basic guitar and voice. It’s just good songwriting. I don’t like working in vacuum.” Dabbling with the bass, piano and drums, Brooklin is now able to create music as a one woman band at her every creative whim. “I like playing the different instruments because then I don’t have to wait for anyone to be here, I can just do it.” The music and video for the song “If You Think” was recorded at home as she played the drums, guitar & recorded two vocal tracks. Her videos have been recorded in her kitchens, garages and studio and using things such as easels and chains instead of tripods, cameras and mics hanging from her attic. She laughs and calls it “no budget video”.

When we talk about inspiration, she tells me “I’m inspired by things gone wrong. Difficult people inspire me too.” Regardless of the dark inspirations, Brooklin has made something beautiful out of it, something visceral. The tones of the background chords are dripping with sadness and fear, and she does it well. She plays me some new rough cuts she’s recorded recently. It’s funky, bluesy, and full of her lovely “mumblings”, these great raw moments where she trips over words. “That’s how I write songs” she explains. We listen to a particularly forlorn track and she smiles sheepishly “This is one of my secret songs…it’ll come out later.”

When she’s not composing and crooning, Brooklin has her own graphic design business, Emagine That (www.emaginethat.ca), where she stretches her visual artistry legs. Whenever possible, she uses these talents in her music videos. One in particular, called “To Do List” is a clear example of her playful and unusual talents. She’s a mixed media master and craves the time and resources to combine old and new schools of media and graphic arts with music.

For now, Jenny Brooklin continues to write and compose new songs and adapt her old material, broadcasting to her ReverbNation site and YouTube. A new album is forthcoming. She continues to host musical events, and is collaboratively envisioning a house band with other Islanders for Open Mic nights, and eventually some local touring. Although she’s been a musician since toddlerhood, putting her talents in the public eye is still relatively new. “It’s just coming out of the woods and sharing it with people. For now, I’ll broadcast from the forest.”

Jenny Brooklin’s website is ,www.jennybrooklin.com but for a taste of her latest creations, look her up on YouTube to find a treasure trove. Listen to “If You Think” and tell me it’s not a catchy, sweet little tune. She can also be found on ReverbNation.com

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