Lauren Jenkins discusses her early inspiration and getting into the zone before a gig!
It was mid-afternoon on the Sunday of CMA Fest, all weekend had seen on/off rain showers separated by brief appearances from the hot sun. It had been a long four days of incredible Country music for us fans, we'd seen everyone on the spectrum of Country from the traditionalists to the Country Trap (Yes I do mean Lil Nas X!) However if we thought our feet throbbed, our arms ached and our voices were all cheered out, spare a thought for the artists who had been dashing from one stage to another to showcase their talent and in between found time to sign autographs, take part in meet and greets and speak to the press! It was just about clocking off time for Lauren Jenkins and her team but they let me in on their end-of-festival celebrations to ask her a few quick questions! So sipping sparkling wine we all gathered round and discussed every aspect of Nashville and Country music. So read on to find out more about Lauren and her career so far!
Can you tell me about the first moment when you knew you wanted to be a musician?
I don't know if I've had that moment. Growing up I always loved music but I didn't know you could do it as a career, I just knew from a young age that I wanted to be a storyteller and performer, ever since I could remember. It wasn't until I was 15 that I got a guitar and started performing but I didn't know you could make a career out of it, no one told me that was a possibility.
When you was growing up what did your parents play to you on car journey's?
My Dad was a huge fan of music, when I was still in the womb he'd be blasting music, there was southern rock and storytellers too like James Taylor and Led Zeppelin and Bruce Springsteen and then once I was old enough to pick music it was Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks, Patty Griffin and Sheryl Crow but I'd always gravitate back to Storyteller artists and musicians.
And if you could pick just one artist, who's your go to?
Probably Bruce Springsteen, I really respect his career and how hard he has worked and the way he crafts stories and how he's evolved over the years as well. He's a really great musician too.
When it comes to your own songwriting do you draw mainly from personal experience?
Yes, always! This first record, every song on it is autobiographical, I do write sometimes by observing other peoples experiences like friends or relatives and write stories around that. For me songwriting has to come from an honest place or I'm not interested in it.
I want to talk to you about this record, we love it and play it on the radio a lot, my favourite song is the title track, can you tell me a little bit about the story behind that please?
Yeah No Saint, it took about 8 months. I initially got that guitar lead line and I just kept playing it over and over and then started writing the first verse but it was a hard song to write so I'd start writing it and I wasn't ready to face that song and say the things I needed to say so I'd put the guitar down and then a couple of weeks later I'd think what's the next thing I need to say. Then 8 months later I was with Ingrid Andress and I said hey I have this song I've been working on, will you finish writing it with me? And we were sitting on my parents back porch and she said ok break out the wine and we started drinking and wrote this song. We stayed up all night, there was a lot of crying and drinking and by the time the sun came up the song was done.That one might be my favourite on the record as it said everything I wanted to say and made me ok with my flaws and what I was going through. It was very much a journey!
That was my next question, what's your favourite on the record so instead I'll ask you what's your favourite song that you wish you'd written?
Hmm, there's too many! Recently I've been listening to Jade Bird, pretty obsessively actually haha, she's got some great songs on her record. Lottery is a song I've listened to a lot, the version on her record sounds a lot different to her stripped down acoustic version and I love that about music, it can sound happy and joyful but if you strip it back you can hear the pain and sadness. She does a great job with that song.
You talked about working with Ingrid Andress there, who are your favourite people to write with?
I think it changes, I used to write with Ingrid a lot a couple of years ago and she was my favourite person to collaborate with but it changes all the time. Writing with women is very different to writing with men. I love the men I've collaborated with but writing with women... I think a woman's voice tells a story a little bit differently from men and there's something really unique if you're telling a story with just one other woman or like Running Out Of Road which was written with three other women and I don't think that song could have been written the way it needed to without four women.
A couple of silly questions for you now, what's the strangest thing you've ever written a song about?
Hmm that's a great question! I've written some strange lines like I've got this song that's not been released that talks about the holes in my shoes and a fruit stand in New York, it's Dylan-esque, there's a lot of random imagery. It's usually lines as opposed to whole songs but we could write one if you want to write about that crane over there.
Let's do it! When you're on stage are you completely focused or do you let your mind wander, we call it your mid-gig thoughts?
I would be lying if I said my mind didn't wander sometimes, we're human and sometimes we have off nights and I try to limit those because anytime I walk on stage and someone's giving me their time and the courtesy of being there and listening, or maybe not even listening but being there, then I want to be completely present for those people in the audience and for my band on stage. So it's your job to fully be there but sometimes my mind wanders and that's not good and I have to catch myself and get back on track.
Do you have any rituals to get you into the zone?
I do! I usually listen to Led Zeppelin, I've got a playlist I like to listen to, I stretch a lot too, I lay on the floor and stretch. My biggest one is I always dedicate the show to something or someone either with my manager or my band I always dedicate it and we trade off and sometimes it will be my drummers turn or if it's just me I'll just toast to the mirror and dedicate it to someone.
You met our little Elephant before the interview...
Yes little Ellie!
It meets as many people as it can all around the World, do you have a mascot that you take on the road?
No I don't, I always have my rings on and usually a bandanna but I don't have a mascot, if I could bring my dog though... when I get to that point where I can travel with my dog Cooper he's going to come everywhere with me!
A lot of the listeners and readers are songwriters too, what's the one piece of advice you have for them?
I think like with anything you've just got to do it, write even when you don't feel like you want to write or when you feel like you don't have anything to say, you get better that way. I've stopped listening to music that doesn't inspire me, I used to listen as a form of research but there's so much music out there, find what inspires you and fill your tank up with those musicians and songs and keep learning.
Finally what's next for you?
I'm going to sleep haha I'm on tour with the wild feathers and I have shows and festivals throughout the year. I'm back across the pond in September which I'm so excited about as I wasn't sure I'd even be able to come back next year so the fact I get to come again this year for my birthday as well is great!
We hope to give you a good birthday!