Recently I had the pleasure of hearing some new music from Canadian singer/songwriter Jenn Mierau. Her ep “Hum” is now available, and currently the title track is available for free download on Amazon.com.
Whether by prejudice or pathology, I don’t always find myself listening to female musicians. But occasionally I find a few whose music I really enjoy. The same thing happened with Lisa Hannigan, Lykke Li and Aimee Wilson. And, most recently, it happened when I heard Jenn Mierau.
Knowing that she is somewhat new to the music industry, I took a chance that she would be willing to let me subject her to an online interview. She was exceedingly gracious to accept. I hope you enjoy getting to know her and her music.
Hi, Jenn. Can’t thank you enough for the interview. So tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What are your hobbies/interests?
“It is my pleasure! And thank you for your interest in my music! I am from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – pretty much in the middle of Canada, and as far North as Siberia. Lovely place though, just make sure to visit in the summer! I’m living in Montreal right now, another lovely city. As for hobbies, I read voraciously. I also like to knit, do yoga, learn languages, walk everywhere, and I wish I had more time for dance classes. My biggest interest/obsession right now is finding practical ways to simplify my life and make it less ‘processed.’ My 93-year-old grandmother is my role model… I ask myself, ‘What would Oma do?'”
How did you get into music, both originally and as a career? What instruments do you play?
“I started playing piano at around four years old and started taking lessons a year later. I started singing solos at school and church at about six or seven. I guess the career aspect of it started at 15 when I started teaching piano lessons – oh wait, I had my first paying piano gig at 12, playing background music at a Ministry of Education function – how funny that I had forgotten about that! But I started writing and performing my own music in university and have been doing it ever since. My main instruments are piano and voice, but I play a bit of bass, guitar, drums and clarinet. Really, I enjoy playing anything and firmly believe that creativity on an instrument doesn’t necessarily come from mastering it.”
How would you characterize your music?
“I like to call it pip pop and act as if everyone should already be aware of that genre. But to really characterize it, I’d say it’s a mix of acoustic instruments and programmed elements/found-sound samples, with lots of vocal layering. But of course, as you can hear from “hum,” I also include songs that are completely stripped down and acoustic.”
What/who are some of your influences?
“I was definitely influenced by the intricate subtlety of classical music, while feeling a need to get away from the perfectionist philosophy of playing classical music. The hypnotic and repetitive qualities of Philip Glass’ music as well as the tonal coloring of some of Ravel’s piano music has found their way into my music in some ways. I have been inspired by the sound of the beats in a lot of 90’s hip hop, the bass in P.J. Harvey’s music, the energy of Modeselektor, the ingenuity of Prefuse 73 and the ambient feeling of Arovane. And, while not trying to sing like any of these people, I have been influenced by the passion and nuance of singers like Judy Garland, Aretha Franklin, Kate Fenner, k.d. lang, Mary Margaret O’Hara – although they all belt it a bit more than I do.”
Do you have any favorite venues (or types of venue)?
“My favorite show was in a recording studio in Winnipeg (sadly it no longer exists). They didn’t normally do shows there, but they had a beautiful, open, loft-like space and a wonderful grand piano. I had several friends playing with me and had a DJ open and close the night. Had candles and living room lamps everywhere and was serving up candies and fruit smoothies (didn’t have an alcohol permit). I love doing shows when it’s something a little more than just another band in another club. A lot of people seem to be doing shows in people’s homes now, and I’d really like to try that sometime.”
Briefly describe the music-making process. Do you write the music entirely or do you also find support in guest musicians?
“Probably because of my classical music experience of practicing piano for 6 – 8 hours a day in a closed room, I’ve been writing, producing, recording and playing most of the instruments myself. But I do enjoy collaborating with other musicians and have been working on more collaborations for future releases.”
The song “Hum” is very moving and seems to be very personal. May I ask how the song developed?
“The lyrics of “hum” were written by an old university friend, Ursula Kowcun. I had noticed her wonderful writing on Facebook and had asked her for some of her poems to see if I could write a song with one of them. When I read “hum” I had an instant, very strong connection to it and knew I wanted to find music for it. When I sat down to play with some musical ideas, the song basically wrote itself, to my amazement – and I happened to be recording it at the time! You can read the full story of that experience here: http://jennmierau.blogspot.com/2008/05/story-of-hum.html“
Most of my readers are men and women of deep faith and conviction. Do you have any spiritual views, and if so, how do they influence your music?
“My spiritual views have changed a lot from how I was raised, or I suppose I should say my religious involvement. In questioning and searching, I often pleasantly find that I’ve come to similar “conclusions” for my own personal faith as to what I was taught – which to me is the beauty of the universal essence of the teachings of the Bible as well as other religious texts. To me, honoring one’s creativity is communing with our creator and is something that everyone and anyone can do, whether they consider themselves an “artist” or not. So that definitely influences my music, but also my everyday life and the opportunities for creativity that each day presents.”
Do you have any specific plans for the future?
“I’m finishing mixing and mastering my next release, which should be coming out in June. I’m putting bands together in both Montreal and Winnipeg, and hopefully Toronto. I should be starting to do web shows again in the next few months. I’m planning a train trip across Canada in April with my husband and parents and I really need to clean my room.”
If readers want to hear more of your music, what can they do?
“Best place for that is my website at www.songsofjenn.com, and when people join my mailing list, they receive a free mp3 of that “moment of creation” version of ‘hum.'”
“Again, Chris, thanks so much for this. It was fun “chatting” with you and I appreciate being able to share my music with your readers! Looking forward to reading more from you in the future!”
Jenn, thanks again for so graciously agreeing to do this interview. I look forward to hearing more of your music in the future. God bless.