Dan chatted with Nashville singer-songwriter Jenny Tolman about her forthcoming album ‘There Goes The Neighborhood’, working with Grammy-nominated Dave Brainard, plans for 2019 and more!
First of all, for anyone here in the UK who isn’t too familiar with your music and your background, tell us about your journey into country music… growing up in Nashville, is it difficult not to become a musician?
I was born and raised in Nashville, TN, as my dad moved to Nashville in the 80’s as a singer in a group called The Indian River Boys. They sang on Garth Brooks’ “No Fences” album on the track “Wolves”. So, I was very lucky to grow up around the music business. I’ve sang since before I can remember, started playing piano by ear when I was three, and enjoyed writing short stories when I was in elementary/middle school. It all kind of came together when I turned 16 and got a guitar for my birthday. I realized that I could combine everything I loved about music and writing and call myself a singer/songwriter- a Country Music artist. Ever since that light bulb turned on, it hasn’t flickered once, haha. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and all I ever will do. I don’t think it really makes a difference if you’re from Nashville or not, if you are meant to be a musician, then you are meant to be a musician, and vice versa.
You’ve opened for the likes of Lee Ann Womack, Cole Swindell, Michael Ray and Alabama over the years. Are you one of those artists who uses those experiences as an opportunity to learn, and pick up elements of their performances for your own shows?
I’ve been really lucky to get to open for some amazing artists, and it definitely has helped me pick out things that I can implement in my own performances. I also love to study Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton live videos and learn from how they can just have the audience in the palm of their hand. There’s a lot to learn from watching.
Comparisons have been made to EmmyLou Harris, and you’re bringing back a traditional country-influenced sound. Who were your musical inspirations growing up and how have they impacted your own sound?
I love Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Womack, Roger Miller, and anything written by Shel Silverstein. I’ve always loved storytelling songs, and especially when it’s done in a humorous way that is enlightening. I’ve learned that if you can make people laugh, you make them comfortable, and once they are comfortable, they open up to what you have to say.
‘Something To Complain About’ did really well for you and introduced a lot of new people to your music – nearly half a million streams on Spotify. Tell us about where that song came from and why you felt it was a good choice for a single release.
Something to Complain about was inspired by one of my teachers in high school that I got really close with. She and her husband were not able to get pregnant, and she told me about how hard it was to hear other women talking about how difficult their children were, how they had no time to themselves, etc. She told me, “I wish I had something like that to complain about.” I thought that was really eye opening, and I saved it as a song idea for down the road, which eventually led to the song. Of course, in true Jenny Tolman fashion, I had to through in some funny opening lines!
Plus, the song is about gratitude, which if you follow me on social media, you’ll see is something I’m very in to. I created a community gratitude jar called #jennysjoyjar where I post a picture of something I’m grateful for, every Sunday, and invite everyone else to comment on it with something they’re grateful for.
You followed it up with ‘Rock & Roll To My Country Soul’ – tell us about that one!
I wrote “Rock & Roll to My Country Soul” with Sophie Sanders, and my producer, Dave Brainard. This was the first time the three of us had all written together, and we were throwing around different ideas, when I said this line – “You’re Jimmy Page, I’m Emmylou, but somehow I fit right with you.” I get compared to Emmylou Harris quite a bit, so I had had this line floating around for awhile. They both loved it, especially Dave, since he was a long-haired rocker when he learned to play guitar, haha. So, we ended up developing that first line into what is now, “Rock & Roll to My Country Soul.”
I also think this song has such a good message for the world today- We can be different than one another, but still get along and “meet in the middle” 😉
You recently released a music video for the new single – how much do you enjoy that creative process of bringing a song to life? Tell us all about it!
I LOVE getting to make music videos for my music. It’s so amazing to be able to create a whole new expression of that song through visuals. You can create a totally different storyline than most people would assume it would be, and still have it fit perfectly with the song. It’s very cool to work with directors who are so talented at bringing some of my crazy visions to life!
Your forthcoming album ‘There Goes The Neighborhood’ has been produced by Grammy-Nominated Dave Brainard. How did that come about, and what’s he been like to work with in the studio?
I can’t say enough good things about Dave Brainard. He is a total musical wizard and I can’t even begin to understand how his brain works! He’s an incredible songwriter, musician, and “painter” of songs. His productions literally sound like movie scenes, and I am so lucky to be working with him. He has really brought out a confidence in me that I didn’t know was there, and helped me develop my sound into what it was made to be.
What can we expect from your forthcoming album, in terms of the sound and the subject matter?
My forthcoming album, “There Goes the Neighborhood”, is full of storytelling characters! I like to write songs from the point of view of different characters in this imaginary town I call “Jennyville.” There are lots of lines to make you laugh, but also lots of lines to make you think, all wrapped up in country music, with a sparkly pink ribbon!
You’ve been writing with some incredible songwriters, including Mark D. Sanders, Rory Bourke, Marty Dodson, Aaron Raitiere and John Goodwin. That must be such an inspiring thing to share a room with such creative people, and it must be an honour for you to have them involved in the record…
It is such an honor to be able to write with such talented people. It amazes me every time I’m in the writer’s room with them, just how beautiful, witty, crazy, and smart their minds are. I am a very lucky lady to be able to share in the creative process with them.
What’s on the horizon for 2019?
I will be releasing a lot of new music in 2019, and doing some more touring! My favorite part of making music is getting to share it with the world, so releasing & touring are two of my favorite things! Plus, getting to meet everyone out on the road is so special and exciting to me.
The country music scene in the UK has grown massively over the last few years – would you be interested in doing some international shows at some point?
I would absolutely love to play over in the UK! I love that y’all love the traditional country sound too, since that’s my favorite. 😉 Hopefully I’ll be seeing you soon!!