My latest obsession: Jenn Grant’s Honeymoon Punch

Published online at Exclaim.ca on January 11, 2011.

By Amanda Ash

Jenn Grant’s music has always mirrored her emotions. Orchestra for the Moon, the Halifax, NS-based singer-songwriter’s debut, showed us her spunky, wide-eyed naivety. Then, her 2009 release,Echoes, brought us to a heavy place filled with heartbreak, loneliness and mourning. Now, with Honeymoon Punch, Grant is ready to pull us out of the depression that Echoes left us in and show us the goofy, happy friskiness associated with cuddling a loved one on a couch. Yup, this whimsical sweetheart is totally drunk on cupid’s scotch. The record kicks things off with the groovy, up-tempo “Oh My Heart”; you can tell by the growl in her voice that she’s smitten. The jazzy, sultry, bold woman she unleashes via her playful lyricism is completely contagious, tickling every mischievous bone in your body. “How I Met You” and “Walk Away” toy with synthesizers, marking a departure for the folk artist, but they work beautifully with each song’s get-up-and-dance attitude. This lovebird’s real portrait is painted by “Getcha Good,” where she kicks off her boots and wraps herself in her favourite patchwork quilt while smiling coyly at her significant other: “I’m your lady/I’m your fire/Catch me if you can/I’m wild for you.” Rawr.

How would you sum up the time that’s passed since you released Echoes two years ago?
Making [Echoes] was a very personal journey and I think that after that was completed, I wanted to move on and make something that would really lend [itself] to a fun live show. Since then, I basically feel like I’ve been doing the regular thing like touring, but also I got engaged, bought a house, got a dog and I went to Egypt for a month. I was kind of doing a lot of things.

Was it a conscious decision to make it more upbeat?
I did feel like I wanted to make something… I felt ready to make something happier and fun. But that’s just because that’s how I feel; I’m really happy. I have a really wonderful partner and great stuff going on, personally. I think all of my records to date are little reflections of my life’s journey. Like Orchestra for the Moon, it was pre- any type of huge relationship when I wrote that album and it was kind of starry-eyed. And then Echoes was “Aww, I’m sad,” going through heartache and stuff. And this record, I feel confident, self-assured and really happy. I know where I’m going; I just feel like I can stomp my feet on the ground a little more.

When did you start writing material for the album?
It was when I went to Egypt, which was March [2010]. I just went there because my best friend lived there for a year. I went over there and wrote “How I Met You” and “Getcha Good” in her apartment in Cairo. Most of the other songs I wrote throughout the year. There were a couple I wrote before that. “All Year” I wrote before going away to play some shows in the States while having this premonition, a feeling that it was going to be difficult to go over there and play; I’m psychic! But that song kind of changed over time. This is the first time we made a record and sat with it. We went to record at the cottage the last week of May. [Beau, In-Flight Safety keyboardist and album producer] Danny [Ledwell] and I had the record all summer and just kind of tweaked things, worked on things, listened to it and let it sit. We didn’t work on it all the time, but kind of let it sit and we’d go back and listen. Usually, I feel frantic and I want to record now and put it out right away, but it was nice because there was no pressure. We were also listening to music a lot, Danny and I. We had a lot of time together at home, working on our house together, our garden and cooking and stuff. We would listen to records like Phoenix together and talk about music so much that it just seemed like, “Why would I work with anybody else other than my boyfriend?” who is my producer and knows me better than anybody. It just seemed like all the arrows were pointing to that. But I also wanted to be really careful with that, to make sure that my relationship was in game before the career stuff. But as it turned out, it was the most fun working experience everywhere; it was such a good fit.

Do you feel like this album is you drunk on love?
Yeah! Yes.

Was it all pleasant working with Daniel or did it have its trying moments?
No, we didn’t really have any moments; we would seem to come to the same conclusions as we were discussing stuff. I mean, we both went to art school and it was almost like a way of working that we enjoy, just discussing and being open and creative. And then when we went to the cottage ― it was very important to me that I found the right place to do it. I looked for a while and finally found this beautiful, really big cottage in Nova Scotia on Lake Deception. You had to drive three hours away from home through the woods on this long, winding road, you couldn’t see any houses anywhere and then you’d finally get to this place on this beautiful lake. We took the band there; it was really a group effort. I also wondered how it would be, now that my boyfriend was the producer of my band; I didn’t know if the band would be used to it, but he’s really good at giving direction and they’re all good at taking direction, so it was a nice community feeling. On Echoes, we did it really organically and played it all live-off-the-floor, most of the time, but it was so tiring on my voice that I wanted to do the opposite this time. This time, we did it in layers and built upon tracks, which I hadn’t really done. Working with Danny was definitely the highlight of my career; it was the most fulfilling thing to be in a relationship with someone and be able to make something so personal.

How personal would you say this record is compared to Orchestraand Echoes?
I would say just as personal. I mean, in some ways I feel like I made Echoes and I just wanted to let go of it, put it out there and be done with it. I still play songs from it and everything, but I just felt like I needed to do that. It was almost like a therapy. But for this one, I wanted to make a record because I like making records and I just wanted to make a fun record for the audience; I’m really happy with it. I don’t feel like I’m letting go of it; I feel like I’m really enjoying it. [All my records] are personal ― that’s the way that I work: I take what’s inside of me and put it out. This is what was inside me, at the time.

Lyrically, did you find yourself touching upon certain themes or ideas as you were writing?
Well, “How I Met You” is kind of a made-up story in my head. Some of them, like “Getcha Good,” stem from a happy place where I can write a fun number instead of being like, “I need to sing about something that is afflicting me and let it out.” This is more about feeling a beat inside of you that’s different because you’re excited and want to share that good feeling. I’m in such a different place than where I was when I made Echoes; I don’t have any heartbreak anymore. It’s over and I’m really happy and free.

One thing that I noticed when I heard “How I Met You” is you use synthesizers. It’s such a huge change in your sound. How did you end up experimenting with them?
Kate Bush was one of my influences, as was Phoenix. I just really wanted to get away from that organic sound. At first, I was consumed with “the album with the organic sound that I made on a farm,” but a couple years after that you’re just like, “I want to shake it off and do something fresh.” I know, all of a sudden my band have, like, five keyboards and I don’t even know when that happened. We didn’t really notice and then we played a show in Halifax and during sound check we were all just like, “Wow, look at all these keyboards. Where did they come from?”

I noticed that there are only ten songs on the record, whileOrchestra and Echoes both have 13.
We decided that we wanted ten because we started saying “power punch ten” all the time, and we also noticed that all of the records that we loved had ten songs as well.

Were there more songs that came out of the recording process that ended up getting cut?
Yeah, I guess there were lots more that just ended up getting chopped, but they didn’t even make it to the band. Things were kind of floating around and these were the ten that I decided to focus on. Once something makes it to the band, it’s pretty much “we’re going to do this.”

When you look back at Honeymoon Punch, in what ways have you grown since you started as an artist?
In a lot of ways, actually. Every time I make a record I feel like I’m finding my voice again. It’s fun to be able to push yourself and find new pockets you haven’t discovered yet. I don’t even think that I knew that was something I cared about when I started making music; it was more like a release. Now, I have this audience that comes to shows and I think about them more now when I’m making stuff. Like, if I change my sound, is that okay with everybody? I recognize more that what I make now is a permanent thing that I want to put out into the world, and when I put it out it will be there forever. So, what I say matters. This time, I wanted to make something that brings people happiness ― that’s my goal for this one. If that’s possible, great.
(Six Shooter)

Here is Jenn Grant’s video for “Getcha Good.”

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