10 Questions With…Jenny MacDonald!

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Nova Scotia’s Jenny MacDonald is a dynamic singer/songwriter.  She has already released two full length albums: Jenny Kissed Me (2008) and Bye Bye Mr. Bluesman (2011) and is set to release her third album later this year. 

Jenny is a two-time Nova Scotia Music Awards nominee. Her Nova Scotia Music Award nominations were for 2011 Digital Artist of the Year and 2011 Blues Album of the Year.  

Jenny has worked alongside some great Nova Scotian musicians, including Steve MacDougall, The Hupman Brothers, Ian Sherwood, Carleton Stone and Grammy Award winner Gordie Sampson and  she recently signed with Vancouver-Based HMP Recording and Development.

Jenny plays Wednesday, July 17th at “Music On Main” in Antigonish with The Fourth Well ; and at Rockbottom Brewpub in Halifax on Saturday, July 20th with Jeff Greenway.

 I recently had an opportunity to catch up with Jenny MacDonald for “10 Questions With…”

1. When did you first decide you wanted to be a musician?

Oh jeez. I don’t know if I ever “decided” to become a musician; it just sort of happened! I started singing and taking music lessons at a young age, and largely had an interest in pursuing musical theatre all the way up until I was 21 or so (even after attending university for jazz back in 2004). The defining moment for me was clear though. I remember entering a musical theatre school for an audition and a friend took me on a tour of the campus and was introducing me to everyone who walked by. It was kind of a whirlwind. I remember stopping in the hallway in the middle of a conversation and thinking back to my musician friends at home passing guitars around and I asked myself where I’d rather be, and the decision was obvious to me. There is something about going on stage “as yourself” that I find utterly terrifying and freeing. Portraying a “character” is great fun. I enjoy it for different reasons though. I still pursue some theatrical pursuits from time to time, but it never has that same feeling for me, which I needed at the time, I suppose. The need to feel exposed and bare in front of an audience.

2. Who are your biggest musical influences?

For most of the years I’ve been playing, it has 100% always been my friends. I am lucky to be surrounded by such talented musicians and artists at all crossroads in my life, and they always inspire me to learn more, to excel at my craft. It is only lately, in the past few months really, that I have begun looking outside of my own surroundings for musical inspiration. There is something fascinating to me about the culture of music, and song-writing in particular, that makes me eager to listen to more different kinds of music these days – even music I don’t like. I find it very intriguing to listen to music that I don’t like. I don’t know what it is. Curiosity, I guess.

3. What is your all-time favourite song/album?

Oh man. Really? I have to do this? I don’t know if I can honestly definitively answer that, as it’s never a constant.Um…

My “favorite” song for the longest time has been “Pride and Joy” by Stevie Ray Vaughan. I love Stevie Ray Vaughan. I even sing about him in one of my songs off of my second album. Recently though, I’ve been really into “Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers Band. The time signature, the lyrics…all stir something up in me. I guess I’m a sucker for the blues, ultimately, though I love many different kinds of music. Today, I was dancing in my kitchen to Joel Plaskett and En Vogue, so who knows. It’s different every day. I’m a fickle music fan for the most part, but there are always a handful of bands that I have always loved, like Stevie. Usually I have one record that I play day in and day out until I pretty much wear it out and become sick of hearing it, and then I move on to something else. I have a bit of tunnel vision when it comes to music, sometimes.

4. What has been your favourite moment of your musical career?

Hmmm. They’re all my favorite! No, really. The great thing about having a career in music is the entire thing…having a great moment and then waking up and realizing you get to do it again today. It’s unbelievable, really.

5. Who have you worked with that you never imagined you would have the opportunity?

Gordie Sampson. He’s such a great dude in all aspects; a real gem. I recently had the opportunity to write with Steven MacDougall of Slowcoaster for their 2012 single “Flip Flops” as well, and I have jumped on stage to perform with them a few times. That was really neat because they are a band who I used to watch as a youngster and I have always been a big fan of their music. The town I grew up in is a town where Slowcoaster has a huge following, and every single one of their shows is always packed to the brim. Getting to stand up on stage with them over the holidays and sing with them in front of all of the kids I used to dance with at their shows was sort of unreal. Mostly because it gave me a really clear look at how far I’ve come, and how lucky I am to be here.

I recently wrote and performed with Carmen Townsend, who has opened for Heart, as well. I’ve always sort of looked up to her as someone who was doing what I wanted to do, so that was neat too. We hit it off really well in the song-writing aspect, and she’s a hell of a girl to spend time with. Very humble and unassuming. Such a sweetheart.

6. Who is your dream duet with?

Someone who is currently alive? Hmm. I think I’d have to say Norah Jones. She isn’t the biggest star in the world, but it’s not about star power. I am genuinely a fan of her performance, and I am drawn to her laid-back…ease. She’s just so calm all of the time, and truly seems to be in love with music, not fame or fortune. I love to perform with people who just want to play. That’s gotta be the heart of it. Always.

7. Where would you like to tour?

I would love to travel outside of Canada. The UK, Iceland, even parts of the US. I’ve always wanted to go to the southern US states, such as Georgia, for some reason. So much power and soul comes through the music there. That’s what I want to do.

8. If you could invite two people to dinner (living or dead), who would they be and why?

My Grandfather (MacDonald) and my Dad. No question. Because I miss those times when life was simple.

9. If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?

I’ve never really thought about it.

10. Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

I don’t. The thing that I realized when I had that moment on stage with Slowcoaster in my home-town is that often you look back in life and think, “This isn’t where I thought I’d be today”. It truly never is, really, and that’s kind of great. What I try to focus on is working as hard as I possibly can, with integrity, and letting it lead me to great things. Hard work generally pays off in the end, and the adventure has been pretty great so far. I’m excited to see what comes next.

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