Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

Jen Kearney: She's Electric

Jen Kearney @bluesandsoul.com
Jen Kearney @bluesandsoul.com Jen Kearney @bluesandsoul.com Jen Kearney @bluesandsoul.com Jen Kearney @bluesandsoul.com

With her music incorporating a pungent blend of soul, Latin, funk, reggae and good olâ rockânâroll, Massachusetts singer/songwriter Jen Kearney is currently amassing an avid cult-following and respect amongst UK soul music afficionados. All of which has in turn led to her attaining her first UK and European release this month, with the album âTo The Moonâ surfacing via German-based independent Chinchin Records.

Indeed, by showcasing Jenâs penchant for sophisticated melodies and sharp, story-line lyrics, âTo The Moonâ represents a fine introduction to a lady who began playing piano at the ripe old age of four before later going on to study at University Of Massachusetts (Lowell)âs highly-regarded Music Performance programme. Since which time she has gone on to additionally teach herself the guitar, while honing her own unique singing, songwriting and performance style in such bands as Cabbage Stew and Kearney Square, in addition to her current, intriguingly-named (!) configuration The Lost Onion.

All of which a laid-back yet-talkative Ms. Kearney (whose musical talents have prestigiously been compared Stateside to âprime Seventies Stevie," no less!), discusses with âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis during a revealing introductory transatlantic chat.

PETE: Can you fill me in on your early background?

JEN: âI was raised in Hindham, Massachusetts - a suburb of Boston. Where, with my mother having a lot of old soul records, I grew up listening to artists like Roberta Flack, Wilson Pickett, a lotta Motown, Phoebe Snow⦠And with my grandparents having a piano, I actually got into playing music very early. In fact, I think I was just four year old when I started playing the piano with my uncle.â

PETE: So how did this lead to you studying music formally at The University Of Massachusetts?

JEN: âWell, though as a child I did take piano lessons for a bit, the teacher I had didnât really like the fact that I didnât actually READ music. So as a result, I never really took many childhood formal lessons. But then, when I got to my late teens, I nevertheless decided I did want to go to college to study music - which is when I had to really buckle down and learn to READ it. Which basically meant I had to re-learn a lot of things - something which in turn obviously helped me a lot long-term, as far as discipline and technique goes.â

PETE: So what can you tell me about your first couple of bands - Cabbage Stew (1996 to 1998) and Kearney Square (1998 to 2000)?

JEN: âCabbage Stew was a band that had some of the same songwriters in it that were involved in the Poorhouse disc, and we were pretty eclectic. We did a lot of rock and blues as well as having some calypso and reggae influences. You know, we did a big mishmash of things. And I basically only wrote about two songs for that project before the group disbanded, when a couple of people moved out to Colorado. Then from there I formed Kearney Square, which was more of a guitar-driven rock band where I probably played less piano than I EVER have. But then, while we actually recorded a CD around some rock-based songs I wrote, it was during my time in that band that I started getting more into LATIN music⦠And so all that kind of evolved to where, though I still obviously loved the rock and the straight soul stuff, I then started adding this Latin-jazz influence into my music⦠And then, from 2000 on, I pretty much started recording with some of the musicians I still play with TODAY.â

PETE: So can you tell me more about your current ensemble The Lost Onion, and how you came up with that name? (!)

JEN; âWell, I have to keep the background to the name a secret - though, having said that, it is actually a pretty lack-lustre story! Then in terms of the members, The Lost Onion is pretty much an ever-evolving group. Which is why the only member I can say is ultra-permanent right now is my drummer, Pete MacLean. But, you know, while over the years a lot of people have sort of fallen away and have day-jobs or kids or whatever, I have still always been able to maintain the same STYLE of line-up with the horns, percussions, etc.

YOU CAN READ THE REST OF PETE'S INTERVIEW WITH JEN KEARNEY IN OUR RE-LAUNCH EDITON OF BLUES & SOUL.

Jen features on âThe Craig Charles Funk & Soul Showâ (BBC 6Music, Saturdays 19:00-21:00) on August 20

The album âTo The Moonâ is released through Chinchin Records on August 12 (digital) and September 12 (physical)
Words PETE LEWIS

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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