Smitty: It’s certainly my pleasure to welcome to Jazz Monthly a great singer that perhaps some of you have not heard about, but we’re happy to introduce her to the world. She’s just released her self-titled CD called Jill Jenson. Please welcome the lovely and talented Jill Jenson. Jill, how are you?
Jill Jenson (JJ): I’m great, thank you.
Smitty: Super. You were born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and you came about music by a different avenue than most, and I find that kind of fascinating that you began singing to Manhattan Transfer tunes.
JJ: As a kid I had an older cousin who was involved in music and when he was in high school in the jazz choir, I was still in grade school, and I thought he was really cool. So I started listening to what he was listening to.
Smitty: Family influence is always cool. You were sort of the typical corporate America young lady moving your way through the ranks of corporate America and yet you still had this love for singing because you didn’t attend the University of Miami as a vocal major for nothing. (Laughs) So how did you make that transition? That’s such a strong thing to do.
JJ: It was part of a larger life transition. As you said, I’d been working at a job for years climbing the corporate ladder and had that kind of a career thing going on. Whether or not I was happy with it, it’s just kinda the direction my life was taking, or I was letting it take, and I had sort of a chance reunion with someone I’d gone to college with, Tim Cashion, who produced and wrote this record, and he, at the time, was on the road with Grand Funk Railroad and I had sort of an epiphany, sort of an “aha” moment, when he and I were talking on the phone about seeing each other because he was coming into town, and I sort of had this blinding moment of clarity, if you will, that here I was gonna see somebody I hadn’t seen in years and I was gonna be talking about my life and I wasn’t in music anymore and it made me realize that I really wasn’t doing what I wanted to do.
It was also part of a larger physical change for me. I ended up losing 130 pounds from that point on. After I met up with Tim and saw that he had been making a living doing music….he was also with Robert Palmer and Bob Seger….when we started hanging out in the music crowd, it really hit home with me and I wanted to try this again, so Tim and I started talking about making a record, and as I said, it was part of a larger life transition. I changed physically, I left my job, we started working on the record, which took a couple years, and in the beginning we never really thought of it as maybe a hobby CD, but we didn’t really have an idea of how big it might become or who might want to get involved, and luckily we had gone to school with Matt Pierson, who’d been at Warner Brothers in the jazz division for years, and we were able to hook up with him and he executive produced the record and he brought other folks on, so it just kinda snowballed from there, so I think it was the right time.
Smitty: How did you adjust from the one life to the other life, to the music life? Because that’s a totally different scene from going to work at a 9 to 5 and then, you come to this crossroads where you say, “I’m gonna make this change,” and now here you are, you’re doing something that you love.
JJ: Well, there’s definitely an adjustment. There’s the ambiguity on the music side of not knowing what you’re going to be doing in a couple months whereas when you’re in a 9 to 5 job, you kind of expect that “Hey, six months from now, I’ll still be here doing this.” So adjusting to be able to roll with the punches a little bit more….some of the decisions I’ve had to make are decisions that are completely different types of decisions. I had to just kinda relax and trust the people I was working with and, as you said, going from a 9 to 5 job to something else, it is an unstructured lifestyle for the most part, so for whatever reason, I was just at a point where it seemed to happen pretty naturally. It just seemed to be the right time.
Smitty: That’s pretty cool because, when I think of someone going from a 9 to 5 to singing at clubs and in the studio, that goes from early morning hours to very late night and very, very early morning hours.
JJ: Right, right. At this point I haven’t been pulling some of those late nights yet because we haven’t started playing live. And I’ve been doing some consulting off and on at different points during the recording process because there are lags and it depends on the road or when we’re not recording, so I’ll work for a couple months. So I’m kinda going back and forth now.
Smitty: What would you say to other aspiring artists who perhaps are at a crossroads or somewhere near that point to where they want to leave perhaps a traditional 9 to 5 and they may be doing some gigs on the weekend, but they really wanna get into it full-time because they really love what they’re doing and they’re just not quite sure how to make that transition? What would you say to those aspiring artists?
JJ: Well, number one, I mean, you really have to make sure that you want it because it’s not a little part-time hobby, if you really want it, and I have spent hours and hours researching, talking to people, reading things, getting my hands on everything I can about the music business, which has been a big learning experience because it’s not what you think it is; finding out different ways to get the music out there, different ways to market it…it’s a full-time job so you really have to be ready to make that kind of commitment, I think, because it’s not just a hobby.
Smitty: Yes. And I think one of the keys that you mentioned there was you’ve gotta want to do this, you’ve gotta love it, because there are some sacrifices involved and there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears, you know?