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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chicago singer Jennifer Hall bringing honesty, energy to music scene



By ERIC SCHELKOPF

With her vocal prowess inviting comparisons to Adele and Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine, 23-year-old singer-songwriter Jennifer Hall of Chicago is someone bound to make a big mark.

To get a taste of her music, go to www.jenniferhall.bandcamp.com.

Hall just finished her first full-length album, "In This," and will perform Tuesday, May 24, as part of Songcircle: Chicago Showcase at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago.

Other Chicago musicians on the bill include Sad Brad Smith, Ani Saraiya, Emmi Chen (of Ornery Little Darlings), and Musikanto. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at www.schubas.com.

I had the chance to talk to the former Des Plaines resident about her new album and how she juggles making music with being a nanny.


Q - It seems like you've been pretty busy in the past few months.

Well, I sort of did things out of order. I was lucky enough to meet some great musicians and had some songs ready to go and had access to a studio.

I had everything in place where I could record an album. From a creative standpoint, that was the right decision. So we went ahead and made a record, myself and my band members, starting about a year and half ago.

We recorded the album, and then we played at Schubas in January. We were formerly known as Nights, but for now, I'm just going by my name. 

We recorded the album first, and then tried to promote ourselves well, and to share what we have being doing.


Q - I think your music is very mature considering that you only 23 years old.

Well, thank you. I've always heard that I have an old soul.

Q - Has the album been released yet?

No. That's the struggle with being an artist for me. Creatively speaking, I was very eager to record, but I didn't have the business end of things worked out. I think that will get worked out in the next couple of months. We will decide whether to try to do a self-release, or try to work something else out.

We've been lucky enough to get a pretty positive response so far, so we are hoping to share the music.

Q - What did you want to achieve with the album?

All the songs relate to one another nicely. It's very much an album. It is intended to be digested as a whole, as a set of ideas specific to a time and a person, obviously me.

The goal always has been, for me personally and the members of the band, about being honest and serving the song. 

We're not trying to sound like any certain artist or to follow a certain trend, or do what we think is popular.

Just serving the song is a good way to go, trying to be in tune with what it needs as opposed to what you may have envisioned in the past.

Q - Listening to the songs on the album, there's lot of different moods. "When We Were Good" has a real dark edge it.

All of these songs are obviously linked to personal experiences. I think I have definitely had a good amount of experience with difficult life circumstances, things happening, relationships, whatever.

I consider myself a fairly thoughtful person. 

Q - It seems like that song would be fun to perform. It's a song the band really clicks on.

Yes, it is. We will be doing that one at Schubas on May 24. It is fun every time we play it. And I feel there is a lot of growth and movement in the song. It is a good one to wail on.


Q - It seems like you didn't want to make a one note album.

We went in not really thinking in terms of genres. We were just trying to lay down each part, tracking each instrument with an idea of what the song felt like, what it needed and wanted.

It does touch on a lot of different moods and genres. I'm kind of OK with that. An album to me can be as different as a person.

A person just doesn't feel one way. People aren't always happy. I try to think of an album as a diverse person, as opposed to one night of the week or one emotion.

Q - There is a strong jazz genre in your music.

I regularly listen to Billie Holiday, and I love Ella Fitzgerald. Billie Holiday is incredibly inspiring.

Q - You recently became a blond.

I did. I went through a bit of  a rough breakup, to say the least. I just wanted a change and to try something new. I've had friends who said they hardly recognize me, but they said it looks great.

Q - Are you able to do this full time?

I am a nanny during the day. I work with some really awesome kids. And somehow it seems like there has always been a creative bug in the families I've worked for.

Q - Are you giving them music lessons?

I've been able to share a love for music, or art. I worked with a little boy who really enjoyed playing guitar and he loved to sing. I worked with a little girl who was very creative, very outspoken. She loves to dance and loves drawing.

It really is a fitting thing for me right now. I lucked out immensely.

Q - Do you want to do music full time?

Yes. I always knew that music was something I was going to do. There are other things I enjoy. I love teaching. I love working with kids.

But I'm incredibly passionate about music and making music, and hope to do it for an extended period of time.


Q - How did your band come together?

Right now, the band is Noam Wallenberg on guitar and Alex Sheyn on bass. I met Noam on Craigslist, if you can believe it. I put up an ad for a guitarist, and 30 responses later, here's Noam responding.

He was still in school. He's only about to turn 22. He's pretty talented.

Noam was good friends with Alex. He's only a couple months older than Noam.

Q - It's amazing that the band is so tight for being such a young band.

It's a combination of luck and just them being really good guys.

Q - What are your short-term and long-term goals?

Not to sound too simplistic, but my short-term goals are to play a lot and write a lot, and my long-term goals are to play a lot and write a lot.

We want to get out there as much as possible, and share what we have been working on for the last two years. 

We want to meet a lot of other Chicago bands. I think the city is wonderful for music. I've met nothing but really great talented people here.