One part wise old woman and one part goofy little kid, Jenna Lindbo is going to find a way to your heart. It’s only a matter of time. An Oregon native, Jenna travels the country, inspiring audiences from Asheville to Anchorage with her rootsy folk songs and infectious joy. Along the way she keeps meeting folks who love to hear her music, soak up the effervescent energy of her shows, and get smacked upside the heart.
Buoyed by the experience, inspiration, and exposure from touring extensively with Catie Curtis, Jenna’s solo career is taking off. She’s currently celebrating the release of her new cd, Jasmine Parade (2012), produced by Lorne Entress. With lush arrangements and simply adorned songs, this album beautifully captures Jenna’s storytelling and reflects a deepening in her art as well as a rich new chapter unfolding. The songs on Jasmine Parade as well as her first release, Strings & Spokes (2010) bring joyful attention to the sweetness and sorrow of life worth living.
Jasmine Parade features appearances by Catie Curtis, Kai Welch (Abigail Washburn), Edie Carey, and Peter Mulvey.
“If you don’t have fun listening to Jenna, it’s pretty much your fault.” — Peter Mulvey
History Living the Moment of Truth
written by Steve Givens
The moment that Jenna Lindbo decided to dedicate her life to music was the moment she took a good, clear look at herself and realized what so many other artists before her have come to know: There is really no choice. “It’s a moment of truth,” says the 27-year-old singer-songwriter and Oregon native with a contagious smile and an ever-growing catalog of songs. “Once you’re honest with yourself, once the light is shining on something so true, you can’t put it back. It’s out of the box. This is what I’m bringing to the world and it’s the most natural and genuine part of my being, my most true self.”
Lindbo released her second CD, “Jasmine Parade,” this summer, following a busy year of traveling nearly full time with singer-songwriter Catie Curtis, opening shows and supporting Curtis on background vocals, banjo and keys. Heading into a new year of performance and armed with her sophomore release, she’ll be doing more solo work while also continuing to collaborate and perform on occasion with Curtis. With her first CD two years ago, “Strings and Spokes,” Lindbo took a simple, stripped-down approach in recording and production, wanting the recording to reflect what people heard at her solo live performances at coffee shops and other small venues. But for “Jasmine Parade,” she let go of that attachment to simplicity and embraced a fuller production with a band, something she rarely has the opportunity to do live. She worked with producer and percussionist Lorne Entress at Busterland in Glastonbury. Ct., and was joined by a bevy of talented musicians and singers, including her friend Catie Curtis. “I wanted to have the different layers of instrumentation and arrangement, and I’m really thrilled how it came out,” she says. “There is definitely something alive and magical in collaborating. There’s an energy about that and something really special that happens in the moment, and I think the songs definitely reflect the joy we shared in the studio.” With “Jasmine Parade” (the CD’s title comes from a line in her song, “Eleanor’s Garden”), Lindbo plumbed the depths of several recent experiences of death and brought more depth to her writing. Several of the songs (“Thank You Jane,” “Eleanor’s Garden,” and “Josephine”) take up the subject. “It’s really all about connection and honoring the presence of sweetness and beauty alongside sorrow and death,” she says. “And in the midst of that, having so much to celebrate. But it’s tricky. You can’t deny the beauty or the pain. This album is an invitation to celebrate, savor, be present and to share.” Life on the road has certainly sharpened her musical skills and improved her ability to connect well with people, something she first began working on in the coffee shops and small venues of Asheville, N.C., her adopted home and the place where she still has a storage unit and a P.O. Box. “Jenna is one of those rare performers who steals your heart from the first note,” says Catie Curtis. “She turns everyday details into magical stories that bring you to the edge of your seat. With charming songs, a gorgeous voice, and joy bursting from her soul, Jenna is destined to create and share music with an ever-widening audience. I know she will.”
Early Life and Influences
Lindbo grew up in Bend, Or, on the east “high desert” side of the Cascade Mountains. In second grade her family inherited her grandfather’s old, out-of-tune upright piano. Paired early with a piano teacher named Becky French, who figures large in a song called “Thank You Jane” on her new CD, she climbed up on the bench and has never looked back. Although neither of her parents were musical, they never lacked in their support and encouragement for her and whatever musical activity she was involved in growing up, from ongoing piano lessons to saxophone in middle school band to choir. Her father was a Ready Mix cement truck driver who frequently brought home songs he heard on the radio and began taking her to concerts as she got older. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom when Lindbo was young and later worked part-time jobs and, more importantly, became Jenna’s Girl Scout leader. Then, during her freshmen year of college, her father took her to see Catie Curtis and Jonatha Brooke at the Tower Theatre in Bend. It was an experience that would change her forever. “I had just started playing open mics, mostly going to listen and work on calculus homework. I was often the only woman playing and I still had to look at my fingers to figure out the chords. When I saw Catie, and Julie Wolf, and Jonatha I was just blown away watching these awesome women – phenomenal musicians, performing together and writing amazing songs,” she says. “It was just like, ‘Yeah! That’s the kind of musician I want to be.’ I had just started writing songs but I had never shared them, and I had no intention of becoming a professional musician at that point in time.”
But in 2008, the odd combination of a songwriting class and a series of deaths of people close to her helped Lindbo realize that music could become her livelihood as well as her passion. While sharing songs with her classmates helped her grow in confidence and artistry, the deaths made her realize that life was slipping by way too fast. It was time to make a start. “It made me pause and ask myself: if we have limited time on the planet, what are we doing with it and who are we spending it with? It hit me that music was the deepest thing in my heart and was the thing I could really give and share at this time. That was the moment. I knew I just wanted to share these songs and play and connect with people. I knew I wanted it to be the focal point of my life. I just didn’t know how to do it.” So rather than signing on for another year of teaching elementary school music and working at a non-profit arts organization, she packed up her 1990 Toyota Camry and drove across country to Asheville to attend one of singer-songwriter Christine Kane’s women’s retreat on the importance of following your dream. There, she heard Kane’s song, “Right Outta Nowhere,” which contains a line that inspired her as it has so many other dream seekers over the years: Dream and the way will be clear. Pray and the angels will hear. Leap and the net will appear. Lindbo leaped. “I needed a change,” says Lindbo who studied outdoor education at Oregon State University in Bend. “I grew up in Bend and had stayed there for college, but I knew I wanted to mix it up and I had heard that the music scene in Asheville was great and the Blue Ridge Mountains definitely called to me.” She had only played a handful of gigs when she moved to Asheville, but she got a job in a coffee shop and set her sites on playing gigs, going to open mics and writing music. Her plan worked. She started playing little cafes and non-traditional venues, and she was working on her first CD, “Strings and Spokes,” which she had begun in Oregon. Most importantly, she was learning how to connect with people. “The way that music opens up conversations or an opportunity to engage and meet people that you would never expect to meet is truly like a bridge,” she says. “It’s amazing!” noting that she learned to play guitar by asking people to teach her how to play their favorite song and that doorways to unexpected conversations continue to open as she now shares her own songs.
Songwriting and the art of ‘being present’
For Lindbo, songwriting is all about being aware of the world around her. It’s about learning to recognize and capture the genesis of a song when it arises and de-accelerating her life so she can pay better attention. “It’s about being in the present,” she says. “Like so many times, I’ve found myself going a hundred mile per hour and music and songwriting becomes this refuge where I can slow down. When I pick up a guitar or sit down at the piano I can lose track of time entirely and become tapped into what just happened or what’s around me. Because we tend to get ahead of ourselves, or at least I certainly do more than I care to admit!” But slowing down for Lindbo does not include giving up her bike. An avid cyclist, Lindbo has found that being in physical motion actually helps her writing process in terms of rhythm, and she has written huge chunks of songs while riding. “My writing is very much about the magic in everyday happenings,” she says, “and if we’re going too fast, we miss them. That doesn’t mean they won’t come around again, but I’m trying to be more open and have that net out there, you know? I hope to live in a way that celebrates life and the opportunities we have. I think my music reflects that. It’s about simplicity and about celebrating people and what we share with one another. I am continually amazed by the human spirit and people I meet.”
Additional Story from Western North Carolina Woman
Jenna Lindbo: Life With An Exclamation Point http://wncwoman.com/september2010.html