Jenny Dalton's interview with journalist Helm Matthews / Ted Klotz:
When one watches Jenny Dalton play in front of a crowd he or she can't help but notice how involved she becomes with the audience. Her eyes forcefully convey the sentiment of her songs-- whether it is soulfulness, deep hurt, or excitement. Jenny's sound will remind you of Tori Amos or Kate Bush, but her music is very much her own. If you pay careful attention you will notice a Slavic influence in some of her songs. I find her songwriting and lyricism to be very captivating. I once saw her play in front of a large audience at the Kitty Cat Klub in Minneapolis and was amazed at how entranced her fans seemed. There was a bond. An unseen connection between performer and follower.
Jenny Dalton has just released a new album titled Rusalka's Umbrella on the Glossy Shoebox label. I recently had the chance to converse electronically with this talented songwriter. Here are her words:
1. When did the musical bug first bite?
I was so young that I don't remember. Reports from parents and grandparents say I used to sing myself to sleep when I was a baby/toddler. Particularly, the songs "Jingle Bells" and "Sara" by Fleetwood Mac. When my memories started, I remember loving any kind of instrument I ever got my hands on, forcing my brother and sister into my band, and writing blues songs.
2. Who are you major musical influences?
I hold Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Madonna, and Kristin Hersh high as musical godmothers. I admire their creativity, integrity, and tenacity. I think of them when I need energy and motivation. But when I sit at the piano to write songs, my mind feels free of outside influences. It's very meditative, and if I'm being influenced by anything else I've heard, then I'm unaware of it.
3. You wrote a book to accompany your latest release, Rusalka's Umbrella. Why did you decide to do this and what is it about?
I'd been writing journal entries and poems all along the way while creating Rusalka's Umbrella. I didn't know I would compile them to publish an accompanying book, but I think the writings "wanted out." Similar to the push that finally got me out of my living room and into the clubs playing songs for audiences--it just gets to be too burdensome to keep them to myself. The songs "wanted out." It's like holding my breath and needing to finally exhale.
It also happens to be good for the way the music industry is changing. I love the ability to buy albums digitally, but I miss the album artwork, lyrics and liner notes. In the future when I might only do digital releases, I'd like to have that "flipping through" element to go along with them.
4. How would you describe your writing process for Rusalka's Umbrella? Is there anything different about it compared to previous releases?
My writing process has always been the same, and the main thing about it is that it's completely unintentional. When I go to the piano, I go because it's my solace. My mind clears and opens up. That's when the songs come. It's a meandering kind of process. Whenever I can lose myself and space-out like that (like on road trips or train trips), it's usually a good time for new song ideas to come to me.
5. What does the title mean?
The name Rusalka comes from Slavic folklore. It's a female water spirit with siren and mermaid properties. I chose it because there is a water element tying all of the songs together, and I was also interested in the Eastern Bloc sound and culture. Whether perceived as silly, spooky or strange, the irony of a water spirit needing an umbrella sort of fits the mood of the songs.
6. Do you feel living in Minneapolis has helped your career? Why, or why not?
Absolutely. I've always had the itch to move, but I'm here for a reason. I'm lucky to have been born and raised in a metropolitan area that is both known for the music it produces and is full of supportive and collaborative media. We have great radio stations, blogs, magazines and papers promoting local music.
7. Who is your favorite group/musician from Minneapolis right now.
My favorites as of late are Murzik, P.O.S. and Kill the Vultures.
8. Have you been collaborating with any other local musicians recently?
In the past, I've been mostly solo extending invitations to other musicians to record and play live shows with me. Now, I've been working with a regular band and loving it. Dan Greenwood (drums), Mara Stem (bass), and Deborah Copperud (cello) have all played with Cloud Cult and other bands, and Eliza Blue (violin / back up vocals) is a local folk goddess. They're all very talented, and we work well together.
9. Do you prefer playing with a backup band or solo. Why?
I like both for different reasons, and I usually work solo songs and band songs into the live sets. I can feel up-close and connected performing solo, and I love swimming in the full sound of a band.
10. Can you tell us something about yourself that would be a surprise to most of your fans?
I have a soft spot for some heavy metal. My dad, a drummer, introduced my brother, sister and I to Guns n' Roses Appetite for Destruction along with his classic rock favorites Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. I think it was my gateway drug for other bands like Metallica and White Zombie.
11. You seemed amused once when I called The Kitty Kat Club the "netherworld." You have to agree the interior design is pretty imaginative?
I do agree! I appreciate it when people have taken the time to make you feel like you're someplace else. Environment is important. I think that's why I like Halloween and haunted houses so much - all that effort to "transport" you out of your daily hum-drum life.
12. Is that your favorite venue to play?
I do like the Kitty Cat Klub and theater-type spaces. Like I say, environment is important. I care about the performances, and the atmosphere has a lot to do with the overall experience.
13. What's next for Jenny Dalton?
More music, more accompanying books, more podcasts, more videos. I'm excited about the new songs! I'm going to start working on the pre-production for the next recording project this fall.
Live Show Review also by Helm Matthews / Ted Klotz:
Author Deanna Raybourn is also a fan