By Victoria Wasylak
Combining rock, jazz, funk, soul and hot Latin beats, Jen Kearney is back with a new 8-track album guaranteed to burn a hole in your headphones. Age of Blame is Kearney’s first studio album since 2009’s Year of The Ox and it was well worth the wait. Kearney’s ginormous pipes, smart lyrics and talented band brew up some serious mojo, making this a groovy collection that clearly has the dirt of working musicians under its fingernails.
Q: Your new album is called Age of Blame — a rather dismal title — yet your album cover pops with color. How did you come up with such a contrast?
A: Ha! I’ll give you that. I tend to write darker lyrics because they usually come out better than my happier lyrics. I don’t know why that is somehow my happier lyrics feel cheesy to me, but I’m working on it and I promise I am not a dismal person to hang out with. The picture on the cover is in front of this beautiful mural in Jamaica Plain, Mass. and that picture immediately looked like an album cover to me. My friend Joyce did an amazing job taking the photos and putting the album artwork together. We both felt it reflected the music.
Q: To raise money for Age of Blame, you used a Kickstarter campaign. What was that like, and would you recommend this method of raising funds to other musicians?
A: Honestly, I was on the fence about using a crowd funding service at first, but had a lot of support from fans that were excited at the prospect of a new album. I viewed it like a public television campaign. People donate to the cause, but get rewards and get to be a part of it along the way. It would have been a lot harder to fund on my own and the days of getting signed to a major label that will pay studio time these days is like finding a lottery ticket in a haystack with five elephants on top, so I’d recommend this method.
Q: What can fans expect from Age of Blame, and how is it different from your past work?
A: Well, this whole experience was different from any other album I’ve done. I feel like I’ve learned so much in the last few years personally and musically. I have a hard time sticking with genres when I write songs, so people can expect a mixed bag of styles. The cool thing about an album is that it’s a snapshot of life during a certain time period, so I just put my personal experiences out there and hope they connect with people. Working with this crew of musicians, producers, and engineers was really inspiring. Everyone involved helped shape the project.
Q: Think quick — pick one word to describe your new work.
Q: You’ve opened for some pretty big names, such as Daryl Hall and Los Lobos. Who has been your favorite artist to work with or tour with?
A: I really loved opening for Los Lobos. They were the first national act we opened for. They were so humble and generous. No celebrity pomp. They complimented us on our set and called us up one by one to join them on THEIR set. It was an amazing experience.
Q: You’re a fan favorite at local venues, but is there any venue that you haven’t played yet that you’re just itching to?
A: Oh, so many. I love all the old theaters in this country. I’d love to and hope to play all of them. I was born in Boston, so I’ve definitely always dreamed of playing the Orpheum or Great Woods. Yes, I still call it “Great Woods.”
(Note to people born around the mid ’80s and after: the Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts in Mansfield Mass. took on another name in 1986. Today it’s the Xfinity Center).
Q: You’ve been on the New England music scene more than 20 years. How has the journey helped shape you as a musician?
A: Probably the same way 20 years shapes any person’s life. As a musician, you have to keep a student’s mindset and always be willing to learn from experiences. I guess I’ve learned a few things in 20 years.
Q: Any words of wisdom for aspiring artists?
A: To quote Rodney Dangerfield: “It ain’t all moonlight and canoes, like the movies.” It’s a tough profession and you may be broke, but you’ll know if music was the right choice if you love it enough to feel like it chose you.
See Jen Kearney & The Lost Onion live at The Lizard Lounge on August 21, and learn more at jenkearney.com