Today, I am doing my first ‘Faint Not Artist’ feature! Part of my purpose in writing this blog is to promote other artists and what they are doing to influence the world for good (read more about this here). For this, my first feature, I interviewed an amazing artist who just happens to be in my family, my sister-in-law, Jenny. As a young mother, artist, and full-time musician, plus a woman who loves coffee and chocolate ice-cream, Jenny is easily one of my favorite people. We sat down together and talked about her career and what it’s like to be a new mom and a touring musician.
I will start off by giving you a little background on the music: Jenny and her husband, Tyler have been doing music professionally for over six years now in the aptly named band, Jenny and Tyler. Their music is a combination of styles mainly classified as ‘folk pop’ but I like to think of it as a melange of the Civil Wars, Jack Johnson, and Coldplay, with strong spiritual undertones in their writing. They released their first album before they were married back in 2007, called A Prelude. After saying “I do” on a beach in NJ, they decided to move to Nashville to pursue music, whilst working typical starving artists jobs—coffee shops and retail. They decided to pursue music full-time in 2009. Getting into the touring lifestyle demands a rigorous schedule. They played 110 shows in the first year and on one tour played 14 days in a row. They released their second album, This Isn’t a Dream, in 2009. One of their most popular songs from that album is “One Eyed Cat” which is named after Jenny’s family cat for which she has a deep affection, but to which, sadly, Tyler is allergic. Watch them perform it live here in our Nashville living room:
After a few years, they decided to change the way they toured because they desired to be involved in community. Jenny and Tyler had developed enough of a following that they could be more selective about venues. Jenny says, “Touring at 22 is very different than touring at 29. We wanted to have friends, be present for our shows and enjoy the touring.”
Author Sidenote: Around this point, Jenny and Tyler moved into our basement apartment in Nashville. They recorded a bulk of their third album, Faint Not (2010), in our living room and did their Album release show in our den. AND yes, for those who are wondering, the name for this blog, Faint Not Mom, has a deep association with title track for that album, Faint Not. It kept playing in my head as I was thinking about what I wanted to write about and who I wanted to write to. Great song—check it out here:
They released their fourth album, Open Your Doors, in 2012 and also got pregnant with little Jane. They took their first tour with Jane when she was three months old. Jenny says, “I didn’t know I was going to feel like a working mom. I felt like I was missing things. I was worried about her not having a bedtime routine when we would play five nights in a row, or with her being in the car all the time, that she would ever learn to roll over.” After this first tour, they had to make some changes so that Jenny could take care of Jane and herself in a sustainable way. They wanted to make sure they could keep the family together out on tour. She says, “We are always changing the way we do things because Jane is constantly changing.”
They are currently working on their next record which will be available fall 2015. It is called Of This I’m Sure and I am lucky enough to have heard a bit in advance—it is awesome. Jenny and Tyler write many of their songs together. I asked her where her inspiration comes from for her songs and she says, “The change I want to see in myself doesn’t happen so I am constantly writing about those things. On this new record, five out of eleven songs are about Jane. You just see the world differently. And there is so much beauty in her. There is so much you want to say to her that she just can’t understand yet.” Jenny and Tyler wrote “In Everything You Do” on that theme. Watch the video below to listen to this beautiful song.
I asked Jenny about what she needs to be creative and how things changed since Jane was born. She says, “Generally, I have to leave the house to be creative, because I get too distracted otherwise. It has been a lot harder to be creative and I’ve written a lot less, but I think the songs are better. I have more to say now than I did before. I’ve written lullabies, inspired in the moment. Those tend to be the best even though they are about crayons. And I’ll even record them because I think, “This is a great song!”. Tyler is really supportive. He wants me to flourish and in order to do this, he knows I need to step away.”
Jenny is a natural mom. I was very thankful for the ‘musician hours’ that she and Tyler kept when I had my premature twin boys and they were living just below my feet. Jenny often came up and helped me with the midnight feedings because she was up anyway. I like to think that my boys helped her prepare for Jane.
Jenny’s favorite thing about being a mom is watching Jane’s personality emerge, her new words and expressions. Seeing how Jane is turning out like Tyler and how she is like Jenny. She says, “I didn’t know what it was like to love your own kid. I didn’t think I was really good with kids and I didn’t know I had it in me to be a mom but it just kind of comes naturally because of that love thing.”
Jenny experiences the same things that all of us moms do: the nights of crying, the changing schedules, the insecurity that comes with every decision about your career and your family. She says, “It is really easy to isolate yourself. You feel like a failure because you can’t do everything well, which makes you feel like you can’t do anything well.” But she has some good advice for us: “Faint not! Know that you’re not alone so make the effort to not be alone. It is so much easier to be alone than to be in community. Have someone to do life with you and tell them honestly how you feel about what you’re doing. That can be very freeing.”
Jenny and Tyler just had their second baby a few weeks ago. Now they have a pair of sisters, Jane and Sara, to go with them on their musical adventures across the country in a mini-tour bus that Tyler is renovating himself. Fun! AND speaking of touring, for the first time Jenny and Tyler are taking a full band out on the road with them this fall and recording a live album in the process. They just began a Kickstarter campaign to help fund this project. Click here to find out more!
Jenny and Tyler also have done a lot to raise money and support for International Justice Mission (IJM), a non-profit organization dedicated to ending human-trafficking throughout the world. They released For Freedom—A Covers EP, which raised $15,000. This was matched by a generous donor and became $30K, all of which has gone to support the work of IJM. Leading a life of justice and mercy is very core to who Jenny and Tyler are and that is clear in many of their songs as well.
Thanks for sharing in Jenny’s story and hopefully you hit "play" on all those YouTube videos and clicked on all the links in order to listen to loads of excellent music that will please your ears and impact your soul. And just because they are so lovely, Jenny and Tyler are giving you a free download of a seven song live album: click here!