When Island records invited me to a private listening party with their newest artist Jenna Andrews, I checked out her new single that just hit radio May 17th this week, ‘Tumblin’ Down.’ Not bad I thought, but it was not enough to entice me. Then I thought a minute, and listened again, and a third time. ‘Wow!’ I thought, it took me three listens, then I finally got it. It was a B-B-C-D-E type of key descent, mimicking the lyrics of the song itself, going down in elevation, with some smooth melody that was really not easily definable by any single musical genre. “Wow again.” I was hooked, by these seemingly simple but not really so simple, genius hooks. I E-mailed her record label, one of the best major labels on the planet, Island Records (U2, PJ Harvey, The Killers, The Cranberries, et al), and the next day off I went to Hollywood to check her out.
A small list of about 50 or more packed in for the 7 o’clock set, and then 50 or so more including myself, for the 8 o’clock set here at an undisclosed, famous rehearsal and recording studio, just off of Hollywood Boulevard. Guests were busy mingling, and partaking in the massive quantities of free red wine, white wine, cheeses, crackers, cookies, foods, beer, and more. “If they don’t like the music, at least they’ll like the food and drinks, I thought, now all we need is some gift bags with free cd’s and L.A. Reid!” Oh wait, there were free cd’s! Awesome.
Finally, after about 20 minutes after 8, a young pretty girl wisps in the area out away from the crowd where I just happened to be standing, in a bright, checkered coat and hat, looking every bit a star, and I knew it was Jenna Andrews. She made eye contact. “Hi,” I said. “Hello” she replied matter of factly, as if knowing she has arrived, both tonight, and as an artist. I push in the door seconds before the guard closed it after me, shoved in through the elbow-to-elbow crowd as the lights go dim- to black, and mark my usual position; stage right. “I know everybody’s gone through pain,” Jenna Andrews confides earlier. “I talk to the little girl in me or the little girls that are dealing with similar things to remind them that you can do big things in your lives if you have hope.”
Relying on that very hope, Jenna left home after just six months of college, determined to make a name for herself in Vancouver. The going was rough; some nights she couldn’t afford to fill her gas tank, preventing her from getting to work. So she would spend those car-bound nights learning the guitar and writing songs; how ironic that a car without gas would eventually steer her to the office of music’s famed mogul- Chairman, Antonio ‘L.A.’ Reid, where she’d sign to Island Def Jam.
The sound man worked the stage lights and the crowd went silent as Island announced Jenna Andrews as the girl from Canada who went from busking on the streets and living in her car, to a girl who now isn’t doing too bad, with a deal with Island Records, that they stated are very proud of and excited about. L.A. Reid was chillin’ in the back of the room, and the sound kicked in as Jenna walked on stage and hit in to “Tumblin’ Down.” By the third song, all of us in the room were undoubtedly reading each others minds knowing that we are all watching a piece of musical history. This young artist hit every high and low note and each in between to sheer and total perfection. Wow.
Jenna’s mother noticed her daughter’s innate talent but didn’t want to push her. Jenna, however, needed no such prodding. She learned the piano by ear and started writing songs when she was just 14 years old. She would eventually travel with a youth performance troupe. By high school, her performances at downtown Calgary nightclubs in Canada commanded as many as 500 fans a night.
Jenna decided to leave college, and her family, and move to Vancouver. She scraped out a meager existence playing at open mic nights. She signed with Chris Smith Management in Canada (that helped launch the genius of Nelly Furtado which Jenna is uniquely in the style of), and spent the next year writing and recording with hit makers ranging from Babyface to Max Martin; of Pink, Carrie Underwood, Britney Spears, Celine Dion fame. The result is eclectic-pop to jazz with funk and soul elements, and even some sultry beats. But more apt than any genre label is the feel. It’s real.
“My album is heartfelt and honest. It came out very naturally,” Jenna muses. “Every song is really close to my heart. I want my listeners to feel like I’m right beside them in any circumstance they face.” Jenna has indeed navigated some rough roads, particularly a negative body image (unfounded – she’s beautiful in every sense of the word), which triggered an enduring eating disorder. But her travails alone don’t define her. “There is a lot more going on here than just pain,” she insists. “I feel like you need your first album to show your different colors. I don’t want it to seem like I’m this dark person all the time.” And she’s not. She’s like an old soul trapped in a twenty something body and mind – and she shines.
Jenna Andrews will be a major music star. Remember that, and that you heard it here first. Do yourself a favor, and check her out now.
(c) 2010, The Hollywood Sentinel. All rights reserved.