On her forthcoming Island Records debut, Canadian born singer/song writer, Jenna Andrews weaves a deep tapestry of emotion, personal growth and introspection in her debut album. She imbues everything from pop to soul with poignant lyrics, suggesting a strength and wisdom beyond her years.
“I know everybody’s gone through pain,” Jenna confides. “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 Chairman Antonio ‘L.A.’ Reid, where she’d sign to Island Def Jam. That said, the more you learn about Jenna Andrews, the less surprised you become to hear of unwavering determination.
Music, particularly jazz and R&B, was her mother’s passion. She would take Jenna on long drives and introduce her to great vocalists like Donnie Hathaway and legendary singer/ songwriters such as Carly Simon and Carole King. As a young girl, Jenna connected with the music of her mother’s generation more than the music of her own peers. “Melody can make you feel any given emotion—happy, sad, angry,” she explains. “But lyrics are hugely important because when you attach amazing lyrics to the melody, it synchs. A great song resonates like nothing else in the world.”
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 fetched as many as 500 patrons per night. So while Jenna was scribbling furiously in her song book, so too would the proverbial writing appear on the wall.
Jenna decided to leave college, and her family, and move to Vancouver. She scraped out a meager existence playing at open mic nights. “I wanted to struggle, and I wanted to really, really discover myself as a musician and as a person,” Jenna reveals. “I just wanted to go through the pain because I felt like it was helping my music.” How prophetic this would prove.
With no money for Christmas presents that year, Jenna instead composed a song for her parents entitled “Adore.” “It was never meant to be exploited,” Jenna explains. “I really wasn’t thinking of it having anything to do with my career. It was just for my love of the music, and for my parents.” Yet this personal ditty trigged public groundswell when the studio owner/producer heard the song and insisted that Jenna make it available via MySpace. She did, and promptly fielded calls from industry heavyweights Bryant Reid (brother of L.A. Reid) and Toronto-based Chris Smith Management, the force behind Nelly Furtado among others.
Jenna signed with Chris Smith and spent the next year writing and recording with hitmakers ranging from Babyface to Max Martin (Pink, Carrie Underwood, Britney Spears, Celine Dion). 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 a feel. It’s real. “My album is heartfelt and honest. It came out very naturally,” Jenna delights. “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.” And certainly Jenna has navigated some rough seas, particularly a negative body image that triggered an enduring eating disorder. But her travails alone won’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.”