It takes a lot to ruffle Jenn Grant’s feathers. The singer-songwriter from Nova Scotia seems to take everything in stride, whether it is her upcoming show in Montreal or her future collaboration with Ron Sexsmith. Despite being a longtime fan of Sexsmith’s, Grant speaks nonchalantly about being approached by the Juno award-winner to perform together on tour this October.
“I don’t know what it’ll be like yet,” she says of taking the stage with Sexsmith, but feels that the new songs she will be performing on their tour will “lend themselves well to his audience.”
The closest she comes to gushing was on the topic of Sexsmith accepting her offer to sing on a previous record in 2007. “I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience,” she laughs.
Grant’s apparently unshakable confidence didn’t develop overnight, however.
“I was born to do music,” Grant says. “But it took me 10 years to be comfortable enough to start singing in front of people. It was scary at first.”
Never one to sit idly by, Grant put those years to good use pursuing other artistic aims. A woman of multifaceted talent, she studied painting, drawing, and sculpture at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) while building confidence as a musician. Indeed, her eye for visual art has made her mindful of all aspects of the concert experience. On her tour this fall, installation-based pieces by fellow Nova Scotian artist Charley Young will serve as a backdrop to Grant’s haunting voice. “I think they’ll enhance our performance and make the show more beautiful for the audience.”
Grant is entering an exciting new era in her career, a time of both independence and collaboration. She is breaking off amicably from the team she has worked with for the past seven years to make a fresh start and forge her own creative path.
“I’m working independently for the first time now. It was a challenge making that decision, but it’s been a positive move for me. I get bored, I like a little [variety].” She hasn’t left teamwork entirely in the past, however. One of her recent collaborations is a side project with Canadian musicians Charles Austin and Graeme Campbell, called AquaAlta.
“I’m part of something, rather than leading it, and it’s expanding my writing abilities,” she remarks. Grant’s latest album, The Beautiful Wild, is looser and more eclectic than her previous work, with a layered, Canadian indie tone. “There are a lot of organic sounds in it,” Grant says, also pointing out her experimentation with new instruments such as the sitar: “That was totally new for me.” The lyrics on the album follow a similar vein. “I was using a new writing technique. It was a much more sporadic writing experience. I was writing songs really quickly and every day; it was a rush.” Her advice for aspiring musicians? “Go see a lot of live music, support your community, collaborate with people, and don’t be afraid to take risks.”
Jenn Grant performs in Montreal Sept. 14 at 9 p.m. at Quai des Brumes (4481 St. Denis). Admission is $15.