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On Recording in Her Attic & Not Overworking Songs During the Creative Process
Canadian indie-pop songstress Jeen is perhaps best known as a member of Cookie Duster, Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene’s other band, but this summer sees her solo release Tourist get a deluxe edition across North America. The new LP is a treasure trove of vocals, blending Veruca Salt-meets-Breeders intensity and catchiness to what has become an otherwise disappointing summer slate of new music. We recently Q’d and she A’d about the record and her career. So without further ado…
At what point did you know that you wanted to pursue music seriously, and since that revelation, how have you evolved into who you are today?
I was into musical theater stuff when I was really young, in elementary school, so singing is something I’ve really always done. It just shifted into songwriting and being in rock bands when I was around 13.
I guess I evolved because I never stopped. I never quit and have never had ‘a real job’…for better or worse. I think there is a lot to say for perseverance. I’ve only ever really had one focus.
You’ve worked with a number of reputable artists and companies – what have those experiences been like? Were you able to fully exercise your creativity, or were there parameters?
As long as the outcome is of good quality I’m pretty happy. I feel lucky to get hired to do what I would do regardless so…most of the companies/people that come to me are looking for something fairly authentic and I get to do my thing without too many barriers. They call me because they want what I have to offer, so I don’t have to fake it…like if you want a burger you don’t go to a sushi restaurant kinda thing, haha.
What was the theme/concept behind Tourist, and how does it compare/contrast to your previous material? What was the writing and recording process like?
I just wanted to have a record that didn’t suck, to be honest…I’m picky, so getting an album’s worth of tracks together that I didn’t hate took a while. I wrote these songs over a pretty wide spread period of time and thought, ‘If I don’t release it now I never will.’ I recorded it in my attic…was hoping for a producer but found waiting for one to be very distracting and drawn out so I did it myself.
What’s the motto/philosophy for your career?
Right now I’d say…one foot in front of the other. This helps.
What recent challenges have you faced, and how have you worked to overcome them?
Just trying to stay positive…there’s so much music out there now it’s easy to feel swallowed up. It’s pretty over-saturated and the landscape has really changed. I find there is a lot of fake shit out there these days. It’s a challenge weeding through it but I’d rather be in the game than out, so…
Is there an ideal environment when and where you get your best work done?
I’ve written in the worst environments and it’s taught me not be a victim of my surroundings when it comes to writing…I don’t wait for inspiration to hit me or wait for some ideal surroundings, because otherwise I’d get nothing done. I don’t have that luxury; I still procrastinate – don’t get me wrong – but I really have no excuse when I do.
How do you know when a song is complete?
When I’m sick of working on it, haha…or like when I try to adjust things but I find I’m just making it worse. That’s always a good sign you’re done. I try not to overwork things for the sake of the song and my sanity.
How do you define success?
Doing what you want to do and making a living doing it.
Follow on Twitter @jeen_obrien