Jen Chapin: Better, stronger and faster
Daughter of the late folk icon Harry Chapin, singer-songwriter Jen Chapin plays a little bit of everything on her latest album, Reckoning. Opening number “It’s All Right” is rather jazzy and “Insatiable” has echoes of Joni Mitchell. Chapin recently phoned from her Brooklyn home to discuss the eclectic new album and her fall tour.
Has New York informed the music you make?
Sometimes, yes. I have an old song that I wrote when I was living in Boston and yearning for New York. It’s called “NYC.” I have a song called “Goodbye” that I wrote about my childhood home and the fact that it was going to another family. It was a great piece of land on the Long Island Sound. There’s a little underlying recording of the waves on that song. That’s on an older album from 2006 called Ready. Yeah, it’s definitely part of me.
Talk about your most recent album, Reckoning.
It came out in May. Given that it was an independent release, it was a quick turnaround. I did a Pledgemusic campaign and that was the core of the first audience for album because the first 500 people who pledged got it first. It’s an unfolding process. That’s part of the deal with an independent artist and chipping away and getting stuff out in the air.
Are you trying to do something different?
I guess it’s not radically different. It’s just better, stronger and faster. What’s the bionic man? Better . . . stronger . . . faster? My goals personally were achieved. In those magic months we were making it, it was grabbing me just as I was hoping. This is the first time that I hired an outsider producer who was established and not just a music friend buddy. He has a track record and is somebody who has been involved with dozens of pop hits and is all about integrity and songs; that was a big deal getting Kevin [Killen]. Then, I wanted those little things . . . those small but significant insights he would have about the arrangements of songs. He saw his role being an objective ear.
Are you happy being considered a singer-songwriter?
It’s a weird term. It’s a basic description. Now, it comes from the fact there used to be singers and songwriters and they were separate. As a genre, it’s not that appealing to me. Narcissism is too strong a word but the connotation is about telling you my feelings through a guitar. I have a wider musical perspective. I came of age with the first hip-hop tracks were on the radio. I walked on the beach with my boombox playing Houses of the Holy. All those things are part of me: classic rock and soul music. That is as much part of the music as singer-songwriters. I love Joni Mitchell but I’m trying to throw other things in the mix too. I often think I’m being edgy but, in the end, I’m a nice suburban white girl. Different people hear different things. Some people really hear the jazz. Some people really hear the folk. Some people hear Janis Joplin or Alanis Morissette. Some people hear it as really relaxing and some people hear it as really dark. I appreciate that.
You taking a band on the road?
It’s a trio with Stephan Crump, who happens to be my husband, playing acoustic bass and singing some background vocals and Jamie Fox playing electric guitar and also providing vocals. It’s cool because we don’t have drums but it’s very rhythmic and driving. The wood of the acoustic bass adds a whole percussion element.
What will you be playing?
When I was putting the song order together for the album, it happened that that song order works well in a live set. All of the songs are really meaningful to me right now and work as a live performance. We have been playing all of the songs and we include two or three songs from my other recordings or maybe a cover tune. We get really powerful reactions to our live shows. It’s great.
The Winchester – Lakewood, OH
Irving Theater – Indianapolis, IN
Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza and Live Music – Columbus, OH
Germano’s Trattoria – Baltimore, MD
Landmark Theatre – Syracuse, NY
The Antique Boat Museum – Clayton, NY
Patchogue Theater for the Performing Arts – Patchogue, NY
Habirshaw Park/Beczak Environmental Center – Yonkers, NY
Barbes – Brooklyn, NY
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church – Northport, NY
The Cutting Room – New York, NY