Jenn Em Talks “Jail Keeper” Single, Upcoming Project, Being a Rebel, Harsh Realities of The Music Industry, More

Newcomer Jenn Em caught our earbuds with her soulful new single "Jailkeeper," which premiered here on Classically trained, this budding singer-songwriter is equipped with all the tools to be a staple in music; she has killer vocals and tone and she's a great songwriter and musician. Jenn is offering something unique to music, and we're glad we can help bring that to the world. Check out our chat with Jenn as she talks growing up, being a rebel, learning from the greats, the harsh realities of the music industry, and more.

On Single "Jail Keeper": The single came about when I was living in LA for about six months. I moved out when I was really young; I moved out here when I was 17, right after I graduated from high school. I didn’t know anybody, and I think when I landed and I started finding my own way, I hit a lot of road blocks. I got a pretty heavy dosage of reality very quickly; I had to learn how to survive in a lot of ways. Writing has always been a release for me, that’s how I get through things, that’s how I understand how I'm feeling by reflecting on what I’ve written. And more so than any other song I wrote, like you sit down and you know, maybe I’ll have an emotion or a lyric in my head or a melody. With "Jail Keeper," it was completely different. I had nothing and I was feeling almost dead and I sat by the piano and it just kinda happened. It was like I blocked out, and I started putting my hands on the keys and my mind went somewhere else. I wasn’t consciously thinking of the next line or what words was going to rhyme, or what I was going to say. It was like the words already existed and when I was done or opened my eyes, I don’t really remember how I remember it, but basically my mind went to a place where as I was writing it, I was imagining, you know, the future where I was on stage talking about coming from this dark place and writing the song. It was like I already achieved success from it; It kinda burst this light, basically the light that got me there, the light that kept me going for the next four, five years. I wrote the song a while ago and then the journey from there developed. I met the producer who produced the song, but no matter where I went, I just couldn’t really let go of this one song. So it’s really crazy to get it released five years later.

On Musical Background: Actually, it’s kinda interesting; I don’t come from a musical background at all. My parents worked a lot, they were both lawyers, and the majority of my childhood I was raised by nannies. And this nanny I basically had from birth until the time I was seven, and she would always speak to me in German and listen to classical music. My parents were really good in getting us into activities, letting us experience different things. My oldest sister was into piano, but she didn’t love it. She wasn’t passionate about it. I would always tag along with the nanny to her lessons and I would always try to climb on the piano and play it from when I was two or three. And the teacher basically told my nanny, 'hey I know the older daughter is playing piano, I normally don’t teach kids this young, but clearly the younger daughter wants to do it'. So I started taking piano lessons when I was three, and I think that’s what kind of did it. When I could barely talk, my nanny would play me like few seconds of classical music; I can tell you which composer it was within 15 seconds. I don’t know, I guess I always had a love for sound.

But yeah, I started playing piano when I was three. And then a couple of years later, I asked for a violin for Christmas, and I played classical violin. I always was singing and humming, and I was always that kid who was writing little melodies, and played it for my friends at the lunch table. I think when I got a little bit older, it was a little difficult for me because I performed and people would … it’s not necessarily the most creative place to grow up, so I think people would say you’re a show off or whatever. So I kind of drew back and became more of an introvert, and I start focusing more on writing and not so much on performing. When I did that, I met the real music crowd in high school, who were sort of doing hip-hop and those who were really getting into music production; kind of underground. We did an R&B remix of Wale's track, “Nike Boots,” in my senior year of high school. It actually got a little buzz in DC, and it was kind of like the place for me to say, 'Ok, this is what I really want to do'. So, I applied to colleges just to kind of humor my parents and I got in, but I told them from the beginning, you know, I’m going to go LA to pursue a career in music. So, I hopped on a plane right after I graduated, and I think my parents didn’t really believe that was going to happen until I got on the plane.

On Being a Rebel Growing Up: I had a very structured lifestyle, and I was practicing my instruments hours and hours, and eventually I was too old to have a nanny, and what that meant was I was alone. My parents worked all the time, and I just had all of this time. Maybe a part of it was a cry for attention, I think just being a teenager and all of sudden being alone, having that alone time, I just kind of didn’t know what to do with myself, and I just rebelled. I lived in a city, its right outside of DC, it has a city vibe, but it’s basically politician kids, doctors, lawyers, so it was basically a lot of kids who had money and it was a lot of access to drinking, drugs, and all of that stuff, and no one around to supervise. It was really easy to do that then; in many ways it was a blessing and a curse because when I moved to LA, I kind of got over that, and all I really wanted to do was focus on my career. So, I think a lot of people move out on their own, party and develop bad habits, but I got my bad habits out of my system before that, so it’s a blessing and curse. It’s probably a curse to my parents [laughs].

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Gary Gentles

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