THE past year has seen a lot of great young musicians begin their…
careers with one big step. Over the last few years Yorkshire-born Jen Armstrong has worked hard and tirelessly on her music- marking herself as one of the most unique, passionate and stunning voices in music. With her down-to-Earth and heartwarming personality- that pink hair is enough to capture the eye alone- this year will see her plot new music; search for management/a record deal- get the acclaim and credit she fully deserves. Having toured throughout the world in 2015; Armstrong is now based in London- having moved from Yorkshire recently- and is extolling the benefits and opportunities of the capital- albeit handling the loneliness that comes with it. Keen to catch-up and reflect on the year past- and what is to come this year- she talks future plans and who influenced her musical career...
You had quite a busy and memorable 2015. What are your highlights from the past year?
My two biggest highlights have to be:
1) The song-writing camp I attended in Nashville with U.K.T.I. It was a thoroughly magical experience; one of which I felt entirely privileged and lucky to be a part of. I met so many amazing songwriters and producers- many of which I’m still working with now.
2) I got invited to play a song at Bluebird Café in Nashville and it is truly a unique and wonderful venue. I had the room for the full 4 minutes of my song and they loved it; and I loved them for loving it! 4 minutes might sound like no big deal. But I’ve played plenty of gigs in my career where you’re competing with wasted people who are definitely not there for the music. So it was absolutely fab. that not only people listened intently, but they completely got it too.
On that note; what plans are ahead for 2016?
Well – I’m in London, yipeee! My Nashville plans got a little stalled. They’re still a possibility, but for now I’m putting my everything into London life. I hope to start working with management in the next few months; but it’s finding the right team- or rather them finding you! I’d love to say I have plans to release an album and I do. But it has to be with a team and the best producer. Fingers-crossed I’ll find that.
Your fans are captivated by your music and how special it is. Can we expect a Jen Armstrong album in 2016 or will you be releasing singles/E.P. instead?
It’s always a weird debate: Album or E.P. I think as I’m relatively unheard of an E.P. is the way forward first- a tidy little package of 3-5 kick-ass songs to blow everyone away :)
What inspired you to take up music to begin with? Was it something that struck you as a child?
I always loved singing when I was a kid; in choirs at school and music centre. But it never felt like a passion or something I might one day do as a job! I played the violin and piano from a young age and really I started my musical journey on the classical route; which I’m extremely thankful for. It was my mum who suggested I play the violin; my sisters were having piano lessons and I wanted them too! So really, no burning desire to make music a big part of my life (until I was about 12); when I really started getting in to Pop music. Learning the songs of the artists who really spoke to me, and in turn, writing my own songs. It was only when I was about 16 that I realised I was actually pretty good at writing, performing, singing… and I started to consider the possibility of it being a full-time occupation.
You have recently moved to London (from Yorkshire). How have you found life in the city, as a musician?
Loving it so far (although lots of late-night walks home on my own). Being a broke musician doesn’t always mesh too well with the lifestyle! But you have to put yourself out there.
Your songs are very distinct and unique. Not just confined to love songs, you look at everyday and quirky themes. Do you think it is important to be individual and write about what is important to you- rather than what everyone else is doing?
Of course. I think you should write what you want. That’s being individual: you need to show your voice because you’re the only one who has it. Why try to be, do, and speak as someone else?
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You have a lot of support and fans across social media. Is that online connection important to you with regards your musical development?
It’s not that I need an ego massage- being constantly told how great I am-… but online feedback is so helpful and appreciated- especially when I’m working at home on my own so much of the time. And if people have criticism or suggestions, I listen. I might not always agree…! But it’s useful.
In terms of your influences and idols; who are the most important singers/artists to you?
I just watched the documentary about Amy Winehouse. Man oh man. If I wasn’t already a big fan of hers, I am now. So much humility. It’s rare, I think. She’s now gone to the top of the list.
But then there are my all-time favourites. Chris Martin/Coldplay. The have moulded themselves and adapted to the ever-changing needs of the consumer public; to the point that they are now one of the biggest bands in the world. That is impressive. And I still love their music. Inspiring.
Ben Folds will always be up there too; he’s just a legend. I love how he doesn’t give a shite about being popular. And more and more, he’s using orchestral arrangements or acapella arrangements in his stuff. Having that kind of background myself; it really speaks to me and it’s awesome he regards it so highly.
Sia is another awesome writer/singer who I look up to. Vastly talented but not bothered about the fame. In fact, the opposite. Raw talent.
I know you are not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. On a personal plain, are there any particular goals/aims you have in mind?
Well as you know, I’m forever on a quest to be fitter and healthier! So that is still up there. I just want to produce top-quality music for my own artist project; and this year, for people to actually hear and enjoy. I want to get management too.
With the influx of singer-songwriters coming through, what are the biggest challenges you face? How do you overcome them?
It’s always been the same, really. Getting your voice heard. It was hard at the beginning; it’s still hard now.
What have been your favourite songs and albums from the past year?
You’re going to hate me, but I’ve really got in to Justin Bieber. Sorry! But the lad is talented! (I’ve started to come around to a small extent. Not a Belieber; but a Justin agnostic- Sam)
You have inspired (take my words for it) some up-and-coming artists. What advice would you give to them with regards the music industry?
If they’re lucky enough to know what they want when they’re young; get down to London (or another big music city)! I enjoyed my time at Leeds College of Music- and I met some life-long friends and invaluable contacts- BUT, if I had known what I know now, I would’ve hot-footed it down to our capital A.S.A.P. Also, get some basic production knowledge. It isn’t hard. I don’t think there’s any excuse anymore to not know the basics about Logic/Pro. Tools. And if you want to be a performer, PERFORM! Get the experience.
Having performed around the world is there anywhere you would especially love to play (you haven’t already) or a particular town/country you’d like to revisit?
Japan. Hella (sic.) YES please. Australia…
Finally, and for being such a good sport, you can name any song and I will play it here…
I’ve been part of a project called Red Velvet Rag Doll (by Red Velvet Ray Gun). The two guys behind the project are so talented and supportive of me. The album has just been released on iTunes, and some of the songs are bloody catchy I’ll tell you! I’d like you to play a song from the album – I’ll suggest World’s Wide Open or Guardian Angel.
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