Written by: Frank Iacono
Jenn Bostic, a singer and songwriter who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but raised in a small town 30 miles west of Minneapolis in Waconia, Minnesota, grew up singing with her family around the piano. Bostic’s career as a singer and songwriter began when she was 10 years old, in the back seat of her father’s car with her older brother on the way to school. A horrific crash that killed her dad, a hobby musician who taught her folk songs like “Sunny Side of the Street,” and turned her on to Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt, changed the 25-year-old’s life forever.
“Losing my dad like that was the most painful moment in my life,” said Bostic, during a recent phone interview. “My dad was the first person to encourage me to play music and try different instruments.”
Bostic recalled that the first time she sat down at the piano after the accident; she shut her eyes and felt her dad’s presence next to her.
“Songwriting started as a therapy for me,” said Bostic. “I wrote songs that really dug deep for me. It was a way I could still connect with him. I still feel like I constantly have his voice around me.”
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jenn Bostic and asking her a few questions about her musical influences, her passion for music, her career, her new CD release, and her upcoming performance at World Café Live.
TCS: At what age did you realize that you wanted to be a musician?
I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. My family loved music and I still recall many sing-a-longs after dinner around my dad’s guitar. Unfortunately he passed away in a car accident when I was ten years old, and songwriting became the therapy that got me through that tragic time. The first time I sat down at the piano and started playing after I lost him, I know I wanted to play music forever.
TCS: What famous musicians and/or bands do you admire and how have they influenced your music style and song writing?
My dad, Jim Bostic, was so talented! He could play any instrument he picked up. He and my mom always encouraged my brother Jeff and I to play, listen to, and respond to music. It was a huge blessing and created such an incredible outlet for both my brother and I after we lost our dad. I developed such an emotional connection with music that artists like Bonnie Raitt and Sarah McLachlan, who have an amazing way of emoting their lyrics, really influenced my performances. As I became more serious about my writing, I continued listening to their music along with Marc Broussard, Sara Bareilles, Jon McLaughlin, The Beatles, and so many more. I’m constantly learning new things and being influenced by the music I hear.
TCS: How would you describe your musical genre and sound?
I’m an emotive pop singer/songwriter. My first album “Keep Lookin for Love,” is definitely pop/country, but as I began to grow as an artist, I found myself writing more emotional pop songs that fit in the vein of Sara Bareilles, Regina Spektor and Missy Higgins. The musical genre lines continue to blur, and as long as the music is touching people I’m happy to fall into a few different categories.
TCS: In what ways have the places where you have lived (born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, raised in Waconia, Minnesota, and now live in Nashville, Tennessee) affected your musical tastes and the music in which you create?
I feel very blessed that I have had the opportunity to travel throughout my life. Aside from living in a few different places; being born in Philadelphia, growing up in Minnesota, studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston and now living in Nashville, Tennessee, being a touring musician brings me too many different areas and I have the opportunity to meet many different people. The more I experience, the more I have to write about. I am still growing and learning as a person, and in the same way my songs are growing with me. New cities, new experiences, new relationships find their way into the songs I’m creating.
TCS: How do you respond to South Carolina’s The Anderson Independent-Mail, the local newspaper for Anderson County, who described you as “too pop for country and too country for pop”?
I actually don’t recall that statement, I think they were quoting me because after the release of my first record, a few Nashville record labels told me I was “too pop for country and too country for pop.” This is the story I tell before performing the first track, “Change,” off my brand new record “Jealous.” It was a difficult thing to hear at that time, but looking back I’m so glad that comment was made. I had the opportunity to step back and reflect and remember why I fell in love with songwriting in the first place. “Jealous” is a collection of my best songs and really are little nuggets of my heart.
TCS: Tell us about how important your time at the famed Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts was for you as a singer, songwriter, and overall performer?
Studying at Berklee College of Music was an amazing experience. I learned so much in those four years. The relationships and friendships I made during my time there are still very present in my life today. I received a degree in Music Education from Berklee, as I love teaching kids and getting them excited about music. I’ve been able to use that experience to conduct a few songwriting clinics at different middle and high schools across the US. I was also very blessed with the chance to perform in both the Singer’s Showcase and Commencement Concert at Berklee.
During college I was also the lead singer of a country cover band called DiggerDawg. We played country/rock covers every weekend in bars across the east coast. We also traveled overseas to Kuwait and Iraq for an AFE tour in 2008 to perform for our troops. I was really able to experiment with my vocal and learned a lot about songwriting just by performing songs that had gained so much success night after night.
TCS: Take us behind the scenes in the making of your newly released sophomore CD entitled “Jealous”? What was your favorite part of its production and the most challenging from an artistic perspective?
“Jealous” is a collection of my best songs thus far. Most of them come from personal experience, including “Jealous of the Angels”, which is a tribute to my dad who passed away when I was ten. “Not Yet” is a song I wrote with my producer Barrett Yeretsian (Christina Perri, Andy Grammer), which is a hopeful anthem of encouragement to never give up on a dream. “Just One Day”, “Missin a Man”, and “Lips on Mine”, are all songs written for my husband who I’ve been married to for two years, each during a different season of our relationship. I put my heart and soul into that record and I am so excited to finally be sharing it with the world.
TCS: Recently you went back and performed with a full band in your hometown of Waconia, Minnesota! Incidentally that is where you filmed a memorable performance of the song “Jealous of the Angels” in honor of your father. How was that experience?
The video shoot for Jealous of the Angels was an emotional one. I had never shot a music video before, so it was a brand new experience in a very familiar environment on a very difficult subject matter. The video was filmed in my hometown of Waconia, Minnesota, in the house I grew up in, on the piano my dad taught me to play. There was a beautiful glittering snow with overcast skies most of the day, and just as we filmed at Dad’s gravesite, the sky opened up and this small patch of sun came down where we were. It really was a magical moment.
TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs off of your 2009 debut CD release entitled Keep Lookin For Love is the track called “Never Too Late,” so can you share with us the meaning behind it?
It’s been so long since I wrote that song with my fellow Berklee grad Charlie Hutto. Charlie produced that first record and taught me so much about songwriting and the industry in general. He is a great friend, who shares the same values in life and faith that I do. I think we were in a conversation about forgiveness and how it’s never too late to make things right with someone. It’s been incredible to see people connect with different songs on each of the records, and I’m so glad that one connected with you.
Tell us all about your upcoming performance on Wednesday, August 14, 2013, at World Café Live Philadelphia where you be joined by Tim Williams and Ayla Brown?
Wednesday, August 14th is going to be a really special night. Tim Williams and Ayla Brown are two of my dearest friends and World Café Live is such an amazing venue. I’m so excited to be returning to Philadelphia and this time with strings!
- $20 – All Ages
- Show starts at 8pm
- Limited dinner menu and full bar available
- Limited seating available first come first serve
- All tickets are General Admission
TCS: Tell us about your performance along with cowriter Damon Brown of the song “Join Hands” at the 4th Annual Thirst Gala in Beverly Hills, California, supporting the Thirst Project, an organization raising awareness and bringing a solution to the global water crisis?
Damon Brown was actually the choreographer for my high school show choir, which is how we initially met. When I moved to Nashville and started a career in songwriting, we had tossed around the idea of writing together. I love the chemistry of co-writing in person rather than via skype or email, and since he isn’t located in Nashville there wasn’t anything really pushing us to finish something. However, he introduced me to Seth Maxwell, the creator of Thirst Project, and proposed the idea of writing a song for the organization. I was so moved by the fact that 20% of the world’s population does not have clean water, and that Thirst Project is drilling wells in these communities, already providing clean water for over 100,000 people, that I felt compelled to do something to help. Songs come from anything that makes my heart beat faster, and it didn’t take Damon and I too long to come up with something that expressed our feelings toward the issue.
It was an honor to be asked to sing the song at this year’s gala, and to sing with the John Burroughs Powerhouse Show Choir made it unforgettable.
TCS: During your career you’ve been very active in the United Kingdom; can you share with us your involvement with YoungMinds, an organization based in the UK which helps people to live life from a positive perspective?
YoungMinds is an organization that focuses on enhancing the emotional wellbeing and mental health of young people. This organization speaks to be, as I remember the difficulty of facing the tragedy of loss when my dad was killed in a car accident. I was so grateful to have music to help me through that, but I’m very aware of the fact that not everyone has that outlet and it’s important for grief and closure, that children find those outlets. YoungMinds does an amazing job in assisting these young people to do just that.
TCS: Tell us about how special it was performing Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Me Like a Man,” with the Grand Ole Opry house band during your debut at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee?
That performance was surreal. The Opry house band is made up of absolute legends! Those players are amazing and it was an honor to be standing on that stage, The Mother Church of Country Music. Bonnie Raitt is my absolute favorite singer, and I actually saw her live for the first time on that very stage 2 or 3 months prior to the performance. I honestly feel like I blinked and it was over, but it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
TCS: Share with us some of the major country recording artists that you’ve played with during your career. Any specific performances stand out? If so, please explain why.
Back in college when I was the lead singer of country/rock cover band DiggerDawg, we had the opportunity to do some sidestage performances at some major country artist concerts including Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, Josh Turner, Brad Paisley, Sugarland and Gretchen Wilson. I think Gretchen Wilson has an incredible vocal and was a huge fan in college. That was probably my most favorite show to be a part of.
TCS: What’s the most unusual venue that you’ve ever played a show or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?
I haven’t recorded in too many strange places, but I have performed a lot of different venues. Each one has its own unique quirk and it’s hard to pinpoint the strangest, however I think it’s important to adapt and roll with the punches. My job as a performer is to share my heart and entertain whoever’s listening.
TCS: Right now, what aspect of making music excites you the most and what aspect of making music gets you the most discouraged?
Creating new music is such an exciting thing. To create a song out of thin air blows my mind. It’s so much fun to watch each song come to life. The music business is a bit of a rollercoaster, and some days are better than others. I try to focus on the positive and remember that I’m writing songs and singing them for a living. That always brings the spring back in my step.
TCS: What famous song do you wish you had been credited with writing and performing?
“Can’t Make You Love Me”. I think it is the best song ever written.
TCS: Who would you most like to party with and why?
I don’t know how hard we would “party,” but I’d love to sit down with Bonnie Raitt to hear her stories and pick her brain.
TCS: Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What’s one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?
I’ve got to revert back to Bonnie Raitt. She’s amazing. Her voice is unmistakable. I don’t think enough of the younger generations are hearing music like hers.
TCS: If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you would you be doing instead? And, please explain why.
Teaching music. I love doing it and have a degree in it, as I mentioned earlier. It’s so fulfilling to see someone learn something new musically and watch that light bulb go off.
TCS: What specific advice do you have for young female artists wanting to become singers, songwriters, and/or performers?
Make a promise to yourself never to give up. Perform for anyone who will listen and don’t ever stop learning new things.
The biggest thing I’ve learned as an artist is to stop worrying about what I think everybody else wants and to write music that I love. “When I started to focus on touching lives, that’s when things started happening, and that’s what makes me happy.”
Song List on Jealous (2013)
2. Anywhere but Here
3. Jealous of the Angels
4. Not Yet
5. Wait for Me
6. Let’s Get Ahead of Ourselves
7. Snowstorm (Acoustic)
8. Give Me Back My Pride
9. Just One Day
10. Missin’ a Man
11. Lips on Mine
Song List on Change (2011)
Song List on Keep Lookin’ for Love (2009)
1. Wish I Would Have
2. Good for Somethin
3. Kiss My Rainy Day Away
4. Gay or Taken
5. Mess It Up With Love
6. Dance Like Nobody’s Watchin
7. Keep Lookin’ for Love
8. Never Too Late
9. Saturday With You
10. Lay It On Thick
11. My Brother & Me
12. Good In Goodbye
About Frank Iacono
Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.
Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.