Jenn Adams:
anthropology into her music

An interview by Naomi de Bruyn,
July 2001

Jenn Adams didn't get a very good education in her youth. When she began attending the University of Montana, she spent much of her time catching up on the basics -- reading and writing. But then a professor turned her on to anthropology and her world was changed.

"Dr. Charlene Smith opened my mind up like I had never thought possible," Jenn said during a recent interview. "Before I knew it, I had almost finished a degree in anthropology. She just happened to be a forensic anthropologist, so that is what I studied."

So how does that her impact on her career as a folksinger?

"I think it taught me to be a good observer," Jenn explained. "It also taught me to think about relationships, interconnectedness if you will. All good tools for songwriting and making one's way in the world."

That foundation, combined with strong support from her parents (who, she quickly admits, never thought music was a wise career choice) led Jenn into her current path as a singer-songwriter. "Their support for me as a person has always been my strongest foundation," she said. "Without that, I don't know where I'd be."

"I have been dreaming of this all my life," Jenn added. "I just couldn't figure out how to make it work until I was much older. After I got unhappy doing anything else, I decided this was all I wanted and just to go for it." Positive reactions to her music -- including her two CDs, Water and the more recent In the Pool -- suggest she made a smart decision after all.

A native of Topeka, Kansas, Jenn grew up in a music-appreciative household. Her father had her listening to classical and jazz while her Mom got her into soul, and to round out her education properly, her brother introduced her to fusion. For her 6th birthday, Jenn's parents got her a guitar and lessons, and by high school she was touring the South and Midwest, playing at schools, churches, amusement parks and even correctional facilities, with her school's top musical group. She later joined the jazz band at the University of Montana, where she also studied piano and took courses in songwriting, computers and synthesizers.

Despite her positive reception in the music world, Jenn's biggest hurdles so far in the music industry have been "a fear of success and low self-esteem," she said. It has been a bit of a struggle for her, she said, but "facing your own demons is well worth the journey." And this journey "seems to have an ongoing learning curve. ... As Paul Simon would say, 'This is how we begin to remember.'"

Anyone familiar with Jenn's stripped-down folk style might be surprised to learn of a recent performance in Seattle, when Jenn and her band shared the stage and sang a few songs with Geoff Tate, lead singer of the heavy-metal band Queensryche. "It was a fanfare weekend, and Queensryche fans came from all across the country," she recalled. "It was most amazing, a crowd of 300 or more heavy metal/rock 'n' roll fans were embracing the 'girl with guitar' folksinger. I loved them and they loved me. I'll remember that night for a very long time."

On her stereo at home, Jenn can often be found spinning discs by some of the folk standards. "Joni Mitchell's new release is incredible, and Shawn Colvin has left me with lots to think about with her new release, " Jenn said. Most recently, she's been listening to Deb Talen, a singer from Massachusetts. She's also drawn "over and over again" to Patty Larkin's Regrooving the Dream, an album Jenn said is so interesting she just can't leave it alone.

What does this talented lady hold as her dream for the future where her music is concerned? "I look forward to sharing my music with more and more people, getting better at my craft and enjoying the little things in life, each other!" For now, she spends her downtime hanging out with her significant other, their dog, and their family and friends. Aside from that, you can find Jenn relaxing on the front porch of her Montana sanctuary, watching the Bitterroot River flow by, playing her guitar and writing songs. Jenn certainly knows she's reached a peak moment in her life. "I love what I do. I'm finally at a point in my life where I'm doing exactly what I want. What could be better? I must be the luckiest girl in the world!"

[ by Naomi de Bruyn ]
Rambles: 21 July 2001

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