“Very pleasant to listen to and sort of not at the same time.” -Popped Culture UK Perhaps the best description of what Jenny’s music does to the listener. A blend of beauty and strangeness, soothing and off-kilter. Bits of folk, jazz, electronica and rock woven together in an experimental yet accessible honeycomb hybrid of sound. And with each new project, a simultaneous expansion and shedding of what’s come before.
Jenny Gillespie was born in Springfield, IL in 1980 and grew up in a rural setting outside of town, surrounded by woods and water. There was a lot of time spent making fairy houses with twigs and moss. And a lot of harmonizing in the backseat with her sister, a gifted pianist. First picking up her artist mother’s Martin guitar at 13, she found she could put her little poems to music. The local record store clerk had also given 13 year old Jenny the holy trinity of female 90s songwriters: Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, and Shawn Colvin. Her songwriting started to bloom and ever since the garden hasn’t stopped flowering.
After living in Virginia, Paris, and Texas, Jenny settled in Chicago where she produced her first folk-and-alt-country influenced album LIGHT YEAR in 2009 at Electrical Audio. The album was met with pleasant reviews from the blogoshere, and through its exposure in 2010 she met Darwin Smith, an Austin, TX multi-instrumentalist. At this point Jenny yearned to make something more suited to her own tastes—electronica, experimental, spacious. The two recorded KINDRED at an old house in Wilmette, IL, along with Steve Moore (Tift Merritt, Laura Veirs) and Dony Wynn (Robert Plant) a lush and strange record that started Jenny on a more eccentric songwriting and recording path. In 2010 Jenny left her longtime job as a children’s literature editor at Cricket Magazine to write and perform music in earnest.
She booked her own tour to promote Kindred throughout the Midwest, West Coast, and NYC. Wanting to refine and expand her musical palette, and inspired by a volunteer trip to Kenya, Jenny enrolled in African guitar fingerpicking at the Old Town School of Folk Music, and noticed her songwriting began to change even more—stranger rhythms and a return to her guitar. Meanwhile, in 2011, she’d begun her MFA in Poetry at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. This program’s rigorous study of writing craft would inevitably shake up her lyric writing. But the lure of elsewhere and new collaborators once again proved fertile for Jenny’s music-making. In fall 2011, she traveled to NYC to work with the talented multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily (Lou Reed, Bonnie Prince Bily, St. Vincent) after Ismaily heard Jenny perform a cover of Sam Amidon’s “Saro.” The resulting work, the BELITA EP, released in spring 2012 on Chicago-based Narooma Records, is another exciting shift in Jenny’s output, an alluring hybrid of folk, African and Asian tones and rhythms, and pop. Ismaily, Amidon’s longtime bandmate, invited Amidon to sing on Jenny’s EP, as well as Marc Ribot who plays guitar on “Sunshine Blood.”
Jenny firmly believes in and aspires to practice giving music freely to those in need. She has volunteered as a children’s musician at Children’s Memorial Hospital and the Ounce of Prevention School in Chicago and hopes to return to Africa someday to record women’s traditional songs.