Jenny Gillespie continues to weave and bloom her dreamy, intricate songs on her new album Light Year. Light Year is the bridge between Jenny’s earlier folk-pop leanings and the new darker, more honest direction she finds herself working towards.
Fans of Martha Wainwright, Kate Bush and Aimee Mann will gravitate to this album, instrumented thoughtfully by world percussion, pedal steel, accordion, and more, but with the insistent thread of Jenny’s inventively tuned guitar, piano, and a broken-angelic voice that heightens and speaks unabashedly to the listener’s emotions.
Born in 1980 in rural central Illinois, Jenny first picked up her mother’s 1972 baby Martin guitar and wrote her first song at thirteen, after years of piano lessons and singing in the church choir. Her childhood was spent in the woods, sailing a lot on a lake, and making movies with her sister, including some very funny, earnest music video remakes of Wilson Phillips and Indigo Girls. Her mother is a landscape painter who played Nanci Griffith, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen in her studio—artists who became lodged in Jenny’s musical psyche. Her father is a jazz and bebop fan who loved to croon along to Chet Baker, the fluid, joyful melody of his voice also soldered to her vocal DNA. The house was always full of music and art-making, and Jenny and her sister were encouraged to sing, write, paint, and act.
Jenny spent college at the University of Virginia and graduate school at the University of Texas studying poetry writing. In Austin, between classes, she recorded her first EP, Love and Ammunition with singer/songwriter Lee Simmons as producer. Upon hearing the EP, the vice president of Blue Note Records contacted Jenny to tell her she was one of the best undiscovered singer/songwriters out there, prompting her to further focus on her music. In 2004 Jenny moved to Chicago. She wrecked her car within the first week, which was a blessing because walking around the Wicker Park neighborhood where she lived, she began to write new melodies that would become her first album.
Throughout her first few years in Chicago, Jenny met new musician friends to work with and befriended engineers at Electrical Audio and Carterco Recording. It was within this new circle of friends that her album Light Year was created, and perhaps as a result the performances and arrangements on the album are more comfortable and natural than Jenny’s previous recordings. Light Year features John Knecht on percussion, Adam Ollendorff on pedal steel, Alan Scalpone and singer/songwriter Aimee Bobruk. Additional production and mixing by Darwin Smith brought out both sparkling and dark ambiances to the songs. Light Year was partly funded by $3000 in donations from fans.