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A Conversation with Annabelle Chvostek (continued)

PM: Who brought in "Long Time Traveler," for instance, the a capella traditional song?

AC: Ruth brought that one in.

PM: Did that take some arranging, or did that just kind of fall together like, "Well, I sing in this register, so I'll be doing this."

AC: It was sort of a mixture. It was basically us trying it out. We actually worked it out in our touring van. [laughs] That was one that we worked out. We started working on it last winter when we were touring around England. And we'd just sit around and try things out, and run by different ideas with each other. It just sort of made sense where our voices would fall.

But then, at the same time, we have choices. So we try a few different things out and see what everybody thinks or feels about it, and then sort of figured out how we wanted to build it. And then we started performing it a bit, and then it changed a bit after that, and then we recorded it. So it is an organic process. It doesn't just happen, but it's a joy to kind of figure it out. When we're doing that a capella stuff, we can just be driving through the mountains or something, and singing.


AC: And we just work it out that way.

PM: Wow. So how long was it from the time you kind of came on the gigging or rehearsing scene with them, before you were actually in the studio?

AC: Well, we made an initial demo kind of thing, sort of for the presenters and for people on the scene, to say like, "Okay, the Jennys have a new lineup, but it's going to be okay."


AC: "She can actually sing and write songs. It's all right." So we did an initial recording of "Swallow" and "Devil's Paintbrush Road."

PM: Oh, so you demoed two of your songs.

AC: Yeah, early on, for just something--

PM: For the "we're okay" demo, you used your songs. That's interesting.

AC: Yeah. And that was early. I know we were working on some stuff in January, I mean, like right after I joined. But I don't think we ended up using that. And I don't know, shortly, a few months later, we'd figured out our arrangement to "Swallow" and had something going on with "Devils." And we worked with David really soon after that. And in fact, that initial demo, we kept that version of "Swallow," so that's the one that shows up on the album.

PM: It's the actual one.

AC: Yeah. "Devils" we redid, but "Swallow" just was--it just happened magically, and it just felt right. So that happened just a few months after we started working together.

PM: So I was just up in Guelph for the Hillside Festival.

AC: Mmm, great.

PM: That was really, really a great little festival. Because we're big fans of the whole Canadian music scene, which is too wide to really get one's hands around, though we keep trying. I know that you're originally from Toronto, right?

AC: Uh-huh.

PM: And now, for many years, Montreal.

AC: Yes.

PM: So isn't that kind of essentially different than being from Winnipeg, where I think the other two women are from? Are they both from Winnipeg?

AC: Yeah, they were both born and raised in Winnipeg.

PM: Is that like being "Well, I'm a city girl, and they're more country girls"? Or is it not that cut and dried?

AC: No. I mean, Winnipeg is a big Canadian city. And it's got an amazing cultural scene. It's not a huge city, like it's not as big as Toronto or Vancouver.

PM: But it's a big city and a big cultural hub.

AC: Yes. And they have a great ballet and symphony there, and all those kind of things. And they've got a really interesting art scene. And of course, it's really central to the roots music scene in Canada. I think some of the best musicians are coming out of there. And I don't know how it works, but it's just like--maybe it's the influence of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, which has brought so many people up, and people have just grown up with that. It spawned this amazing bunch of musicians who are really good and really solid, excellent players and really creative songwriters. Yeah, so it's the place to be for kind of folk roots stuff.

I had all kinds of influences, from growing up in Toronto, which is very multicultural, and then Montreal is that way, too, and also has this whole French culture and mix of cultures, which is really exciting and fun. So that's sort of a different influence. I guess we kind of come from different worlds, but they fit well together. And we inspire each other and introduce each other to different kinds of music.

PM: Wow. So Nicky and Ruth both cut solo records before they formed the Jennys, right? And Ruth--

AC: Oh, yeah, I guess Ruth had put out an EP. But she was more touring with a band.

PM: She'd done the Scruj MacDuhk thing.

AC: Yeah.

PM: But you, on the other hand, had a more jazz-inflected, kind of cabaret/improv, more artsy background--is that a fair reading of it?

AC: Yeah. My background was kind of all over the place. And then before I joined the Jennys, for the last few years before that, I had gotten really into jamming with my buddies, doing sort of more old-time country kind of stuff. But I had definitely come from quite a diverse background, and put out a couple of records, and one of them was quite jazzy. [laughs] And yeah, there was never one specific genre, really, it was sort of drawing from all kinds of sources.

PM: And you were doing some writing for theater or dance companies, and stuff like that?

AC: Yeah, sort of working with a lot of different art forms and new media artists, and contemporary choreographers, and stuff like that. So yeah, it was all across the board.   continue

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