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Jen Gloeckner - When I was introduced to the guitar, that really opened up a whole new world for me, and became my passion

Feature: Jack Foley

JEN Gloeckner’s debut CD Miles Away has been described by many critics as spellbinding.

It's designed to lure the listener into a world that’s more twisted and mysterious than calm and relaxing, more Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman) than Neverland.

Songs like Nothing Personal and Only 1 take you to a place where dreams go wrong and good intentions go awry, before pulling you back with tracks such as Remember When.

But the album is designed to reflect real life. It was not contrived to meet pop culture or corporate standards - in fact, it was created free from such influence in Jen’s own home studio, in Dubuque, Iowa, with the help of recording engineer, Laird Scott.

Explains Jen: "My digital recorder is my diary, and I try to write in it daily. I don't believe I could ever record a full album in a real studio."

As a result, Miles Away transports you into Jen’s world - a world of clouds and silver linings.

"The record is the result of a manifestation of everything I have experienced in life up to that point," Jen recalls, "and I felt now was the time to release all these different emotions."

Because Jen grew up in a small, Midwestern town in the US, citizens of more musician-friendly cities may wonder where she finds the inspiration to write such diverse and original material.

Yet in a recent interview, Jen spoke of the sources of her inspiration, saying: "When I write, I am really not aware of my surroundings at all, either inside the studio, or outside the house. I do not find that my music really has any geographical boundaries at all."

She adds: "I really cannot put my finger on it, but when I write, the visions I see and try to interpret are very similar to what one may experience in their dream state.

"I have also had collaborations with musicians in my dreams, which I have taken and finished writing in the conscious state.

"I often wonder if these other musicians are the various forms of myself."

Jen recalls the haunting Only 1 as being a song created from such inspiration:

"That was a song that came to me one night at about 2am. It just seemed to pour out of me, and within two hours the song was completely written and recorded."

Hard-pressed to classify Jen’s music into a certain genre, reviewers are left searching for words to describe what they have heard.

In a world dominated by many female artists whose vocal lines seem to never stop, Jen prefers not to have any one instrument, including her own voice, dominate.

She explains: "When I wrote the material for the record, I wanted more than just singer/songwriter style songs.

"I understood that giving the music space to breathe on its own was very crucial in developing the moods that I wanted to create."

Jen’s talent was nurtured and encouraged by her family from a very early age.

"My mom often reminds me of a time when I was about two-years-old," she continued.

"We were in church, and there was a hymn playing. As soon as the hymn stopped, I began screaming 'MORE MUSIC!', and mom had to rush me out of the church so that I would not disrupt the service [laughs]."

Jen’s first piano teacher took notice of her ability to play by ear, and her lack of interest in reading music, and advised Jen’s parents to not restrict her creativity and to let her learn her own way.

"I guess I have always been somewhat unconventional," she recalls, "being left-handed, bi-racial and being raised in a completely white environment. There are definitely those times when I feel I am marching to a beat of a different drum."

During Jen’s teenage years, she began composing songs and, like every teenager, singing along with her favourite musicians.

Though her appreciation and love for music never subsided, Jen did not actively compose again for several years. But her desire to create was rekindled after receiving her first left-handed guitar for a birthday gift.

Things moved rapidly after that, her self-taught guitar style began to take shape and led to a desire to produce her own demo record.

"When I was introduced to the guitar, that really opened up a whole new world for me, and became my passion," she recalls.

Inspired by the sounds of artists like Tom Waites and Bob Dylan, Jen spent hours in her spare bedroom-turned-recording studio creating her first album.

"Most of the songs were written during the recording process," Jen recalls. "I had originally written five or six songs, most of which were scrapped and replaced with new ones."

With the writing of each song, Jen’s songwriting style and her vision for the album began to evolve.

With encouragement from music industry pros like Aaron Jacoves (former A&R vice-president of Virgin, A&M, and Mercury Records) and Derek Birkett (MD One Little Indian Records), it was soon realized that Jen would have more than just a demo on her hands.

Jen Gloeckner’s debut album, Miles Away, was released through One Little Indian Records on April 25, 2005. The single, Otherside, is out on May 16.

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