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August 24, 2019

Live Music This Week: Jenavive Album Release

Jen Smith’s new disc showcases a bigger, slicker sound.

Jenavive album release show
Saturday, June 14, 8 p.m.
Republik, 219 17th Ave. S.W.
Tickets: $20 (includes CD)

For Calgary keyboardist and vocalist Jen Smith (aka Jenavive), a hot 2013 summer of touring across the United States and recording in Los Angeles is finally coming to fruition with the exclusive local release this Saturday of a brand-new self-titled album.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” Smith says of the album, a followup to 2011’s Underthesheets full-length and last year’s Spades EP. While Spades was more of a band effort, the new album is a return to the concept of Jenavive as a solo artist. And it marks the first time Smith has collaborated extensively with another songwriter – in this case, producer Chris James, whose guidance came into play as recording progressed.

“The first day in the studio was shocking,” Smith says. “When you work with a pro, don’t have feelings. I pretty much cried the first day. But the message was that if you want to be on the radio, you have to write for the radio.”

So the challenge for Smith, as for any committed artist, was to pursue a level of commercial success without compromising her individuality.

“I still write about what I want to write about – your most valuable asset as a songwriter is your ability to capture feeling – but I’m definitely less self-indulgent. I think I’ve just developed more. I put more thought into the record as a whole, into building a story.”

The new album’s songs, some of which have appeared on previous Jenavive releases, have been given a crisp, contemporary treatment, with Smith’s powerhouse vocals at the centre, framed by swirling synthesizers and crunchy guitars. But Smith and her band – guitarist Reg Smith, bassist Mike Allan, drummer Blake Hewson and new addition Lindsey Reid on keys and backing vocals – continue to amp up the rock in their live shows.

“The live sound is pretty heavy,” she says.

Opening for Jenavive on Saturday will be Calgary bands Big City and Run Deer Run. Tickets are available here.

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