By MIKE CHAIKEN
Honors, accolades, exhibits, and albums.
It’s all in the works as the musical career of Bristol native Jennifer Hill—and the founder of SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day CT— seems to be heating up as the temperatures are cooling down in New England.
First off on her agenda is a nomination and performance at the CT Music Awards next Tuesday. Then the Bristol Historical Society has approached her about including her work and recorded performances in its archives. Finally, the singer songwriter is getting the itch to record some new material.
The Observer caught up with Jennifer via email to talk about the state of the Bristol Central High School alum’s career.
Observer: I understand you have been nominated for the CT Music Awards coming up. How did that come about? How does it feel to be nominated?
Jennifer Hill: First off, it feels great to be nominated and recognized. I remember as a young musician reading the Grand Band Slam section of the Advocate and wanting to be in one of those bands. In 2009, I conquered that goal by winning the honor of Best Female vocalist in the Hartford Advocate Grand Band Slam.
Last year, the Advocates and CT.com took the “contest” to the next level and put together the CT Music Awards. The nominations include bands throughout Connecticut, not just Hartford County, which makes the competition pretty fierce. It’s a really fun event, not unlike the MTV Music Awards, with performances, awards, bands dressed up in their form of fashion and red carpet…
Last year I didn’t win, per se, but I did end up with the title of being billed as one of the top five singer songwriters in the state. Our group of finalists, which included myself, John Torres, Kate Callahan, Hannah Fairchild, and winner Becky Kessler got together and created Das Musicians, where we played shows together and within each other’s sets. Our last show was at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford and was truly one of the most magical nights I have had playing in a long time. I hope to keep the Das Musicians group going with the new nominees for this year.
O: Also, I hear some rumblings about you and the Bristol Historical Society pulling something together? What is that about?
J: I have been asked to have my music/career archived in the Historical Society as a musician on the rise from Bristol. This is being done with a few other musicians from the area as well, in order to preserve Bristol’s musical history. In the future, people will be able to research my career, which I will continue to add to. It’s very exciting. It’s also much more daunting than I thought. I’m currently in the midst of putting together DVDs of performances, CDs, recordings, press clippings, and pictures from the past 15-plus years.
O: You’re a veteran of the Connecticut music scene and unique in that you put the focus on original material rather than cover songs. What keeps you plugging along? And do you ever have one of those moments where you want to toss it all aside and perform Miley Cyrus songs?
J: Connecticut is actually on the rise in its support of local, original music with the support of the Advocates and radio stations such as WESU 88.1 (with its HomeGrown program), WPKN 89.5FM, CT Rocks, Cygnus Radio.com and venues like Arch Street Tavern and The Wadsworth putting the focus on original music. This is why we have the CT Music Awards.
What keeps me plugging along, on a personal level? The need to vent my frustrations, love, and art into a tangible medium. Music is my gift and my curse. I will never stop it and it will never quit me.
I NEVER have had the urge to do a Miley Cyrus song as any sort of career move. I like doing original music as my career. It’s hard but rewarding. Of course, doing an entire album or something would be fun. I have a few ideas I would love to hatch in regards to that. I had the opportunity to sing the full album of “Dark Side of the Moon” … with members of Stanley Maxwell and The McLovins. And it was so awesome to hear it live and be onstage as a part of “the machine.”
O: You’re also more about putting yourself into the music/arts scene as a promoter of other artists. You’ve been involved with SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day CT for seven years and were part of the recent Peace Fest, where the focus was put on local independent artists. Why is it important for you not only to promote yourself but to promote and advocate for other artists?
J: Simply …because we all need help and these causes need to be heard.
As an artist/musician you are constantly trying to promote yourself. It’s not easy paying for gas to play events where you donate your time or make small pay. (We get some good paying gigs but those are not always the norm.) If you have someone helping you on the other end: promoting, getting more people to come out and see you, the end result will be better pay and better events in the future .
In regards to the Peace Fest and events that are free to the public and have causes that I support, I will donate my services to them because it makes me feel good. I believe in paying it forward. Thats why SWAN Day CT is so important to me, although I support all artists/musicians, SWAN Day CT supports a new talented group of women every year (which by the way is now accepting band and artist submissions to ladyblueproductions@ gmail.com.) They make great connections and meet friends and muses. It’s an awesome thing to be a part of. (For more information, go to www.facebook.com/ swandayct.)
O: Finally, it’s been a couple of years since your last recorded effort… “15 Minute Long Sentence.” What’s happening in terms of a new recording from Jennifer Hill? And since the last album, you’ve had a couple of life changes, how has that influenced your songwriting?
J: Well, we are currently about to launch our Kickstarter (crowdfunding site) to raise money for our new album. I have some great musicians onboard (including new member Isaac Young of the award-winning Isaac Young Quartet, which won best Jazz 2012 at the CT Music Awards), and a very big idea list in my head. So it may take a couple months to execute. But I am hoping to have it out for SWAN Day CT 2014 if possible. The sound has been called a mixture of indie piano pop with Tom Waits, Fiona Apple, Carole King, and a hint of rock put into the mix. Isaac and I play a bit of dueling pianos and the songs are a bit more fictional than I am used to. There are lots of things happening around me and I am writing about them instead of my usual lyrical content.
I have had some life changes lately that reflect on human nature. It shows me that we never will understand the will of another human being nor will we ever 100 percent know what we want. We need to take each day as it comes and make it the most beautiful it can be. Even if it’s just a day of laundry and mess. Every day is special.
The CT Music Awards will be Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. For tickets, go to Bushnell.org
To download free Jennifer Hill and Co. Mp3s go to http://www.reve-rbnation.com/jenniferhillandco. You also can connect to Jennifer Hill viawww.facebook.com/jenniferhillandco or http:// www.twitter.com/ jenhillandco.