JENNIE ARNAU creates a unique blend of New York-nurtured South Carolina-born Grassroots rock. Her original blend of Americana, Alt-Country and rock along with her bold and bittersweet voice have lead more than one critic to describe her as a cross between Neil Young, Martina McBride and Alanis Morissette. It's a sly underground sound that's born of urban grit and rowdy southern sensibilities and it perfectly suits this native South Carolina singer. It's not a voice that has gone unnoticed either – Chuck Eddy of the Village Voice wrote that Jennie was capable of "a husky uplift and rhythmic wallop rarely heard in the female-folkie field, Singer Magazine praised Jennie's ability to "pierce your heart one moment, then turn right around and calm your spirit the next" and No Depression described her voice as "strong without sacrificing its femininity."
Building on Jennie's 2007's release, MT. PLEASANT, which garnered rave reviews in No Depression, Relix and Honest Tune (to name a few) and which Joe Levy of Rolling Stone hailed as "her most fully realized set of songs yet. If you care about the struggle for love and happiness - and who among us doesn't? -- this one's for you", a successful year of touring in 2008 including performances at major festivals such as Wakarusa, FloydFest and Sleeping Bear and Dunegrass and important venues such as World Café Live, The Mercury Lounge and Sullivan Hall, CHASING GIANTS might be one of the most compelling indie record releases of the year.
Jennie was determined to find a producer who would understand her alchemy of grassroots Americana and indie rock and sent Trina Shoemaker a demo (Sheryl Crow, Queens of the Stone Age, Emmylou Harris). The busy producer got back to her quickly and the two collaborators, along with Jennie's recording engineer Phil Palazzolo (Neko Case, The New Pornographers), quickly got to recording CHASING GIANTS.
Jennie's core band includes drummer Alan Lerner (Zen Tricksters), guitarist Rod Hohl, bassist Skip Ward (Phoebe Snow, Steve Martin, Bela Fleck) and keyboardist Pete Levin (Blind Boys of Alabama). Special guests include Al Schnier (moe.), Noam Pikelny (Leftover Salmon, Punch Brothers), Kevn Kinney (Drivin N Cryin) and Rich Hinman (Ben Kweller).
After releasing three prior albums on her own and enduring a couple of years of traumatic or watershed events, Jennie needed to take stock of her music and her career. "For a long time I was scared of the music industry and buried myself in other things," she says, "but my downtown musician friends finally pushed me out of the nest. And here I am."
From the yearning and hopeful journey of "Bouncing Ball" to the playfulness of "For the Winter," Jennie smartly embraces both the subtle artistry of alt-country and indie sensibility. She's not afraid of the ache in her vocals and her lyrics; in fact, Jennie says that it's that very conflict of her multi-dimensional life, her loves and her losses over the last years that have fueled the "openness" and honesty of the album.
"It sounds strange," says Jennie, "but when I went into the studio with Trina, I really didn't know my voice. But she showed me that I knew my music better than anyone and that I had a clear vision. I learned a lot and she gave me the confidence I needed to make this album."
And Jennie approached tracks like "Beautiful Life" with that newfound confidence. "It's the happiest song I've written," she laughs. "It came together after seeing a band at SXSW in Austin. A really fun outdoor hippie show at night at a place called the Enchanted Forest. It made me realize that life can be really great and simple if you can let it be." This attitude also shows on "The Sharp Things" which shows how "the simplest things are the things that can make you the happiest and hurt the most."
Who and what has influenced Jennie as a singer? Given her professed fondness for "interesting voices," Jennie's choices are eclectic, ricocheting from Jeff Buckley to Ani DiFranco ("when she's not growling") to Aimee Mann and Johnny Cash. "Any voice that makes you melt," Jennie explains. "A voice that's distinctive, confessional … that you feel the lyric through the voice." And what of her own lyrics? "I like to think of myself as a storyteller," she muses. "I do like my songs to have a beginning, a middle and an end. And while I do write of sadness in my music, it's all in perspective. I'm not self-indulgent."
Stories abound on CHASING GIANTS, from the traditional-sounding "Safe Tonight" to the pleading tale of "Saviour." But ultimately, it is the uniqueness of Jennie's explosive voice that truly defines each of these songs, marking an indie debut as compelling as that of Patty Griffin or Ryan Adams.
For a woman who grew up in the foothills of Appalachia, but who has thrived in New York's downtown music scene since the late 90s, Jennie has long explored the curious dichotomy of her artistic temperament. But she sees CHASING GIANTS as the "coming of age" album she has long sought to record.
"I'm really so proud of this album," says Jennie, who wrote all the songs on CHASING GIANTS. "I've returned a little bit more to my country roots. I think it's modern but has a more organic feel and although I'm still a singer/songwriter it stretches the blending of various music styles."