Talking with Jann

Jann Arden gives us the inside scoop on music, food and life’s top priorities

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Jann Arden
Jann Arden’s music, crack-a-gut stories and home cooking go far beyond the rolling hills of hometown Spring Bank, Alberta. She’s toured Europe, recently opened for the Dixie Chicks in Ontario, runs a comfort food diner, The Arden, in Calgary and just released a new album. From her Toronto hotel room, Jann shares her latest news and views.

LF: I heard you recorded this new album, Love is the Only Soldier , in your basement wearing your PJs? What was that like?

JA: I was home for six weeks. It was awesome. I’d put my hair in a ponytail and brush my teeth, of course. And Russell (Russell Broom, co-producer and guitarist) would come in and we’d have a coffee, chat, head downstairs and play till 6 or 7 at night. It was relaxing and really cost-effective. The cats were wandering around—we actually had to stop every now and again because we’d record a “meow.” My drummer went into the furnace room and started playing the furnace—it sounded good so we decided to record it on one of the songs. There was no anxiety, it was very easy and laid-back.

LF: How does the homegrown recording approach make the style and tone different from your other albums?

JA: This album is really a simple record because the equipment was really simple and it was more organic. My records, especially my last one, Blood Red Cherry, which I did three years ago, was quite a big production: lots of strings and layering. When you’re sitting in a studio in Los Angeles, being away from home, out of your environment, you’re paying $2500 to be in this room and you have to order in three meals a day. When you’re at home, you can have soup and a grilled cheese sandwich and make your own tea.

LF: Over the years, did you make a conscious decision to reach the Canadian market or the international market with your music?

JA: There’s a part of me that thinks, “Oh, I wish I would have done better in the United States or Europe.” But you know, having said that, I’ve done well and continue to do well over there. I don’t sell millions of records but I’ve sold seven or eight hundred thousand in the United States and we go to Europe every few years. It’s a spattering, but somehow I think, “Wow, it’s still getting out there.”

As far as world domination and things like that, I have no interest in it at all. Maybe I’d feel different if I was 21, but I’m 41. Do you know what I mean? And your priorities do change, you do get this homing device and you understand how important other aspects of your life are. I’m very happy with what I have and what I’ve achieved. I don’t hope for more than what it is. I’m just glad to be in the game and still be doing records.

LF: You’ve obviously had experiences that the average Canadian woman has not. Many of us just go to work in an office everyday from nine to five.

JA: That’s the funny thing! I’d love to have a nine-to-five job and know everyone in the office. I’d go to the office party and join a softball team in the summer with a bunch of yahoos and drink beer. Those are things I’ve never been able to do ’cause I’m never home.

LF: What kind of nine-to-five job would you have?

JA: I’d really love to be a teacher. That’s considered nine-to-five, right? What am I talking about, that’s probably like seven to ten, marking all those papers. I would have loved to teach Grade 1, 2 or 3. I would have kids say things like, “I remember that grade one teacher, Miss Arden, she was so funny.” Mrs. McCray, my grade three teacher, she made me feel like I could do anything. I always remember her saying, “Oh, that is so lovely.” I’ve never had anyone encourage me so much.