Categories: Entertainment

Spanish pilgrimage leads to songs

FAN FAVOURITE – A favourite at Capital Region events

Sometimes life packs in more than people are comfortable handling. Back in 2012, East Coast singer-songwriter Jenn Grant, 34, lost her mother to breast cancer and two weeks later followed up with a preplanned tour to Spain.

“It was a hard trip,” said Grant who shortly after moved to an acreage on Lake Echo, a 30-minute drive from Halifax, with hubby Daniel Ledwell.

Unbeknownst to Grant, the Spanish tour would provide the beginnings of a personal healing from the numbing grief after her mother’s death.

It was in Spain that the folk singer discovered the route of Santiago de Compostela, an 800-kilmometre walk used by pilgrims. Starting at the French-Spanish border and ending at the city of Santiago de Compostela, it is a Christian pilgrimage route established in the Middle Ages that is increasingly active today.

“I heard about the pilgrimage and it was a beautiful idea, the idea of a journey. A lot of my writing came from that trip,” said Grant whose warmly textured fifth album Compostela (field of stars) was just released barely a week ago on Oct. 21.

Compostela is the culmination Grant’s two-year journey, a time capsule she plans to share with Arden Theatre audiences on Saturday, Nov. 1.

Although Grant did not attempt the pilgrimage, she was intrigued with the image of pilgrims kicking up the dust from their shoes and creating a field of stars.

“But I waited for a year before I started writing. I needed time to reflect.”

With Ledwell, a producer-multi-instrumentalist by her side, the Juno nominee’s aim was to make a psychedelic folk album.

Parked in a camper trailer on the couple’s lakeside property, and inspired by a digest of Damien Jurado, Father John Misty and Rodriguez, Grant composed about 30 songs. They were later whittled to 13 for the album.

“I wanted to create a sense of warmth and a down tempo groove. And I wanted to have elements of folk.”

Although some of the tunes sprouted from songwriter’s agony, Beautiful Wild sprang to life in 10 days.

“I thrive on passionate fury. With these songs, I wanted to test myself as much as I could. I wanted to test the craft of writing.”

Her aim was to record a psychedelic folk album. Most are mellow and soulful. The most obvious pysch tune is Canadian Maple Grove with its slightly eerie sound.

In this experimental album she connects her songs with a list of musical collaborators such Sarah Harmer, Rose Cousins, Doug Paisley and Kim Harris to name a few.

Ron Sexsmith helps create a light, atmospheric vibe on Barcelona while Buck 65 adds a slow-paced rap interlude on Spades.

Of all her albums, this is the most cohesive, in part because she’s in a “good place” right now.

“I feel like I’ve come into my own. I feel good about my age and I work hard and I’m dedicated. I choose people around me carefully and I have a good team and I’m always trying to expand musically.”

“I run a business I love and it feels good to be an independent woman and have a happy marriage. I try to be grounded and I’m really glad I have a gift to share with people.”

Joining Grant at the Arden is Ledwell (keyboard-electric guitar), Mike Belyea (drums) and Tavo Diez de Bonilla (bass).


Jenn Grant
Saturday, Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Arden Theatre
5 St. Anne Street
Tickets: $28. Call 780-459-1542 or purchase online at ticketmaster.ca

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.