Jennifer Naegele • A 'Songbird' Spreads Her Wings

Best Solo Artist – Best Female Rock Vocalist

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, , Review Music Awards,   From Issue 861   By: Matt deHeus

03rd May, 2018     0

The past year has witnessed some pretty heady space for songbird Jennifer Naegele.  From her stellar CD release party at the Empire Room to the acceptance of two 2018 Review Awards as Best Solo Artist and Best Female Rock Vocalist, by her own admission, it has been an experience that exceeded her expectations.

We thought that our readers would enjoy getting to know this “Chickadee with A Little Jet Lag” and, with that in mind, here is a Q&A with Award Winning vocalist, Jennifer Naegele.

Review: Who do you consider your musical influences?

Naegele:  My family - My mom made car rides fun because we’d just sing the whole way, wherever, and the whole way back. We were always singing at home. I also remember my dad’s sisters and brothers harmonizing and playing guitar. I didn’t really know how to fit in, I would just watch, and hope someday I could do that, too.

As a child it was also old musicals, children’s storybook/record combos, tons of Christmas records. When I was seven, I got my first cassette tape – Whitney Houston – and I would sing along into my “hairbrush microphone” for hours.

As an adult, my influences evolved to drive this sort of folk, singer/songwriter path. I’ve been inspired by Jewel, Ani DiFranco, Patti Griffin, Erykah Badu, Ingrid Michaelson, Kate Nash, Regina Spektor, KT Tunstall, Brandi Carlile, Feist, Missy Higgins, Priscilla Ahn, A Fine Frenzy. Singer/songwriters with nuanced and interesting voices and writing, with voices that tell a story with their inflection.

Review: When did you start singing? Playing guitar? Performing?

Naegele:  I’ve been singing as long as I can remember. I performed just a few times when I was little (the “big break” came in Kindergarten) but grew painfully shy about it in my pre-teen years and didn’t really find my voice again until my early 20s when I moved to California.  I hooked up with a guitarist and wrote some songs, then spent 9 years there pushing myself through fear before every show. It was worth it though, to get to the other side. I still get butterflies, but they’re the pretty kind. They keep me on my toes, and I look forward to shows now. You get out what you put in – putting the work in to conquer fear is one of the best things you can do for yourself. For me, nothing else quite matches the joy I find in singing or writing a new song.

I got my first guitar in college and had to sell it to pay rent. I started taking lessons on and off when I moved to California, but as part of the duo, he played, I sang. It was a great start, but it wasn’t until I moved back to Michigan that I realized I had to sit down and really learn to play if I wanted to keep writing and performing.  I took a year to get somewhat comfortable accompanying myself, then got my start here singing for many non-profit events for Underground Railroad, Girls on the Run, YMCA, Covenant, Run for your Heart, W4DIVAS, you name it. I love this community and I love supporting it with music. The cool thing is that it all comes back, and many of these involvements have led to great connections and other opportunities.

Review:  Over what period of time were the songs written and when was the LP recorded?

Naegele: 2010-2016, I got really inspired during the changes in life that came with moving back to Michigan and finding myself again.  It ended up being about a year in the studio to finish the 11 songs, then another 6 months to finalize details to release.

Review: You did a Christmas song, too?

Naegele: I love Christmas music! Yes, just a single so far. Joy to the World (a sort of medley of the traditional and Three Dog Night’s version). It’s a fun ukulele version that I was inspired to arrange a while back. The coolest thing was taking it in to Andy Reed was him just “getting it”, then making it even better. By the time we were done, we had like three additional Christmas songs woven into it, so it’s like a five for one deal. We were smiling the whole time – it was a really fun session. I’m thinking this year I’ll release another around the holidays.

I’m maintaining a slow and steady process in the studio right now with my follow-up album.  It keeps me honest with writing, and I’m excited to work toward completing the next album. The central themes are still evolving and it’s fun to see where this one will go.

I’ve been so lucky to mix music with kids, elderly, and community. I’ll be releasing a children’s song that I wrote for my niece. I’m working on a group ukulele lesson program to use this summer at assisted living facilities. I’m also recording a jingle with Andy for Underground Railroad Resale Shop.

Review:  Give us a layman’s description of what you do in your job and what do you value about this region and community now that you are re-established here?

Naegele: I’m the director for Girls on the Run Saginaw Bay, a non-profit program that helps girls in 3rd-8th grade increase their self-confidence, develop healthy relationships, and build life skills, all while training to run/walk in a 5k celebration event.  I value how at home I feel here - with my family, my friends, and in my own skin. Our community has given me the kindest, most grounded, feisty, fiercely supportive tribe. This is an amazing region to call home.

In this community, even as a solo artist, it’s like you’re part of one large band, one family. Everyone plays with each other, everyone supports each other. For me this was really exemplified in my experience with Laurie (Middlebrook) Spear and Andy Reed. When I met Laurie and told her I wanted to record an album but did not know how to get started, she immediately invited me to her next recording session with Andy Reed (Reed Recording Company) to meet him and get a feel for it. I then scheduled my first session and was insanely nervous to go in with what I call my “simple, plinky songs”. But Andy made it so much fun, and really took the songs on as his own. His skills and creativity are truly what released the soul of each song.

Review:    How does it feel to be part of the family of Review Awards winners?

Naegele: The Review is an integral part of our region’s arts, being so supportive and bringing our music community together. I am incredibly humbled and grateful to be considered part of the Review family!


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