Born and reared in the Springfield, IL area and currently splitting her time between San Francisco, CA and Big Sur, CA singer/songwriter. guitarist and producer Jenny Gillespie can trace her musical career to her childhood — during drives to and from town, a young Gillespie spent quite a bit of time harmonizing in the backseat with her sister, who is a gifted pianist. When Gillespie was 13, she picked up her mother’s Martin guitar and began putting the poems she had started writing to music. A local record clerk changed the young singer/songwriter’s life by giving her albums from three of the 90s’ most renowned singer/songwriters — Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and Shawn Colvin.
After stints living in Virginia, Paris and Texas, Gillespie relocated to Chicago, where she self-produced and then released the folk and alt-country influenced sophomore effort Light Year to a fair amount of critical praise across the blogosphere. As a result of Light Year‘s exposure, Gillespie met Darwin Smith, an Austin, TX-based multi-instrumentalist, with whom she wrote her third full-length effort, Kindred, a sparse, experimental, electronica-based effort recorded in an old house in Wilmette, IL with contributions from Steve Moore, who has worked with Tift Merritt and Laura Veirs and Dony Wynn, who has worked with Robert Plant.
Inspired by a volunteer trip to Kenya that led her to an African fingerpicking class at the Old Town School of Folk Music and studying for an MFA in Poetry at North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College, Gillespie found her sound and songwriting approach expanding and becoming more refined. And by the fall of 2011, she traveled to NYC to record the EP Belita with Shazard Ismaily, a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with Lou Reed, Bonnie Prince Billy, and St. Vincent. Interestingly, that effort possesses elements of pop, folk music, African and Asian rhythms and tones.
Featuring contributions from Emmett Kelly (Bonnie Prince Billy) on guitar and Joe Adamik (Califone, Iron and Wine) on drums, her last full-length effort Chamma was released to critical praise, including landing on Billboard Magazine‘s Top 25 Albums of 2014 List. Naturally, that has seen Gillespie’s profile grow nationally — and continuing on that buzz, the singer/songwriter is set to release Chamma‘s follow-up, Cure for Dreaming early next year through Narooma Records. Recorded over the past couple of months and featuring contributions from Paul Bryan (Aimee Mann), drummer Jay Bellerose (Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’ Raising Sand), guitarist Chris Bruce (Meshell Ndgeocello), guitarist Gerry Leonard (David Bowie), and pedal steel player Greg Leisz (Lucinda Williams, Bon Iver), the album reportedly possesses elements of folk, progressive jazz, and 60s and 70s AM pop.
“No Stone” Cure for Dreaming‘s first single pairs Gillespie’s husky and unhurried vocals with a spacious yet warm and subtly jazz-like arrangement of keys, guitar, bass, gently buzzing electronics and hushed drumming in a song that feels as intimate as a lover whispering sweet nothings in your ear. And at its core, is conversational lyricism that possesses a novelist’s attention to detail, as you can picture the woman who hides her face by the ocean, the cherry blossom trees in bloom, someone peering through a keyhole to see a depressed woman struggling to just starting her day — and a novelist’s attention to psychological detail. The song’s narrator feels like a fully-fleshed out person, desperately struggling to push on. Interestingly, each time I’ve played the song I’ve been reminded of how Gillespie sounds so much like Joni Mitchell — it’s incredibly uncanny.