And for Jenn Grant, baby makes music

Jenn Grant. Photo: Daniel Ledwell

For about five years Jenn Grant and Dan Ledwell tried to have a baby. They eventually tried in vitro fertilization and the second time it worked. A boy was born about 15 months ago.

For Grant, the pregnancy came at an interesting time. She was in the midst of preparing to record a new album, Love, Inevitable, with the American producer Tucker Martine.

“I had made a lot of records with Dan and I am sure I will make more music with him but I wanted to try something different on this album.

“I had been a fan of Tucker’s work for a long time. We had a phone chat and there seemed to be a nice creative synergy.”

So she went from Halifax to Portland, Oregon to record. She was four months pregnant at the time.

“It was worth it because I had the best time ever. Tucker is a magical person. He is a Renaissance man. There was no mansplaining.

I kind of lucked out because I really didn’t know what he was like. If he had turned out to be a real frazzle case I would have gone crazy.

But once she knew she could get the funds together to make it work she just went with her gut. She had also wanted to do more work in the U.S. And having a well-known producer on board definitely doesn’t hurt.

While she was writing and recording she was pregnant.

Having kid is a life changing thing.

“With our first child, it was after five years of trying different ways to get pregnant. We did IVF a couple of times and were successful the second time. He was a miracle baby. I was writing while pregnant but I didn’t know it.

“I feel like I opened myself up to writing about the hope of having a baby which I had closed myself off to for years. I didn’t wanted to share that. It was a type of pain that I wasn’t comfortable sharing. I have shared all sorts of pain and emotions in songs, even the deaths of loved ones.

“It was this ambiguous undefined thing in my life for such a long time I didn’t know what the end result would be … if I was going to be a parent or not. I wasn’t ready to share that.”

But when she was making Love, Inevitable even though she didn’t know she was pregnant, she said she had this sense that something was going.

“There was some new door opening. I tapped into that creativity and it was a beautiful writing experience. Recording while pregnant was awesome as well.”

She could feel the child kicking when Martine would play the drums.

The song Keep A Light On is about staying connected to that hope of motherhood, she said.

Musically, it’s a straight ahead folk song as is another tune on the record called Lay Me Down.

“I wrote the songs in my living room on a chaise lounge. I sat by a window and decided to try to write a simple song.”

It seems like it worked out. But if Keep A Light On is simple, Raven is more produced.

“In some ways it has been hard to categorize me when it comes to tours or awards. I’m not a roots artist or a pop artist. I am not a rock artist either but in all my records there will be a song like Keep A Light On and then there will be one like Raven. I just like different things. I don’t want to be put in boxes.”

She has had JUNO nominations in the Adult Alternative category for albums Compostela and Honeymoon Punch.

“There are always bigger artists than me in that category. I’m lucky if I win, if I don’t win I’m still lucky.”

After the baby was born and the record was finished, she kept writing both in Nashville and at home in the Halifax area. One of these tunes, Happy Birthday Baby, is about the experience of childbirth. Those songs are headed to an EP that will go w Love, Inevitable.

Her partner Dan is also in her band and they are together on the road and at home.

“We are very compatible. Danny still has the ability to surprise me. Sometimes I will listen to him talking to other people about music and I am impressed by what he is saying. He is a smart guy and I can appreciate that about him still.”

She has already taken her son on the road. In fact he was on tour at nine weeks old.

“He has been around Canada a couple of times and into the U.S. It is nice to have a balance of being at home and being full on with him and then being on road and always together and making it work.”

She said she did consider quitting touring for awhile.

“I had some post partum and that took four months to figure out. I had anxiety and all that was very stressful for me, but the baby was great and we were always super bonded and connected from even before he was born.

It sounds like her first childĀ  was more comfortable that Grant. “I had insomnia on tour. I was awake, losing weight, putting on shows and taking care of a baby. It was very challenging.

Now that the couple has one child, Grant says she is expecting another baby boy.

“It’s a surprise. It’s kind of insane. We were going to try to have another baby with IVF but I got pregnant in September..

“It’s all kind of miraculous. I have now been pregnant for three years. I had a lot of back pain with my first child, but I feel really strong and healthy and excited now.”

When she goes out on the road again in September she has more shows lined up and the second child will be born by then. He’s expected in June. She has recorded a Christmas album to celebrate this child.

She says she is kind of getting over going into the U.S.

“Something changed when I had a child. My priorities changed dramatically. I am loving my audience in Canada.”

Speaking of that, she says “Ottawa might be my favourite place to play. My mother was there in the 1970s. She had a free spirited time in Ottawa. That was instilled in me.

“The audience feels like home.”

NAC Presents Jenn Grant with Don Brownrigg
Where: Babs Asper Theatre, NAC
When: Feb 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets and information: nac-cna.ca

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.