To say I grew up with Jenny Farrell wouldn't be altogether accurate. Indeed, we did attend the same elementary, junior and high schools (John Baker, Hoover and Eldorado), and resided in the same basic neighborhood. But, she's a few years younger than I, which makes her my brother's age. So he grew up with her, while I simply grew up in her presence. My good friend, Albuquerque Journal contributor and all-around punk-ass Kevin Hopper even managed to take her to prom. All that matters now, though, is that our fair city is about to be represented by the all-grown-up Ms. Farrell on the third season of USA Network's reality smash, "Nashville Star." And she's got what it takes to win big.
Though she was born in Nashville, the city she currently calls home, Farrell spent her formative years in Albuquerque until leaving for the University of Colorado at Boulder in the late '80s. Her mother still lives here, though, and Farrell says she visits as often as she can—at least twice a year—and considers herself a native Albuquerque girl.
She began singing at an early age, competing in grade school talent shows and participating in school and church choirs. At 22, Farrell was cast in Brooks & Dunn's "Working On My Next Broken Heart" video, which proved to be the inspirational event that convinced her to pursue music as a career.
After moving to Nashville in the early '90s, Farrell was tapped to sing lead in the acclaimed all-female country band Mustang Sally, with whom she toured for the better part of two years before embarking on a full-time solo career that eventually resulted in publishing deals with EMI Records and Mosaic Music. But it was as a fan of "Nashville Star" that Farrell landed a spot as one of 10 contestants on the program's third season.
"I've always been quite the ’Nashville Star' fan, always watching and voting—sort of a ’Nashville Star' nerd. But for the first two seasons, [the producers] wouldn't let anyone with a publishing deal enter, so it was never really an option for me. Once they lifted that restriction this season, a friend called and encouraged me to audition," Farrell said.
She recently spared a few moments to talk to the Alibi about her career, life as a reality show contestant and her music.
When did you decide to strike out toward a musical career?
It was something I always wanted. I guess I could be classified as one of those dreamer types, because I always wanted to sing. But I also kind of always thought it was out of my grasp. I was in Albuquerque, and there wasn't a whole lot of opportunity there, so I was steered—maybe unintentionally—by my family and friends into the more business end of things.
It kind of happened during a video shoot for Brooks & Dunn. We were all sitting around singing, and they kept saying, "Oh, you should pursue that." So we got to talking about it more in detail, and the quote that I remember most came from Kix Brooks when he said, "You must be present to win," meaning that I had to be in Nashville to really get things happening.
Who are your influences?
I have influences, really, from every genre and just about every period. But my country music influences are, of course, the legendary Tammy Wynette, who I absolutely adore, and I love Lee Ann Womack. I like the more traditional country artists, although I wouldn't say that [my music] is completely traditional.
How are you dealing with the pressure?
It's turned out to be a huge blessing. I have to laugh, though, because there are things you don't know yet, because we just taped the first episode (laughs), so pressure is a funny word to me. The normal pressure of "Nashville Star" I felt like I was dealing with really well. It's exhausting; there are lots of interviews, rehearsals and so on. It's tiring and there is a lot of pressure; it's a TV show. As long as you put an audience out there for me, I feed off that energy and everything else goes away.
But we just did the first taping on Feb. 10, and I'm not allowed to tell you what happened during the taping, but I can tell you that I had the stomach flu.
(According to a journal entry on her website, Farrell says she began feeling ill a few days before the show, and became very run down and felt progressively worse. The day of taping, she recounts, she was pretty sick. But when it came time for her performance, she sucked it up, walked out on stage and gave it her best shot. You'll have to tune in on March 1 to see how this story ends, but Farrell claims it is one of the most embarrassing moments of her life.)
How many episodes will there be?
The rest of the episodes are live, beginning March 8. [The producers] say there will be up to 12 episodes, but the network reserves the right—they can kick none of us off the first night, they can decide to take two of us off ... —so I'd say it's going to be a 10- to 12-week thing.
What do you think about the fact that Brett Michaels of Poison is a judge?
I love that, because I'm a huge hair metal band fan. I mean, growing up, it was Def Leppard and Poison—we still go to the Poison concerts out here, me and my little group of friends—so I was really excited to find out he's a judge. I think all the judges are awesome, but I have a little, you know, schoolgirl crush on Brett Michaels (laughs).
How do you like your chances?
That's a hard question. I will say that everyone on the show is really talented. I'm genuinely impressed with everyone that made the final 10, and even with everyone in my regional competition. It's going to be a really tough competition. There are five women and five men, and each one brings something completely different to the table. And it's truly up to America to decide who they want to listen to. I really hope I get to move to the second round, and that's probably all that I can say.
Do you tour regularly as a solo artist?
I'm not touring now. I'm mainly focusing on my writing. I write with different co-writers almost every day, and I play a lot of Writers' Nights around town, but I'll probably pick up touring again after the "Nashville Star" thing, depending on what happens.
If you could go out on the road with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?
A great little triple threat: George Strait, Lee Ann Womack and Jenny Farrell.
What do you miss most about New Mexico?
My mom and the mountains, the great weather, hiking, running along Tramway.
What would you like your old friends and fans in New Mexico to know about you?
I want them to know that even though I love Nashville and I love what I'm doing here, I take a little piece of New Mexico and I take a little piece of all my friends and family with me, and I think about them all the time, and I write about them all the time