I received an email from a woman in Los Lunas. Her daughter is an up-and-coming folk singer named Jenna Dunlap. The email asked about an interview. I told them to stop by with a guitar and we'd work something out.
In case you want to know, Dunlap released her first album, Out of My Head, last weekend at the Monte Vista Fire station. Dunlap displayed a humble “I'm in it to win it” confidence while belting out her current catalog, by the way.
During the introductions before that pre-concert interview, it came out that Jenna's piano teacher was an old colleague of mine, a talented pianist named Diana Adoberavoski. Diana was studying piano at UNM while I was a student; also when I worked there. Significantly, Adoberavoski's husband, the sculptor Maxim, was a very important influence on my creative life. Older than the rest of us by about 25 years, Maxim stormed the College of Fine Arts at the end of the last century, producing and displaying work that was better, more vibrant even, than some of the old masters in the faculty offices. Maxim was particularly adept at assemblages; he met and married his wife at the College of Fine Arts in the early 1990s. Though I lost track of him after I left university, his constructive continental attitude and profound sense of the Modernism continue to influence me.
Such was the pleasant circumstance I took into my conversation with Jenna, whose association with Diana and other local music types has resulted in a grant of creative agency to yet another generation of gifted young local musicians. As usual we talked about music. Here is some of what she said to me.
Weekly Alibi: Could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
Jenna Dunlap: I'm 16 years old, a junior in high school. I've always been involved in music; both of my parents are musicians, my grandfather, too. My mom sings and my dad plays guitar. I started studying piano when I was five, the guitar came along when I was seven.
I was listening to the CD and wondered how you came up with the songs for it; what's the backstory?
I was always kinda starting to write songs, but I would always listen to them for a while and end up not liking them, and then not do anything with them. When I started doing [guitar] lessons with Keith Sanchez [of Keith Sanchez & the Moon Thieves], he told me I should write songs and do an album. I thought that would be really cool, and we began working toward that.
Eventually, you got Howard Wulkan at the Lab to get in on the project. How did that happen?
I met Howard at a benefit concert. He said I should come over to his studio. My mom called and we set up some times to record. He told me I needed to have six songs ready. So, I sat down in earnest and started writing.
What's your songwriting process like?
I aways start with chords. I'll have a chord progression down for, like, the whole song, and then start adding lyrics. I never write about stuff that is happening to me or real stuff. I start with an idea, a fiction, and then kinda build on it.
So, what are the songs on the new album about?
Each song is entirely different. I don't think the album has one meaning all together. It's different vignettes, stitched together with my voice, with the music weaving through all of that.
Are there any songs on the album you're particularly happy with?
I would say that the first song on the album, “Another Town,” is my favorite. It's the one I always go to if I have to play something instantly, when asked to play, you know? “Out of My Head” is a great tune, too.
As a singer-songwriter, is there a specific genre you are really wanting to focus on as you evolve as an artist or are you building momentum by exploring different genres?
I do kinda, like, tend to go toward a folky, indie sound. But I also get a lot of other influences from the music I listen to.
So, besides your teachers, who are your influences, what are you paying attention to now?
Mumford and Sons. I love their music. There's this group called Daughter, from England, that I really like. They have a really riveting, beautiful indie folk sound. That's what I wanted my album to sound like. It's produced, intricate, but it has an organic feel to it, it sounds acoustic. I also really like The Paper Kites, a folk rock group from Australia; I'm super into them. Oh, and the Funeral Suits. I like things that are simple but that have something to offer beneath the surface. With Howard, we recorded each song in its entirety, then went back and added subtle stuff in some spots, like harmonies, to make it richer, deeper. In retrospect, I'm really pleased with how it turned out; and I think audiences will really like what they hear.