Jazzy Chicagoan Jennifer Hall writes music that combines youthful exuberance and old fashioned sincerity. Hailing from the Chicago suburbs, Hall is a versatile vocalist influenced by the likes of Edith Piaf and Ray Charles. Her new album, “In This” provides a snappy blend of pop, jazz and soul. Our Town spoke with Hall about the Chicago music scene, her writing and um, Glee.
Our Town You count jazz as an influence. How does that express itself in your writing?
Jennifer Hall Throughout high school I listened to a lot of old jazz standards sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. I loved the way Ella would linger on certain notes or hold her phrases almost as if she were stripping the emotion out of the words. I love how in jazz you are allowed to play around with the rhythm and then catch up later. Ben, our keys player and Mat, our drummer also happen to be excellent jazz players. Their parts definitely reveal their jazz influences.
OT How does the band write?
JH It feels great to say that the ways the songs are being written lately are changing. Before, I would bring lyrics and melody to our guitarist, Noam. He would write chords and do the arranging. Now our writing process has diversified and every band member contributes.
OT Do you feel more at home as a songwriter or performer, or do both experiences inform each other?
JH Coming from musical theater and choir growing up, I think I will always feel more at home as a performer, although I am embracing writing more as time goes on.
OT Right, you grew up participating in choir and show choir.
JH I learned how to have strong work ethic in that the best songs didn't come easy but required immense focus and a great deal of work. Those things have really stayed with me almost ten years later and have shaped how I approach making music.
OT Okay, but is show choir anything like Glee?
JH It was a blast. We did shows for the local elementary schools, nursing homes, community events. Although I've only seen Glee a few times it seems like it was pretty similar! There was definitely some high school drama, plenty of young love but mostly it was about people coming together to sing and have fun.
OT What’s your favorite aspect of the Chicago music scene?
JH The Chicago music scene is really supportive. From the talent buyers, to the artists to the concert goers, everyone seems to really appreciate one another and sees how we all need each other to have a great night of music.
OT Favorite venue?
JH If I meet someone out of town who needs something to do for the evening I send them to The Metro or Lincoln Hall. At Lincoln Hall the food is incredible and the staff is so friendly. Metro has a beautiful stage and the sound is awesome.
OT I’ve heard the national anthem is pretty vocally tough. What was it like to sing it at Wrigley Field?
JH I guess it is tough because the range is pretty wide. This year, I brought a pitch pipe to Wrigley Field to make sure I started off on the right note! It was a such a great evening, singing there this year. The Cubs staff was so helpful and supportive. I hope to be back next year.
Jennifer Hall plays The Metro August 31st at 8 p.m.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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