Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jenny and Tyler Interview (Jenny Somers)

Since the moment they met, Jenny and Tyler Somers have consistently created some of the sweetest, thought provoking music around. Forging bluegrass and folk roots with modern tinged vocals, Jenny and Tyler have found a beautiful niche that continues to generate more and more fans.Taking a more stripped-down approach with their latest record, Open Your Doors, Jenny and Tyler seamlessly convey their continuing struggles with "the idea and practice of abiding in Christ(see below for more detail)." Consciously choosing to make their fourth record "vocal-heavy," puts a huge emphasis on the powerfully touching lyrics and messages conveyed through each song. 

For the latest info on Jenny and Tyler, check out their official website :     

You released Open Your Doors back in April. Have you been pleased with all of the positive response to the record thus far?

Jenny: Absolutely. It's been an incredible honor to watch folks respond to the record by writing reviews, commenting on our facebook page, or sending us emails of encouragement. 

How did you originally get hooked up with Mitch Dane, who produced the record?

Mitch has worked with artists like JJ Heller, Jars of Clay, and Bebo Norman, and we are really impressed by his creativity and the overall sound of those records. We asked around and heard that Mitch is awesome to work with - he is very nurturing and encouraging. We set up a meeting with him, played a few songs, and found that we click really well. Working with Mitch was really wonderful. He managed to capture our chemistry and the energy of our live performance in a way that we couldn't have done on our own. 

Before approaching the writing and recording process of this upcoming album, did you have a direction you wanted to take the album musically/lyrically in mind?

We find that we process life through songwriting. Often we discover what we've been learning or going through when we write a song. When we were writing the songs for this album we found that we've really been struggling with the idea and practice of abiding in Christ. We'd come out of a really busy season and were in desperate need of physical and spiritual rest. When we selected the songs for the album we found that most of them contained the common theme of striving versus abiding. Musically we knew that we wanted to create an album with a very organic sound, something similar to our live sound. We wanted the vocals be the focus, and we felt that the songs could stand on their own without a ton of production. 

How does the writing process normally pan out for you guys? Did the writing process of this record differ from previous records?

Generally we write separately and then bring the songs to each other to finish. We've learned how to critique each others' songs and polish them together and not take criticism personally or let it affect our marriage in a negative way. The writing is split very evenly on this record with Tyler having 5 songs that he primarily wrote and Jenny having 5 as well. 

I know that choosing a favorite song on a new album is much like choosing your favorite child, but if you had to pick the song that you were most proud of once it was completed what would it be?

I think that my favorite song is "Skyline Hill". I wrote it at Tyler's parents' home in Wilmington, DE. Their house rests upon a hill that overlooks the city of Wilmington and if you're up at the right time you can catch the sun rising over the city. I was inspired by the beauty and the lyrics and melody of the song flowed very freely while I was writing. I think it's my best writing, and Tyler really helped make the song better by adding interesting chords. - Jenny 
My favorite song is probably See The Conqueror. The lyrics to the verses come from an old hymn that we found in a hymnal from the 1800's. There is so much truth to the lyrics. Singing it makes me love Jesus more. Our experience recording is also one of the reasons why I like it so much. The recording process was a bit of a blur, honestly. We would tour for 3 weeks, record for a week, and immediately tour again. Recording See the Conqueror felt like a break from the busyness. It was a really joyful moment. - Tyler 

I would love to know how "Abide" originally came together, if you don't mind.

I was listening to "Lion Man" by Mumford & Sons a few years ago and made a mental note to write a song to myself in a sense.  I think that's what Mumford is doing in that song when he sings "Weep, little lion man..." he's addressing his own person, his soul.  I like this.  It reminded me of king David when he wrote "Bless the Lord, O my soul."  
With this self-addressing in mind, on a day of great conviction, I wrote Abide.  At that moment when I began writing the word, I was feeling like a wretched man, which I always am, though I seldom always feel I am.  I address this wretched man and every time I sing it I'm reminded of my desperate state apart from Christ.

What kind of advice would you have for a band or artist starting up right now?
Write as much as you can. Songwriting is a craft and the more you do it, the better your songs are. Get your live show up to par by playing as much as you can. Give away music in exchange for email addresses and zip codes. It will be hard. Don't give up.

Who are some artists/bands that you have looked up to in the past in terms of stage presence and live performance?

We love Shane & Shane. Their live performance is unreal. Not only are their vocals incredible, they have an energy and stage presence that makes the audience feel comfortable and at home. They manage to lead their audience in authentic worship night after night. We're also big fans of Sara Groves. She writes sincere songs that really resonate with her listeners. She is a fantastic storyteller at her live shows and really loves her audience. 

What kind of impact has social media had on your success as a group?

We wouldn't be where we are today without social media. We started running Facebook ads about 3 1/2 years ago and they actually work. We gave people the opportunity to download free music in exchange for email addresses and zip codes. 3 1/2 years ago we had a mailing list of 300 people, and now our mailing list has grown to 40,000 people. Facebook and Twitter allow us to communicate with our fans in a personal way. Our fans get to know us through pictures and real time updates. Social media is invaluable to independent bands. 

How did you originally get hooked up with International Justice Mission? 

We heard about IJM while we were in college, but we weren't truly made aware of the gravity of modern day slavery until a few years ago. One of Jenny's best friends began working at IJM around that time and we learned a lot about IJM from her. We became freedom partners with IJM a couple of years ago and new that we had a responsibility to share what we learned with our fans. We toured with Sara Groves last fall and heard her tell stories about the work of IJM night after night and decided to officially partner with IJM. When we were recording The Sound of Silence we knew that we wanted to do something more with the money from the sale of the song. It just made sense to give it to IJM. IJM has been so supportive of our efforts and our music. 

Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?

This is hard to answer because we have so many favorites.  Today it would be Glen Hansard's new self-titled album. 

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