Jill Jack, the award-winning folk-rock-country-Americana singer/songwriter , released her seventh collection of songs, Songwriter Sessions , on December 15th, 2009 ... recorded live over two nights at the Hartland Music Hall in Hartland, Michigan and directed by award-winning Nashville producer Colin Linden. What do you do when you’ve essentially conquered your market, developed a fan base that follows you like you’re Michigan’s version of the Dead, and recorded six studio albums? Jill thought about it. A lot. “The fans kept asking, ‘When is the next record coming out?’, and, whether you own that pressure or not, you feel the expectation. I wanted to avoid doing another studio album – so I thought, since I work best live, why not do it that way?”
As they say, from little acorns tall oaks grow. The album’s concept, the genesis of songwriting, turned into a mammoth production. Jill chose songs that had never been recorded and, for the most part, had never been performed in public , and carefully selected and rehearsed a 9-person band to present the show. Each song had an introduction from Jill on where and how the song came about. “So many people would ask me how I came to write a certain song, or tell me that they remembered the story behind the writing of a song and that’s why they bought the record, that I thought it would be a good idea to just show that process. People are extremely curious about the songwriting process, and I thought having an audience share the experience a little through me telling the story behind each song, and then to perform it in pretty much its virginal state – like I said, it was a huge undertaking,” she laughs, “ but I thought, if I pulled it off, it’d be really good!”
This type of transparency, of open communication with her audience, is typical of Jill. Not only did she craft these concerts around them, but she opened a window onto the entire process of recording the record, from making available at the show the acoustic demo CD she recorded for the musicians to practice from, to the shows themselves, to having a limited edition DVD to relive the magic of the nights. “There was one particular executive decision I made – to cut all the talking between songs from the CD . I thought that it’d be cool to listen to once or twice, but then I felt people would say… ‘let’s get to the song already!’. So the stories are available on the website (www.jilljack.com ) with all the lyrics as well.
“And that [writing the stories about the songs] was fun – I thought that was going to be a pain in the butt to write. I got up at 6 in the morning, made a pot of coffee, and started writing, making myself laugh and cry and say ‘Oh, yeah, I remember why I wrote this!’ It was actually kind of soothing to do this. You forget – you work so much and you write so much, but then you actually go back to the moment when you wrote that song and you remember how you felt, and it’s – cool. For lack of a better term.”
Songwriter Sessions has some stellar input as well, with a back-up band featuring Jill Jack stalwarts Billy Brandt (guitar, mandolin), Nolan Mendenhall(bass), Dale Grisa(keys), and Ron Pangborn(drums), and such guest artists as Jen Sygit(backing vocals), Mark Iannace(vocals), Drew Howard(pedal steel, dobro), Jason Dennie(mandolin, guitar) and Colin Linden (Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Bruce Cockburn, Emmylou Harris) guesting on electric guitar and production. A very special guest vocalist, Jill’s daughter Emma Jack, duets on the closing number “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” from My Fair Lady. Jill is emphatic when she says, “I can’t stress enough the importance of everyone who was involved in this process. The support from the sound and video guys – the best in Detroit – was outstanding, and they did a beautiful job. This record would not have happened without Neil Sever (live sound and bullhorn), Jason Fisher (video shoot and editing), and Jim Kissling(recording engineer). I’m really blessed to work with such an amazing band and crew.”
The record is intimate, the songs even more so. “There are a lot of love songs – or songs about love – on this record, and it seems as though I put to rest some ghosts of old loves this time. My poor husband had to sit through the whole thing…” Fortunately, one of the standout tunes is a song she wrote for her husband and sings as a duet with Mark Iannace, “The Valentine Song”. The songs do focus on love, but not simply romantic love. “Flowers In Bloom” is about parenthood, and “Northern Michigan” should be picked up by the State Tourism Bureau for use in a commercial. “That’s the miracle of my life – everything has its time and it’s place,” Jill reflects. “These songs – some of these are fifteen years old! – every time I did a record, these songs were up for the running, and they didn’t fit, and they didn’t fit, and they didn’t fit. Finally, on this one, they fit. Either I was ready to sing these songs, or they just felt right.“
Songwriter Sessions is a love letter to Jill’s fans, as well as an open invitation into Jill’s heart and mind. It’s warm, and substantial, and welcoming, and a perfect offering from a songwriter who has truly found her voice.
For more information, contact:
Jill Jack @
P.O. Box 201077
Ferndale MI 48220
(248)892-3848 – voice