Jenny Dalton: I was an introvert living an extroverted lifestyle

Jenny Dalton: I was an introvert living an extroverted lifestyle
Photo by Tony Nelson

Some artists, like Jenny Dalton, sneak into your consciousness without you ever realizing it. Recently, the Minneapolis musician took some time away from the Cities to retreat to Stillwater, allowing her to nurture and write new tracks for her new album, Black Water. The record lives on the edges of singer-songwiter indie-rock, but has elements of haunting ambient rock thrown in. Black Water gently buzzes with soft static and the rustle of life's more humble, quiet moments; listen to it on a late evening with the windows open as summer gives away to autumn.

Gimme Noise caught up with the singer before her album release at the 331 Club on Friday night, where she will be sharing the stage with some friends, along with her baby that's set to make its debut a couple of weeks after the record release show.

Band Members:

Jenny Dalton - Vocals, Keys, Autoharp 

Brian Lake - Guitar 

Martha Weir - Bass, Backup Vocals 
Joe Gaskill - Drums 

Gimme Noise: What inspiration from the St. Croix River influenced this album?

Jenny Dalton: Rivers have always been inspiring to me -- I grew up near the Minnesota River, and I lived by the St. Croix River while I wrote the songs on this album. I find them to be mysterious, secretive, wild places. They're also a good metaphor for the way life can be. Sometimes life moves quickly, sometimes it's rocky and turbulent, and sometimes it overflows and stagnates like a lake.

Why do you think you had to escape to Stillwater to find the music for this album?

I moved to Stillwater mostly because I felt claustrophobic living in the city. I wanted to be in fresh, open air, by clean water, and I wanted to be far enough away that I felt like I was living in a retreat. I guess I wanted to be removed from all the action and chaos, so I could think and breathe and re-collect myself. I'm an introverted person, and I was living an extroverted lifestyle. It sapped my energy, so living in a small river town seemed like a good way to restore that energy.

What connection to water did you feel had to do with this album?

If life is like a river, I'd rather live in the swift, smooth currents. While I was writing the songs, I felt stuck, stagnant, and uninspired. A lot of that time felt like waiting and wanting. I wanted to be swept up and keep moving forward, to be inspired and productive. Life has a way of saying when it's time for that despite anything you do to push or pull it one way or another. Life seems to know when you've had enough incubation time and when you're ready for the next stretch.

You were living in an 140-year-old house during the making of this album. Did you write and record everything in that old house?

Most of it was written and recorded there. Aside from some songs on the Blood Folk EP, it was the first time I engineered my own music rather than in a recording studio. It was challenging to learn tricks of the trade as well as to stay focused and productive, but it was also freeing because I could take my time and do a lot of experimentation.

The songs were built kind of like a painting -- I would put some layers down, let it sit, then make adjustments or even paint over whole parts if I didn't like the way it was going. This summer, I moved back into the city because I am having a baby and want to be closer to friends and family. I have a studio in my attic, and that's where I finished recording Black Water.

Can you tell me the story behind the haunting "Paper Moon"? Was there a particular moment you remember when writing it?

"Paper Moon" is a confrontation to the universe or those invisible powers-that-be. It's saying, "I'm tired of sitting here cutting fake paper moons, give me the real thing. Give me more meaning to life." I feel like it's a battle cry for that. That song was created during three days of writing and recording when I turned off my phone, never changed out of my jammies, and spent midnight hours working out on my deck where I was surrounded by trees, flying bats... it all felt very surreal with a full moon and an enchanting wind blowing around.

Is there a particular song you connect with more than others on this album?

That's hard to say, but one would be "Paper Moon" because I always felt like it set the tone. I also recorded the cover song "Hold On, Hold On" during those three days. I knew those would be the book-end songs for the album. I'll remember the surreal feeling of working on those songs, and their meaning epitomized what I felt during the Black Water time.

You will be very pregnant for your album release show. Have you given thought to how motherhood will change your career?

I try to imagine how my life will change when this baby comes out into the world, but I'm fully happy by being surprised by what's in store. There's no way I can anticipate what I'm in for, but she's already a great motivator. She's the reason I finally released this album, which has been in the works for a couple of years. I wanted to bring closure to that part of life and open the doors onto this new part. I'm not stuck anymore, that's for sure.

What are you excited to share at the album release show?

Hopefully I won't be sharing the labor experience that night! My due date will only be two weeks away, so this could make it interesting. I'm excited to be playing with a band of super talented musicians including Joe Gaskill on drums, Martha Weir on bass, and Brian Lake on guitar. I've been looking forward to this show all summer, I think it will be a great night all around.

Jenny Dalton will release Black Water at the 331 on Friday, September 5, 2014 with Red Daughters and Andy Elwell.
21+, Free, 10 p.m.

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