Jenn Grinels loves to perform. The bluesy, jazzy, soulful folk rocker has been singing since she was six. She picked up the guitar in college, where she majored in musical theater, but had a desire to write her own songs “instead of singing somebody else’s all the time.”
After five years of full-time theater – and songwriting on the side – she finally had a product and a vision that she wanted to pursue. Now she’s been playing out for about nine years and touring on the road for the past three, with a well-received debut album under her belt and a highly anticipated followup in the works.
Grinels says guitarist Rodney Branigan, with whom she will perform at the Theater on San Pedro Square in downtown San Jose Thursday night, convinced her to go on tour ten years ago.
“I met him at my first-ever gig,” she recalls. “The promoter said, ‘I saw this guy play the guitar, do you mind if you share your set with him?’ I was so nervous I said ‘Yeah, get me off this stage as soon as possible.’
“When I saw Rodney play I almost decided to retire that night. Then he asked me if I wanted to go on the road and open for him. I had just finished writing a few songs. That became my first tour.”
Grinels cites Fiona Apple as one of her musical influences but says she’s inspired by the people she tours with, including Rebecca Loebe from Atlanta and the band Pasadena (from Pasadena, or course).
Although she grew up in Cupertino, she still feels like she has much to experience around San Jose and the Bay Area. She lived for five years in San Diego before taking off on her tour, but says “there’s nothing for me to go back to there now.”
“Since I left for college in southern California I’ve never really been an adult in the Bay Area,” she says, “but it does feel like home since this is where my friends and family are.”
Jenn Grinels’ fans have been encouraging her to follow up on her “Little Words” 2007 debut album. She is working on the new album now, with a local producer out of Burlingame and San Mateo.
“There’s going to be more range, more acoustic stuff, more quirky stuff and some mainstream pop aspects,” she says. “There are some bigger arrangements and more instruments, a lot more production than the last album.”
She will unveil some of those tunes at her Thursday night show at the Theater on San Pedro Square in downtown San Jose, where she will be joined by Rodney Branigan. And after that? “I’m opening for Berlin, the guys who did ‘Take My Breath Away,’ in Temecula on Saturday. I’m back down to San Diego for a show on Monday. Then I’m going to Mexico. And then back here to finally have three weeks off the road for recording the new album.” Not a bad way to end the summer.