To celebrate the release of her new album I Do, Jill Hennessy talked to After The Show about the lyrics in her new songs, the music on Crossing Jordan, playing Springsteen songs, and her LA show next week at The Mint.
After The Show: For the set list for your LA show next Thursday, can you share what you’ll be playing in terms of newer songs vs older songs from Ghost In My Head vs covers ?
Jill Hennessy: Good question – I’m going to be focusing mainly on the newer songs but as far as the older songs, a little bit of “4 Small Hands” probably, maybe “Oh Mother.” You know, some of the bigger songs, possibly “Erin” just because I love the story of “Erin” and I love revisiting those stories.
On your new song “Real,” I like the lyric “Sing and don’t be afraid – angels talk in music anyway.” What does that mean…what was the inspiration for that line?
Okay, first of all I’m really touched that #1 you listened to the lyrics, and #2 that’s a really meaningful song for me because it’s about the tragedy of so many people whose voices were never heard…because of the color of their skin or their gender or their religion or just their circumstances in life, and how sometimes all we have is our voice to make change, to express ourselves, to send our love, and help other people to get out of their difficult circumstances.
“Sing and don’t be afraid” is something I try to follow myself – you can live in fear and be inactive, or you can just let go and create.
I know “Something’s Comin’” is the first single…did you consider filming a music video for any of the songs on I Do?
I’m thinking about it, man. That’ll be the next phase because right now we’re kind of focused on touring and promoting the album. We actually shot some guerrilla-style footage in our red ’66 Cadillac convertible all around the Jersey shore. My nephew (a screenwriter/producer in his 30s) was doing the camera work and my little 7 year old son was hiding in the back with me on the floor of the car.
We drove all over Monmouth County just getting all these iconic landmarks like The Stone Pony…it was an homage to Springsteen land which I find very inspirational. My 7 year old is in the video strumming his little ukulele, but my 12 year old was like “no way.” But it ended up being really cool, so that’ll probably be on the website at some point. Finding time in the schedule is kind of difficult at this point, but probably in 2 months there’ll be some time to breathe, and we’ll look into doing more videos that are story driven.
I think “I Do” is the best, catchiest song you’ve ever written; I really like how you traced a journey about marriage specifically, from meeting to “pretty words and roses” to “pain and joy” to getting married to having kids. I like how that song is a more comprehensive journey/story rather than just a snapshot or moment in time.
Yeah that totally is it, and it’s also about how relationships change or perceptions change – what you perceive “this is what marriage is gonna be” – it’s always evolving and shifting, from the time you’re a kid to when you get older…it ain’t black and white. Those are very specific images in my mind that to me are very tangible and representative. Sonically I tried to write something more uptempo, and it’s got that Buddy Holly influence.
Crossing Jordan was so strong in music: from Wendy and Lisa, to you playing guitar and singing, to the T-Bone soundtrack with your two cover songs, and the original opening credits showed you carrying your guitar. Did you have any input into song selection or was that mostly done in post-production?
It was my suggestion to have her carrying the guitar and the creator, Tim Kring, is a music lover himself…He and I always bonded over artists like Springsteen and Patty Griffin, so we’d talk about music all the time. He had the final call as to what music was put in, but music was very much a character in the show, and that’s how we both felt.
YouTube has some great videos of you singing “Galileo” and the solo verse on “Closer To Fine” with the Indigo Girls at concerts. How did those opportunities come about, because I know you love that band (and on Crossing Jordan, Jordan’s apartment even had an Indigo Girls poster on the wall!)?
[Laughs] yes. I met the Indigo Girls when we did Mountain Stage – that was I guess 4 years ago – and it’s a great festival presentation radio show out in Virginia. They were playing that night and I was playing before them, and at soundcheck I got to meet Amy and Emily and I was just blown away. I was afraid I would be rendered completely speechless. I was very kindly introduced and we just kind of hit it off and luckily I didn’t get down on bended knee and bow before them.
So then they started to tour around New Jersey and New York, and I opened for them a couple times and sang with them. We even cooked them vegetarian pasta, because they’re vegetarians – it was delicious, man. Peas with red sauce.
You’ve covered a bunch of Bruce Springsteen songs like “No Surrender,” “The River,” “Thunder Road,” “Atlantic City,” and “New York City Serenade.” What song of yours do you feel would be best suited for Bruce to cover?
That’s probably the best question that anyone’s ever asked me. Oh my God, girl, that’s a tough one. “I Do” sounds like it could be kind of a Bruce style. “Something’s Comin'” would be cool. “Save Me” would also be really be cool…though I can’t see him singing the line about makeup.
I know you performed the Harmonium cover “Pour Un Instant,” but have you ever considered writing and releasing a song in French (or Italian or Spanish)?
Definitely. On the Canadian release of Ghost In My Head there was a verse in Italian. I actually wrote a song in French for a Canadian TV movie called Sunshine Sketches Of A Little Town. It’s scary to write a song period, but it’s even scarier to write a song in another language. There’s always that fear of ‘Maybe I don’t know what the colloquialisms are, or maybe there’s a double meaning I’m not aware of.’ But yeah, I’d love to write a song in either French or Italian.