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Ride to Jennyville: A Conversation with Jenny Tolman

Born and raised in one of the great heartlands of country music, Jenny Tolman has had a deep love for the genre since she was a child. From the very start, good storytelling was what hooked Tolman. “Growing up in Nashville, you’re surrounded by country music all the time. I do remember one particular car ride home when I was little where the song “We Danced” came on the radio. I remember looking at my mom and saying Mom, I love country music because it tells stories. That was a really big aha moment for me, and that’s really when I fell in love with songwriting. The fact that country music is so wrapped around storytelling and creative narratives about all these crazy characters you get to create- I really liked all that from a young age.” Now, Jenny Tolman is telling stories of her own as she infiltrates the Nashville music scene with her own brand of creativity and cleverness.

Tolman has set her upcoming album in a fantastic world, appropriately named Jennyville. Though the concept for the album springs from her imagination, the musical integrity behind the album, and all of Tolman’s music, is anything but made up. An artist who routinely shies away from computer generated sound, Tolman explained her preference for a live session band when she records. “I like to explain the way I make music in the same way I describe my lifestyle. I try to eat as organic as possible and make sure everything I put in my body is real and whole. I feel that humans will always connect better to something that’s real. It’s just like food; your body is always going to respond to something that’s real and organic better than it will to something processed. I feel the same way about my music. Music and food are both energies that fuel the soul and fuel the body. It’s really important to me to have human energy in the studio doing their thing, showing their talent. You get the real, organic feeling of whomever is playing or whomever is singing, instead of a processed sound from something like a drum looper or a computer. Computers can’t make people feel anything.”

“I write a ton with my producer, Dave Brainard,” Tolman explained of her upcoming album, “We had been writing together for a year or so, and all the songs we were coming up with kept feeling like they were winding up in this same place-Dave was the one who ended up calling it Jennyville. He told me a story about a songwriter named Dennis Linde, who was known to be very creative and had this imaginary land called Lindeville that he wrote in. That’s where the idea of Jennyville came from. It started taking shape because we realized all these stories we were trying to tell fit into this little world that we had free creative control over. Once you establish something like that it opens the doors even more for creativity and to be able to write about scenarios you haven’t lived through, or that you would never normally write about.”

As Tolman continues to build her fan base with great music and fantastic storytelling, meaningful interactions have become deeply important to her. In an era where social media is king and fans depend on being connected to their favorite artists and vice versa, Tolman has found a creative and positive way to engage her new friends-Jenny’s Joy Jar. “I had been doing my own private gratitude jar for about a year before I started Jenny’s Joy Jar with my fans. I would write something down every morning and every evening that I was grateful for, and I could see the palpable change in my life. There was actual, physical changes in my world that came from my having a different outlook on life. As I was trying to come up with a way that I could positively engage fans on social media, I realized I could do this with everyone. Every Sunday I encourage fans and friends to comment on my social media post with something they’re grateful for. I write them down and stick them in a mason jar, then I do a Facebook live video where I draw out the winners. Whoever wins gets to pick a cover song for me to sing. It’s been a really great, continuous way to engage on my end, and an amazing way to help others be more aware of all the good we get to experience instead of focusing on the negatives. We all do it-we’re human. I find myself doing it still, but it’s really cool to be able to go on about your day and have your phone light up with someone in Idaho being grateful for the breakfast they had that morning or whatever it may be. It’s just a great way to connect with people.”

Everything Tolman does, from the way she produces music to the influences she looks up to revolves around two things: genuine human connection and engaging storytelling. “One of my absolute favorites, and biggest influences, is Leeann Womack. I’ve always listened to her and absolutely love her voice and the way it flips. She sings so many great story songs- she has amazing vocals, but the stories she tells are even better. Brandi Clark is one of my all-time favorites, and Dolly too. The character that Dolly is able to portray; it’s so much fun and that’s what an entertainer is supposed to be. She’s also a brilliant business woman, and someone I want to model myself after in that regard. I don’t necessarily get excited about vocal talent alone- it’s a great an amazing talent to have, but what people connect to most is communication. All the people I’ve named- they’re amazing vocalists, but they’re amazing communicators first. They can speak to your soul.” There is no doubt Tolman will be an artist in this list for a new, young songwriter someday. An excellent communicator herself, all one has to do is listen to her catalog of songs to know her passion lies in connecting with others and touching hearts.

Fans can join in on Jenny’s Joy Jar every Sunday on her Twitter and Facebook– and you can follow her on Instagram or sign up for her mailing list to keep updated with her upcoming album, Jennyville. We at Lula 1892 can’t wait to see the stories Jenny Tolman will no doubt be telling for years to come.

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