In this exclusive interview, we had the pleasure of delving into the inspiring journey of indie musician Jen Ambrose. With a deep-rooted passion for guitar-driven blues and rock music, Jen embarked on a musical path at the age of 21, channeling her creativity into writing songs with thought-provoking themes of protest and environmentalism.
After exploring various life experiences, including studying anthropology, traveling through South and Central America, and caring for her grandmothers, Jen faced a pivotal moment: deciding between studying massage therapy in Oregon or pursuing music in LA. Opting for the massage program due to financial aid, she journeyed 3000 miles by Amtrak train to Oregon. However, life had other plans, as a severe eczema flare-up forced her to quit the program, reaffirming her true calling as a musician.
Jen’s unique style, which she aptly calls “Nouveaux Blues,” draws inspiration from blues, jazz, R&B, country, and world music. Her arrangements often venture beyond traditional blues chord structures, showcasing her diverse influences. With her versatile vocals, she seamlessly transitions from sweet and sultry to gritty and soulful, adding dimension to her music and setting her apart from other artists.
As Jen continues to make her mark as an indie musician, her latest album release, “Plenty Of Nothin’ To Do,” serves as a significant step towards achieving her long-term goals. With a deep appreciation for platforms like Spinex Music and social media, Jen recognizes their importance in supporting independent artists and connecting with a passionate community of music lovers.
Looking ahead, Jen envisions herself performing at theaters and festivals in the US and internationally, both as a solo artist and with her band. She aims to record and release new music while pursuing sync opportunities in shows and movies. Ultimately, her goal is to build a broad audience and engage with fans, with dreams of being nominated for a Grammy.
We extend our gratitude to Jen Ambrose for sharing her incredible journey, and we applaud her resilience, creativity, and unwavering dedication to her craft.
Can you tell us about your journey as an indie musician? What inspired you to pursue a career in music?
My journey as an indie musician has been a winding road of experiences. Inspired by classic guitar-driven blues and rock music, I began learning guitar at 21 and started writing my first songs – mostly with protest and environmental themes.
After studying Anthropology in college, traveling through South and Central America, and caretaking both of my Grandmothers, my life faced a crossroads. Do I study massage therapy in Oregon or study music in LA? Since the massage program offered financial aid, I traveled 3000 miles by Amtrak train to Oregon. A year into my practice, I had to quit due to severe eczema that affected my hands. This healing crisis reinforced my deep sense that I’m really meant to do my music after all.
At that time I met my husband and helped him to raise my step-child. We moved to Southern Oregon where there is a strong folk music community. This is where I really got my start performing professionally and where I recorded several self-produced, small-press albums.
For several years, as I continued building my solo career, I was also part of a couple of tribute bands as the lead vocalist. We had small West Coast tours performing at festivals and casinos.
After a healing crisis forced me to stop singing for over a year, I decided to let go of the tribute bands and focus 100% on my own material. Returning to my music has been a coming back home to myself. My life has had a rather circuitous path, but these life experiences feed my music and my songwriting and have brought me to this moment as indie musician.
How would you describe your unique style and sound as an artist? What sets you apart from other musicians?
I call my style Nouveaux Blues. There are elements of Jazz, R&B, Country and even World music throughout my songs, but it’s really Blues that I’m most influenced by, especially the themes of life struggle, love and heartbreak. What sets my music apart from other musicians is my diverse influences and my unique arrangements that are often outside the traditional 1-4-5 blues chord structures.
With my vocals, I enjoy stretching my voice. I bring past experiences of singing a range of songs (Jazz, Pop, Country, Rock, Soul) into my performances. Sometimes I’m sweet and sultry and go gritty and soulful. I like the dimension it adds to my music.
Cultivating a diverse sound is authentic to me as an artist, although sometimes it’s challenging to characterize my music by a specific genre. Ultimately, I believe this is a strength and sets my music apart from similar artists.
Could you share some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as an indie musician and how you overcame them?
So much of my life has been about healing and this is a story about how healing impacted my work as an indie musician.
I completed my most recent album, remotely, during Covid, however, plans for its release were slowed due to many Covid complications – which we all faced in, our own ways. By the Summer of 2021, I was back to working with a couple of bands – performing at casinos and many outdoor festivals and finally gearing up to release my new album. Then, I lost my voice…
During that Summer, the West Coast was consumed by blistering heat, intense wildfires, and smoke. Since I was regularly performing outdoors in hazardous smoke conditions, it impacted my health to such a degree that I developed vocal polyps. I was forced to cancel all upcoming performances, quit my bands and delay my album release. I was devastated.
I’ve been working with an amazing Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist). Through lifestyle modifications, voice therapy sessions, and guidance from my vocal coach – Ken Orsow (who is also my songwriting collaborator and producer), I started healing. I kept performing, but as an instrumentalist, and even had a couple of shows while in total silence. But during that time, I worked with an amazing videographer, Antonio Melendez, at Heartisan Films, to put together a series of music videos in preparation for my upcoming album release.
Now, as in the Summer of 2023, my vocal cords are almost fully healed. I am finally releasing songs from the new album and I am back to singing, but with a much deeper awareness of proper vocal technique.
This healing crisis continues to teach me how to listen to my body and honor my voice. With every performance, I am gaining a new level of mindfulness in my singing.
So, I guess the greatest challenges I’ve faced as an Indie musician have really come from myself. The process of healing and overcoming my own obstacles really helped me to deepen my music.
What is your creative process like? How do you approach songwriting and composing music?
To begin with, I need to create a safe space to create. This is sometimes challenging in a busy life. In order to come from an honest place and allow the ideas to unfold, I try not to worry about being good enough or perfect, right or wrong and just let it flow and let it grow. Later, when I listen back with fresh ears, then I can be more discerning, but these early moments of creation are really sacred. The seeds of any early idea could blossom into something really beautiful.
Some songs come from direct experiences I’m going through or have had in the past. It’s like journaling but with rhyme and rhythm and a melody that takes me deeper into the feelings that I’m trying to better understand. My husband and my family have been a strong source of inspiration for many songs.
Other songs are more experimental. Sometimes a word or phrase catches my attention. I like to see what ideas and emotions follow. Then, I find chords on my guitar that help to bring life to those images.
At other times, I hear musical phrases or licks in my mind and I pick up my guitar to find out where that music wants to go and what feelings they inspire – love, sadness, sensuality, longing…. Then the lyrics follow to give voice to the music.
Are there any particular themes or messages that you aim to convey through your music? What inspires your lyrics?
I’m a woman living this life the best I can while trying to make sense of it all. My songs reflect this with themes of love and heartbreak, struggle and healing and finding connection in a world that can sometimes feel broken, angry and sad.
Music is a powerful tool for healing so when people listen to my music I invite them to go deep into their own feelings and discover their own story and truths.
As I mentioned earlier, lyrics come to me in a variety of ways, but I love colorful, evocative language – words that evoke the senses and tickle the imagination with emotions and memory. Nature is a powerful inspiration in my lyrics because it’s so elemental and sensual.
What are your long-term goals as an indie musician? Where do you see yourself and your music in the next few years?—
In the next few years, I see myself performing, as a solo artist and with my band, at theaters and festivals in the US and abroad. This includes touring with some more established artists.
One of my favorite things to do is write music and I look forward to recording and releasing new songs. I’ve also started pursuing Sync opportunities and hope to have some placements in shows and movies in the coming years.
An ultimate goal for me is to be nominated for a Grammy!
My direction as an indie musician is to reach out to a broader audience and find the niches that really respond to the kind of music to build an engaged fan base. The release of my latest album – Plenty Of Nothin’ To Do, is a strong step in building these goals. Of course social media and working with platforms like Spinex Music are at the core in building that community.
Thank you, Spinex Music for your support of Indie artists. I appreciate your time in sharing this interview. Your work is so important to artists like me!
Keep the Flame Alive!!