Review Fix chats with singer/songwriter Jennifer Tefft, who discusses her new single, Better Days- and more.
Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?
Jennifer Tefft: It took a bit for me to get the confidence to put myself out there, but the day I graduated college, instead of getting a “real job” I hauled my gear onto the Red Line subway to Cambridge, MA every day at 5am where i cut my teeth busking for the commuters in the subway tunnels. I only knew a few songs, so it was perfect as my audience rotated every few minutes. It gave me the chance to really work on my style. I wrote all the songs for my first album down there- caught pneumonia too- but – no pain, no gain. I met my long time guitar player John Parrillo shortly after that and we started writing and playing out as a duo, gradually adding members until we had a full band, recorded a CD and hit the road.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Tefft: It’s different every time. Sometimes a lyric phrase hits me and I need to sit with it for a while to figure out where it leads. Other times, the music comes first- a cool riff, a chord progression or a beat. Sometimes I hear a song that kills me and I want to write something like that- other people’s music can really light the creative fires. Songs usually take a long time to be completed, but every once in a while one comes to me delivered almost whole- Better Days was one of those.
Review Fix: What inspires you?
Tefft: I tend to write when I’m experiencing something deep. I rarely write when I’m super happy. I guess it is more of an emotional outlet. I get inspired by words- the sounds of them, the way they can be combined into interesting phrases. I also get inspired by just listening. LIstening to music as much as possible. I also like to eavesdrop when I’m playing in clubs- you hear some seriously interesting shit from people baring their souls at the bar.
Review Fix: What does music mean to you?
Tefft: I see this as a two part question. 1. Other people’s music is like air to me. Music can take me back to my past, it can give me hope or ideas for the future, it can pump me up so that I feel like I want to break things- in a good way – or it can be a salve for difficult times. I have specific albums that connect me to the most challenging times of my life and ones that make me smile with nostalgia. Music really makes life a little deeper and magical.
2. My own music- I always describe this as a sickness. It is something that i love but that also tortures me. I know that my life might be easier had I chosen a different path, but I guess it really isn’t a choice. No matter how many times I try to walk away, I am always sucked back in. Writing a new song, having it start to come together gives me a buzz unlike any drug I’ve tried. And standing on stage with musicians and friends, bringing those songs to life, or hearing them come together in the studio will always keep me coming back
Review Fix: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
Tefft: I’d say that the majority of my catalog is a gritty-lush alternative rock. It has the angst and grit of some of the 90’s rock with a few touches of ethereal atmosphere. I love a great rock song but am also a sucker for a soft, simple, introspective tune. I’ve been doing a lot more on acoustic these days- due to live streaming, that format just works better and it is also more feasible to afford to play out as a solo act than as a band. But it all still tends to lean towards indie rock or indie singer-songwriter. Things are evolving for me right now, and Better Days is a bit of a departure for me.
Review Fix: How are your live shows different from your studio work?
Tefft: I’ve tried really hard over the years to avoid creating something in the studio that cannot be replicated live with live musicians. That being said, I’m opening up to new ways to perform live and incorporate some more electronic elements. There are so many cool things you can do in the studio, it’s hard not to get drawn into exploring it. For me, the essence of the song has to be able to translate live- that’s what makes a good song. If the production is what is holding it up, and it can’t stand on its own, then it’s not a good song- in my opinion
Review Fix: What inspired your latest single?
Tefft: Better Days was written in early April 2020. Everything had just been shut down. All of my gigs were canceled. I also teach group music classes to young children and their parents- so that was shut down as well. I’d spent several years getting back on my feet after a run in with breast cancer and an unexpected divorce. I had finally gotten to a place where I was not just surviving, but thriving- and then it all got taken away. Millions of us are in the same situation. I needed to write a song that acknowledged the challenges and the absolute shittiness of the situation but that looked ahead to hope and Better Days.
Review Fix: What are your goals for 2021?
Tefft: That’s a tough one! No one knows what this year will bring. I guess I just want to keep creating. I hope to release a bunch of new music, to really dive in creatively and step up my production of songs. I’m pitching a lot of stuff to TV and Film, so I’d love to see that side of things take off. I want to grow as a writer- to challenge myself a little bit to get out of my comfort zone, work with other people more, try different approaches. Maybe wear real clothes once in a while instead of pajamas lol.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Tefft: Breakfast, maybe a shower….lol. I’m hoping to build a bit of momentum so that when live shows come back i can hit the ground running More songs, more videos, more focus on really learning the craft of songwriting. I’d love to collaborate more as well.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Tefft: Just thanks for listening :). Be well, Be Kind, Listen to music, eat chocolate, hang out with dogs…:)