INTERVIEW: Jen Stevens | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Jordan Embleton

This month, South Shields-based singer and songwriter Jen Stevens is set to release her highly anticipated sophomore album, Armour. Known for her emotionally charged and personal lyricism alongside her powerful and soulful vocals, she has become a key voice within the North East music scene.

Having released her debut album Little One in 2017, it’s clear from her new material that the releases traverse different yet intrinsically linked emotions. “My first album, Little One, kind of followed one of grief; I’d lost my mum, my marriage had broken down and I’d had a really bad time. I recorded that album with my now fiancé, and we got to know each other over the course of recording that first album. Suddenly, my brain started spouting happier songs because I was in a much happier place.”

There’s a distinction between the artist’s two albums: the hurting, and the ultimate healing. “A lot of the songs on the new album are ones I’d already written for my first album, but they didn’t fit with the narrative; they fit with this one’s healing narrative.”

The whole narrative was about surrounding yourself with the right people

Furthering the sense of positivity and finding a hopefulness following a difficult time, Jen explains the different lyrical themes on the album; focusing on a song she’d written for her best friend, Jen reveals how the experiences she’d begun to heal from allowed her to help someone else who was similarly struggling, and thus created inspiration in the process: “Time To Shine was a song I’d written for my best friend. She had a really crap time around the same time I did, we had a similar story going on around the same time… so the whole kind of narrative is me saying, ‘it’s okay, I did this a year ago, I’m still here, we’ve got this’. The whole narrative was about surrounding yourself with the right people.”

Jen’s autobiographical and personal compositional techniques also translate into her production too, and she worked with renowned local producer Lisa Murphy to help bring out the best in the tracks. “When I’m writing I often hear an orchestra in my head, and I can hear what the different instruments are doing. When I come to recording, I think, ‘I can’t afford an orchestra’, so I end up singing all these bits that I’ve written. In Armour, the title track, there’s a sung “bam bam”, which is meant to be pizzicato strings. There are also some violins doing some folk-style turn arounds towards the end, and Lisa would ask, ‘Are we done?’, and I’d say ‘No! There are still cellos left to go yet!’ She was at first quite bemused by the way that my brain worked, but I think she got used to it by the end.”

Jen makes it clear that she is regaining control of her emotional journey through her new album, and the music she’s written for Armour is instrumental to the way she has chosen to heal.

Jen Stevens releases Armour on 1st March.

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