Jennifer Truesdale is a whirling dervish of activity. The voice instructor, Chick Singer Night co-organizer, and singer-songwriter in her own right recently released her Through The Circle album on CD and online. Her bluesy, torch vocals can be applied across many genres which seems to fit the vibrant personality of this multi-dimensional artist. Truesdale is certainly a woman who can be found in the creative nuances of her music. Her music and her life are inseparable.
The impetus or spark for Through The Circle came from waiting since 2008 to record another CD. It had been just too long. She worked on this album for quite a while prior to getting into David Minehan’s Wooly Mammoth Studio with several Boston area notable musicians.
“I think I started writing the songs for this album four years ago. It was just time,” she said. “My attentions had been wrapped up in performing and my teaching and raising my son. I felt like I had a another album inside me that needed to come out. I decided to just go for it.”
Out of ten tracks on Through The Circle, eight are Truesdale’s originals. Each song was inspired by a stop in her journey of life. “The songs I feel are reflective of the multi facets of my life’s journey. Some of them are thoughtful and thought provoking and some are just plain fun. Some I hope are inspiring.”
Throughout the album, Truesdale uses bluesy jazz and jazzy blues to express herself, whether she leans more into one or the other per song. Some are variations of blues, like gospel, R&B, funk and soul.
“Those have long been the musical styles that just feel like home to me,” she said. “It’s where I go when I’m feeling most myself. I think that I really started getting into blues and soul when I was a young teenager, my early teen years. Jazz came a little bit later, toward the end of my high school time because I was getting ready to go to Berklee College of Music. A lot of my teachers were encouraging me to listen to more jazz to get more familiar with it. It just feels so right for me. “
Truesdale artistically injects into her opening track “I Need You Tonight” a bluesy trumpet line performed by Hiro Tokushige. I’m so lucky,” Truesdale said, “to get to play with such incredible musicians. All the people who played and sang on the record are just so fantastic. I have horn players that I love playing with. We actually did a couple of different solos for that song, and I thought the trumpet fit so beautifully.”
Her tune “Thinking About You” might make some listeners think she is singing about an old flame. For Truesdale, the song is an amalgamation of all of the people from her life that are no longer around. Whether an old friend has moved on or whether another close person has passed on, Truesdale commemorates in her song what was special about her connection to those long gone people.
“It’s like goodbye but in a positive way. I’m not mad. I’m not sad,” she said. “When I think about you it really makes me smile. It’s a song about loss, essentially. Very often songs about loss are sad as they often should be. But, I wanted that one to be happy, the joy that memory can bring. You’re not happy that they’re gone but you’re happy to have had that time with that person.”
An eloquent acoustic guitar melody doubles the melody of the vocal while doubling the song’s emotion. It is played by Truesdale‘s long term friend and musical partner Joe Musella.
“I’m pretty sure that was Joe Musella’s idea to try adding the guitar,” she said. “He is such a fabulous guitar player and I credit him with so much of the parts on that album. It’s gorgeous. It really accents and matches the emotional quality of that song so beautifully. He’s just such a masterful player.”
Truesdale’s other album inclusion, “Daydreaming,” was just about the mood she was in that day she wrote it, which might have been the first song she wrote for her new album. “I often joke that on this album and in my live performances I vacillate between the reverent and the completely irreverent. That one, I think I was just in a really sassy mood that day, and that song came out, and I love it.”
Truesdale has long covered choice songs by her favorite artists. She included a couple on this new disc. Creedence Clearwater Revivals’ “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” relates to her life. She has performed and recorded that song as a way of asking the world if anybody else ever feels the way she does. “With that song, I feel there is a certain amount of pleading, like ‘Do you feel this or do you experience things in a way as like this? Am I the only one who feels things this way.”
Through The Circle is particularly adorned half way through the disc by a multi vocalist gospel inspired number titled “We Will Not Be Forgotten.” Truesdale wrote that piece about her forbears and what they had to deal with in their day and time, especially the distaff side of her lineage.
“That song I was really thinking about my grandmothers and my great grandmothers,” she said. “One day I was just sort of ruminating about everyone, particularly the women who came before me, and how hard they all worked, in some way or another, to make the world better and make their lives better and make the lives of their families better. I just want to say that work is not forgotten.”
An enormous amount of time was required for “We Will Not Be Forgotten,” working with the numerous singers who spent a long session trying it out before recording it, then layering and doubling. “The singers just nailed it, knocked it out of the park,” Truesdale said.
Etta James, Gladys Knight,, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Emma Thomas, and Bonnie Raitt are among Truesdale’s current influences, though as a kid she was influenced by rocker women like Stevie Nicks, Chrissie Hynde. “I think I’m really drawn to powerful female artists, and I think I draw a lot of influences from them,” she said.
Stephen Stills’ grand, sweeping classic rock song “Love The One Your With” has long been a staple of Truesdale’s live performances so it came as no surprise to anyone who’s followed her career that she included an arrangement of it on Through The Circle.
“We started doing that song live a long time ago. It was one of those things,” the singer said. “When I heard a version of Aretha Franklin doing it live a long time ago; I think it was Live At The Fillmore West 1967. I always liked the song, I thought it was a good rock song. I heard her version and I was like ‘Oh my gosh. It’s so funky and so soulful.’ That’s when I really kind of dug it. We started doing it in the way that she did it.”
Like all artists, Truesdale only continues to grow and evolve, both as a human being and as an songwriter. Her 2008 CD, though well received, especially a track titled “Take A Trip Inside My Mind” preceded her current work by at least seven years.
“I’ve evolved tremendously just as a human being because that record came out in 2008,” she said. “Musically, I feel I am more adventurous in my writing. I feel like I’m willing to take more chances. I love my first CD, and I love all the songs on it and I still do them live. But I feel as an artist and as a songwriter. I’ve grown just because the time and experience. I also feel I’ve reached a point in my where I’m open to being much more vulnerable, and I’m really enjoying being very authentic. I feel like I’m just freer to be that much more expressive.”
Being a music educator and a family person means a lot to Truesdale. Like every songwriter who is real and authentic, she finds every aspect of her life seeping into her songs.
“As a music educator and as a parent I feel it’s very important for me to create uplifting, creative music that people not only enjoy listening to, but something that makes them feel better at the end of it. As a music educator particularly working with younger singers whether their teens or young adults, and as a parent, I recognize my responsibility to bring good things into this world.”
Truesdale’s friend and guitarist Joe Musella contributed so many guitar part to her album that she has had to credit his work many times over. “He’s my go-to guy,” she said. “I’ve been making music with Joe Musella for about 12 years. He’s ridiculously talented. He’s a super, incredibly wonderful person. We work really well together. We have a great synergy when we’re playing music together, and I really respect his playing so much. He really gets my songs. He’s very respectful of my songs and my musical ideas.”
Being in the moment, recording all of her songs with all of her nice, talented musician friends is an experience that’s enhanced her outlook on relationships and how everyone had something special to offer her.
“It was probably the most fun I’ve really had in a long time,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong. There were times when it was challenging. But, every single person that played and sang with me on that record, working with Sir David Minehan at Woolly Mammoth Sound in Waltham, Massachusetts. It was absolute pleasure and so much fun. I can’t wait to do it again.”