One-on-One with Jenny Berkel

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by Laura Stanley

In the three years since she released her debut album Here on a Wire – a collection of emotional and ghostly folk songs best described as haunting – Jenny Berkel has not been idle. She’s made a new album that will be out next year through her new home Pheromone Recordings, she’s toured all over the place with friends and family, moved a lot, and most recently, compiled an EP of songs that capture the years after Here on a Wire‘s release. As Berkel tells me over the phone, the six songs on her EP Cicada are intimate and exposing recordings.

The recordings feel very close to me,” she says. “The EP is little postcards of where my life has been for the last two years. I haven’t really said anything in such a long time, this is a quick summary of what I’ve been doing in the time that I’ve been quieter.”

To create these postcards, Berkel called on some of her musical friends and family including: her sister Kay Berkel, Tamara Lindeman (The Weather Station), Michael Feuerstack, and Daniel Romano.

“I had some songs that I’d recorded with other people and I know lots of people who are such wonderful musicians. When I was deciding what sort of vision I wanted to have for the EP, it made sense to reach out and continue that collaborative approach,” Berkel explains.

Throughout the six songs, Berkel and co. balance the haunting sounds heard on Here on a Wire with brighter hues. Berkel’s duet with Lindeman on “How Red the Bloom” is particularly opaque and chilling while love’s misery is fierce in “Love is a Dark Thing,” battled in an upbeat chorus and with help from Feuerstack’s unmistakable vocals.

“I never really intend to write something that’s haunting or “oh, this is going to make people feel sad,” it’s just a natural creative direction for me,” says Berkel. “I listen to a lot of different types of music but really the music that I love the most is music that impacts me emotionally.”

In the brighter, though no less emotional tracks, “All That You Do,” a live recording taken at a sold out show at Paradiso in Amsterdam with Romano, is a country-tinged love song that shines. Part recorded in St. John’s, NFLD and completed in Welland, ON, the Berkel sisters’ duet of the folk classic “Green Rocky Road” (entitled “Virginia Blues” on the EP) is another primarily lighter song, weaving original lyrics with Jenny Berkel’s own for a roving folk number.

Despite the fact that Cicada was originally intended to be released alongside an European tour this Fall that was cancelled, the EP got its happy ending anyways. Berkel decided to self-release the EP for a small number of shows in Canada which will be capped off by a show in Toronto at the Burdock with Marine Dreams on December 18th.

“The EP had kind of a strange birthing, I suppose, but I’m very happy despite the fact that the tour got cancelled.”

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