Jenn Cleary, who once hosted music fairs in the backyard of her Sudbury home, prepares to release her fourth album
Jenn Cleary, who grew up in Sudbury, is preparing to release her fourth album, All Together Now!
SUDBURY – Growing up in town, Jenn Cleary transformed her backyard into a music festival every September.
Beginning when she was just 7, she would play songs for an audience, inviting neighbors, friends, and community members. As the years went on, the event grew, with politicians, magicians, clowns, and others attending. Boston running legend Bill Rodgers and Rex Trailer of the Boston kids show “Boomtown” were among the attendees.
The backyard fairs also raised money to benefit the Leukemia Society.
“Anything I do, I put 100% in,” said Cleary, on why it became so big. “It’s not about me, it’s about collaboration. You can’t do these things on your own. I might have an idea and I might have passion and I might have technical ability to make it happen. But nothing happens if you don’t have other people to help it grow with you.”
Now living in Colorado, Cleary, a folk, rock, and blues singer-songwriter, is still combining a love of music with community. The 1982 Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School graduate will release her fourth and latest album “All Together Now!” on June 4.
The album is written especially for children and families, and celebrates environmental awareness and social consciousness. The opening track, “Our Wild Family,” encourages caring for the “animal, birds, and trees” and asks the listener to “take care of our family.”
Songs range from educational, such as “Clean Water,” which has the underlying message of keeping rivers and oceans clean, to fun, such as “Bubbles” or “Dinosaur Friend.”
A photo from one of Jenn Cleary’s backyard fairs in 1980. Jenn Cleary, on the left, is about 17, and her mother, Margaret Cleary, right, is about 47.
Cleary credits her upbringing in Sudbury for her love of the outdoors. With her childhood home near the woods, she spent her time as a child exploring, making forts, and catching snakes, turtles, and salamanders.
“As I got older, I realized, ‘Oh my God, people aren’t picking their trash up,'” said Cleary. “You know, it’s nice out there and now we’ve got climate change to worry about.”
Cleary said the bulk of the album was written in quarantine, saying it provided an outlet during lockdowns. For example, she and her adopted daughter, Dorje Dolma, wrote “All Kinds of Families,” together during lockdowns.
“Turn lemons into lemonade,” said Cleary. “It was a really positive thing to do during a very difficult time.”
The song is about the different kinds of families in which kids can live. Dolma chose the topic, inspired by her experience seeing the different upbringings that exist in the world.
Dolma was initially raised by aunts, parents, and grandparents who were nomadic yak herders in Nepal. She was in a Nepali children’s home before Cleary brought her to America for life-saving surgeries and eventually adopted her.
Read More: Nepalese author to share survival story in Sudbury
After college, Dolma went on to work in a preschool where she witnessed many different kinds of families, such as those with one parent or two mothers or kids being raised by their brothers and sisters.
“When we were stuck in quarantine this year in our bubble, my mother, my daughter, and I — the inspiration for writing songs really emerged…We sat down and crafted this song,” said Cleary.
Cleary said she’d say her favorite song on the album is “Love Right Now,” an ode to caring for others. She wrote it with her mother, Margaret Cleary, also during the beginning of the pandemic.
“It’s particularly poignant…in such struggling times, it just feels really impactful and important to care for each other,” said Cleary. “To me, that’s the most important message of the whole album.”
Cleary’s previous albums include Blues from the Heart (2018), Back to the Wheel (2010), and Breakin’ Loose (2006).
For more information, visit Cleary’s website at https://jenncleary.com/. The release will be celebrated with a live show on her Facebook page, also on June 4.