VoyageDenver (2022)

Conversations with Jenn Cleary

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenn Cleary.

Hi Jenn, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I have always loved music—from singing along to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 back in my youth, to picking up the acoustic guitar in middle school, to going on to writing my own songs in my early 20’s. My original aspiration was no more than wanting to be good enough to sit around a campfire and have sing-a-longs with friends. However, when I moved to from Boston, MA to Boulder, CO back in 1988, I took my amateur skills to busking on the Pearl Street Mall and found that performing and engaging with the passersby was enlivening. I then dove into voice, guitar, songwriting lessons and even took a rock band class. I was hooked. Before long, I had my own rock band and started recording albums of my own. I have mostly been performing acoustic rock and blues, with family-focused tunes woven in. The children’s genre became a focus in 2020 when I finally had the time to develop this part of my musical expression.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The music business is hard. As musicians, we typically to start with open mics, tip gigs and/or late-night bar shows. It is great to have the opportunities to build from these types of venues, but it is also a grind. Many a time, when starting out, I played to nearly empty rooms or on the other end of the spectrum, bars packed with people talking loudly over my performance. It can be quite humiliating. I had to learn to still always put on the best show that I could, to enjoy it for myself and remember that you never know who might be listening. I have been surprised many times with people coming up to me after a show to say how much they truly enjoyed the music. And I didn’t even know they were listening.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am a folk-rock singer-songwriter from Boulder, Colorado, with many years of performing on international stages. Highlight shows include Colorado Rockies games, E-Town, Sundance Film Festivals, blues and folks festivals and multiple European tours. I have a range of song styles and perform bluesy, acoustic solo shows and also rock out with my full electric band. I have released two albums of original songs (Breakin’ Loose, 2006; Back to the Wheel, 2010) and one of bluesy covers (Blues Full of Heart, 2018). My first children’s album, All Together Now, won prestigious recognition from the 2021 NAPPA awards for being the best in the music industry. I was the Back to School winner of the 2021 Fall Parent and Teacher Choice Awards and a 2021 International Songwriting Contest semi-finalist for her song “Our Wild Family.” I just released my current album of children’s songs, called Happy Day, in June.

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
The favorite part of my childhood was being able to play outside in the woods. My brother and I and neighborhood friends spent hours every day exploring, climbing trees, picking berries, rolling over giant logs, and building forts. This was the inspiration for my latest song, “Take a Walk in the Woods”. It reminds me, as an adult, to get off my computer (which I am one of right now 😊), as well the variety of other screens that I tend to get glued to these days and get outside. Colorado is such an amazing place to live and I need to remember to enjoy it!