Folk Fest: Winnipeg inspiration

By Emily Senger

The Wailin’ Jennys are the quintessential folk-group–their vocal talents blend in beautiful three-part harmonies without overshadowing one another. Accompanied by acoustic guitar, violin, mandolin and banjo, the Wailin’ Jennys comprises soprano Ruth Moody, mezzo Nicky Mehta and alto Annabelle Chvostek, perfectly showcasing classically trained voices in a blend of country-folk at home on any Calgary Folk Festival stage.

“Its like an equal opportunity songwriters’ collective in a way,” laughs Chvostek of the three-way song writing process responsible for their distinct sound. “We all contribute to our songs pretty much equally. I think that’s what makes people enjoy it too. We all have different influences and different ways of writing, but it comes together really organically and the fact that we’re all together provides a unity for the overall sound.”

The Jennys’ sound has evolved considerably since their 2004 debut, 40 Days, due to former Wailin’ Jennys member Cara Luft leaving the band to pursue a solo career in October 2004. After much searching, the Winnipeg-based Jennys looked east and found Montreal singer-songwriter Chvostek, who joined the group in December 2004, to round out their trio.

“One thing that is influencing the sound is that Annabelle plays the fiddle and the mandolin,” explains Moody. “Those instruments make it sound a little rootsier and at times a little more country.”

Mehta says fans can expect more country and maybe even some pop influences on their next album. The band heads into the studio this fall and the album should be released sometime in the spring.

“We’re sort of going along a more alt-country route to a degree,” explains Mehta. “We’re retaining things that we’ve done before because of the fact that two of us are still here. There’s some old sound in there for sure. I think all of us feel that things are going in a more raw, rootsy direction.”

The band’s success and part of their rootsy direction is attributed to another kind of roots: namely the ones they’ve entrenched in Winnipeg. Even if it means cold weather and mosquitoes, the city is famous for fostering, supporting and influencing a wide range of quality musicians.

“The [Winnipeg] community is already really strong and established and people share music with each other,” says Mehta. “I think that connection to the elements makes people sort of aware of what’s around them and connected to it, which I think makes them more creative. When it’s minus 40 you know, that’s inspiring in a way.”

Only the quintessential folk group could take inspiration from such ungodly weather.

Leave a comment