RR LogoJenni Alpert Says Listen To Your Heart

Jenni Alpert Photo OneThe question is often posed does life imitate art, or does art imitate life? In the case of Los Angeles singer-songwriter Jenni Alpert, it would appear that they mirror each other. When Riveting Riffs Magazine talked to Jenni Alpert not long after her concert at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles, she talked about that symbiotic relationship.

“I was really proud of my band, because they have taken the time and put in the effort, to exceed any vision that I may have had and hope that a live band could perform what an album and what a recording would capture. During the show the band really came through with their instincts, their reliability and their accountability,” says Jenni Alpert.

Ms. Alpert is maturing into what some might consider, a songwriter’s songwriter, someone who other songwriters will more frequently look to as setting the standard. For Ms. Alpert writing a song is not just about coming up with some cutesy hooks that have a certain appeal for commercial radio, it is much more about being an artisan, like a potter, carefully molding the clay, shaping it with one’s hands or in Jenni Alpert’s case with her musical sensibilities and at the end presenting the listener with a beautiful piece of art.

She says, “Songwriting is a craft and I have been really lucky to be able to tap into an area of expression with music, melody and lyrics all in one. Sometimes we are just vessels and they pour out and you may not know why, but it speaks to somebody else.  (You are sitting at) the piano and the music and the lyrics just pour out and the song writes itself.  Sometimes with the guitar you will strum a few chords and you will hear a melody or you have this line or this lyric and it becomes the driving force for the theme. You are in the moment.”

Jenni Alpert collaborated with another superb Los Angeles singer-songwriter Sarah Hethcoat to create the song “Nobody Knows,” for her new album Take It All.

“With Sarah, it was so interesting, because I really didn’t know her. I went to her house and she had post-it notes all over her walls with different lines, lyrics and thoughts. She is a very diligent writer and I respect her so much. She is always writing (Jenni Alpert’s voice conveys a busy mood), always networking, always meeting somebody and always doing something. She really pushed me as a songwriter and as a woman. I just really respect her. She is a terrific person. It is more than gusto and it is more than focus. Her push, her climb, her efforts…. When we wrote “Nobody Knows,” she guided the whole hang and I was so up in my head that I was in a place where she could guide me.  That is why there is that symbiotic relationship.  She was so smart. The lights were dim, the candles were on, the wine was there and she really created this platform. She already knew about me and she created this environment. It was legitimately real and we started improvising. She really pushed me in a great way, beyond what I would normally do. She supports people and she makes them grow.  I was playing little pieces on the piano and she would hum something and I remember looking on the wall and seeing these words that she had written, so I started singing them. We improvised for about one and one-half hours and she saved all of the recording and I went home. That night, from the hooks that we came up with, the improvisations and the recordings that I had on my phone, (plus) what I was feeling from the whole year that had passed, I just wrote the rest of the song. She was, ‘Whoa what do you mean you wrote the rest of the song?’ All of those elements, every piece of it was a part of the development. It was a collaboration that Sarah was able to carve through. She sat down with me later when I performed it to her. She would say, why don’t you try changing the cadence of that line. Let it go down or let it resolve there, because it will help the listener with the mood. It will give them a different perspective and then she would tell me how to see it. She would say oh your diction is strong here, but here do it a little faster, this that and the other. She coached me through the whole song and I think that experience with her bled over into a lot of my other songs (on the album). It is so invaluable when you collaborate with people, you don’t even know what they’re bringing to the table. It is amazing.”

The string arrangement on “Nobody Knows,” is beautiful and Ms. Alpert credits Stevie Blacke.

“Stevie Blacke and I have known each other for five or six years or something like that. I guess he saw my show years ago and he signed up on my mailing list and one thing led to another. For some reason we corresponded and then I met him. Over the years his talent has developed and more and people are aware of what he can do. For someone to sit in their own studio and be able to mic up, not just a violin, not just a viola, not just a cello, not just a bass, but all of the above and play every single instrument, come up with their own string arrangement and all within a span of a few hours and then send you back wave files of an entire quartet doubled. I was just blown away,” she says.

For her current album, Jenni Alpert revisited one of her older songs “Heaven,” a beautiful introspective about running from what might be best for you. It is a song that truly showcases the magical vocals of Ms. Alpert and her ability to evoke an emotional response from the listener with her eloquent phrasing.

“(The song) “Heaven,” is the first one that I wrote on the piano and I started out playing the piano when I was very young, improvising and coming up with little songs here, but not enough to perform,” she says, recalling that while in college, she left the piano for several years to focus on playing the guitar, “There was a point when I returned to piano music and “Heaven,” was one of the first songs that I wrote on the piano. It has followed me for years. People seem to be responsive to it wherever I play it in the world. It was one of those songs that I really didn’t know why it was special, but I just knew that people would say that it was or that they felt connected to it. It has always felt like it is one of the stronger songs in my catalogue and that represents me as an artist. People seem to identify me with that song. I can tell you what my inspiration was, but I almost like to leave it vague, because I think it is in the ears of the listener to let it be their own and I wouldn’t want to take that away from the listener. The general theme is pretty evident in the lyrics. It is about running from something that is so great that you are afraid it will leave you first, so you run,” says Jenni Alpert. Jenni Alpert Photo Two

She says that a significant point in the song “Heaven,” occurs when it changes from the Minor key that the chorus was written in and “It resolves in C Major. It loops at the very end. It was not constructed intentionally, but when I look back and why that took place and when that took place in the song, the lyrics that are being sung at that time are, “Don’t want to be good for you,” I feel pretty strongly that is the turning point in the song, when you aren’t really guided by fear anymore, running from heaven, but you are choosing and the listener gets a chance to choose.”

“Listen To Your Heart,” also from the album Take It All  has become an anthem for blood donor clinics across America. Ms. Alpert who was adopted when she was four years old, after spending time in foster homes, was contacted about the death of her birth mother and during that period of her life, she met for the first time, some of her birth mother’s relatives. One of those individuals is quite ill and requires numerous blood transfusions. For a period of time, Jenni Alpert became a caregiver for him.  

“I was on the couch a lot and that became the year of writing songs a lot and just writing with a bunch of different people. I really needed to be involved with different things that were bigger than me and that were bigger than my sadness.  I came up with this idea, why don’t I tour? I used to tour all of the time. What could I do that was something outside of me? I came up with this tour called Blood Driven where I drove for two and one-half weeks over 5,000 miles to blood centers, blood drives and children’s hospitals. I used my relationships that I had built over the years, playing in local venues and I booked local shows in the evening. I packed each day with online viral campaigns through social media. I raised just a little under two grand and I was involved with blood raising. I gave a free song away, I performed and I blogged about why it is important to give blood. I met so many incredible people and I interviewed people and asked them why they were donating blood. I would go into the hospitals two hours later and I met all of these children who were in need of blood.  I (would tell people) tomorrow when you get up if you go and donate blood, this child or this adult in this situation will receive blood that you have donated and it will make a huge difference. That is how it is all connected. It was so exciting and there wasn’t a plan, it just was happening.  What is funny is, any blood center that I reached out to in the beginning that happened to be connected to the Red Cross didn’t really understand the concept and said no, we can’t really do this. All of the other blood centers whoever they were, said yes. At the time I didn’t really understand the difference between the Red Cross and the America’s Blood Centers or whatever. I didn’t know a lot about the blood world. I just knew that people should donate blood and that people were saved. Blood raising isn’t very attractive. Who wants to think of needles and blood or of being sick and needing blood? I made the whole campaign up. I said “Listen To Your Heart,” donate blood and save a life and I made that a free song download. For every no, there is a yes and it’s true, every yes ended up being connected to America’s Blood Centers. They are like the indie blood centers, like an indie music label and it doesn’t surprise me that we bonded together. Now I am one of their five key speakers and I am the only musician. It is called Conversations With Life. They send us out to different centers to speak, well for me it is to perform.  I performed for a lot of America’s Blood Center events, but the ones that are real thrillers are when you are performing for 200 college students or high school students who say thank you for putting together a blood drive or thank you for donating blood. This is why it is so valuable.

Sometimes I will go on radio stations and talk about the blood centers and talk about what I am doing there. I will tell people about donating blood and I will sing a song live and then we will play a song or two from my album and I will go to the blood center and I will perform. I would start thinking “Listen To Your Heart,” is the song I have been giving away and January is blood donor month. All of the blood centers around the country are doing major events that are connected to the radio stations, so I called America’s Blood Centers and I said why don’t you just use my song for the campaign. For every ad that we do, let’s play that song and let’s give it away, so we can get more people to listen to their hearts and give blood. They said let’s do that and that is what we are doing."

Between November 20th and December 1st, Jenni Alpert will be performing eleven concerts, while touring The Netherlands, U.K. (Scotland), Italy and France. She says that each year when she returns to perform in Europe the audiences have become bigger and bigger.

Please visit the Jenni Alpert website

Interviewed by Joe Montague

All photos courtesy of Jenni Alpert and are protected by copyright ©, All Rights Reserved.

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