Go out and meet people, even when you don’t feel like it — I’ve always swayed more towards being a home body, but, I quickly realized that nothing really happens when you stay home. You never know who you could meet, or who could become your new best friend. I met many of my favorite co-writers, who are also some of my best friends, today, by just being present in the community.
I had the pleasure to interview Jenny Tolman. Said to be a young EmmyLou Harris, Jenny is a country star on-the-rise. The singer/songwriter recently released a new single, “Rock & Roll to My Country Soul,” and I recently had the opportunity to sit down with her to learn about her traditional approach to country music, her greatest inspirations and a few pieces of advice she has learned getting her start.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Jenny! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Nashville, TN, as my dad moved to Nashville in the 80’s to sing in a group called The Indian River Boys. They sang on Garth Brooks’ No Fences album. So, I was very lucky to grow up around the music business. I’ve sang since before I can remember, started playing piano by ear when I was three, and loved writing stories growing up. It all kind came together when I turned 16 and got a guitar for my birthday — I realized that I could combine everything I loved about music and writing and call myself a singer/songwriter: a country music artist. Ever since that moment, the light bulb turned on, and has not flickered! It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and all I ever will do.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that has happened to you thus far in your music career?
I have always been a huge fan of Sunny Sweeney. I used to listen to her while I was getting ready for school, every morning. Fast forward a few year, and we’ve ended up becoming friends, as we both have the same wonderful producer, Dave Brainard. I laughingly told her about how I used to do my makeup to her music, when I first met her, and a few months later, she sent me a picture of her doing her makeup in my makeup mirror! It was just such a funny, full circle moment for me to see what life can turn into.
What are some of the most exciting projects you’re currently working on?
I just recently released the second single off of my debut album, There Goes the Neighborhood, called “Rock & Roll to My Country Soul.” It’s always an exciting time getting to release a new baby to the world; you work on setting it up for success for so long, that when you finally let it go, it is a fun rollercoaster of emotions. Mostly, I love getting to see how songs become a small part of my fans’ worlds. I feel very lucky to get to do something that interacts with others on an emotional level.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Garth Brooks is hands down, the most incomparable “famous” person I’ve ever met. I got to spend four nights backstage at Garth’s shows in Lubbock, TX, when my friend, Sunny Sweeney, was opening for him. He was the nicest and most humble person I’ve ever met. He truly does have the incredible memory that you always hear about; Garth remembered exactly who my dad was and what track they sang together on. I was blown away! It was also an amazing lesson for me to see how beautiful of a person he still is, even after being the most successful person. His whole crew, from bottom to top, were so kind and inviting. It was like a big family, and that is exactly what I want to model my career after, now.
Who has inspired you to become the person you are?
Mr. Rogers. This is a new answer for me after recently seeing the film, Won’t You Be My Neighbor. I was so inspired by how he believed in, not only children, but humankind. He saw how beautiful our souls really are, and how intelligent we are, and he created something to help instill those beliefs about ourselves into all of us. I felt a lot of similarities in what he wanted to do to help the world with his program in the way I feel about music and what I hope my music does for the world. Some of my musical inspirations are Roger Miller, Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Womack, and anything written by Shel Silverstein!
Is there a person who you aspire to be like?
Definitely a combination of Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton. Two of the classiest, most successful people in the music business, who never wavered on who they were.
How have you used your success to bring goodness into the world?
I am really passionate about gratitude, and that by being grateful for everything that we have, we will attract even more into our world to be grateful for. So, every Sunday, I post a picture on my social media with something that I’m grateful for, and I invite everybody to comment on it with something that they are grateful for. Then, I write down everybody’s gratitude statements and put them in a mason jar that I call #jennysjoyjar…once the jar is full, I do a Facebook live video of me drawing out one of the slips of paper, and whoever’s it is gets to choose a cover song for me to do. It’s just a really great way to help everyone see how wonderful our lives really are, and start sharing that joy with the people around them.
What are five things you wish someone had told you when you first started, and why?
- Don’t wait around — When I started waiting on people to do things for me, is when I felt the biggest lull in my upward climb. As soon as I took control and did things for myself, so many more doors began to open. I think this is true in any sector of life, really. Nobody is going to work as hard for you, as you.
- Set goals — I found out that when you blindly pursue something, you may move forward, but not as far forward as you wanted to be. So, I began to set goals for myself. I found that when I did this, I actually got way farther than I ever would’ve if I was just doing it blindly. I think it’s so important to have conscious strives for yourself so that your goals are always rattling around in your brain.
- Go out and meet people, even when you don’t feel like it — I’ve always swayed more towards being a home body, but, I quickly realized that nothing really happens when you stay home. You never know who you could meet, or who could become your new best friend. I met many of my favorite co-writers, who are also some of my best friends, today, by just being present in the community.
- It’s called the music “business” for a reason — I think I was like many other people who have a dream of being a musician- thinking it’s all about the music. But, there is a lot more to it than that. I have had to learn the tactics to build my business. Educate yourself on the basics of owning a small business, because as a musician, you are essentially a small business.
- Have FUN! — Don’t sweat the small stuff — I used to get so stressed out, then one day my producer, Dave Brainard, said to me “You know this is supposed to be fun?” Ever since then, I’ve made sure to remember to be grateful that what I get to do is amazing. I don’t have to sit behind a desk all day, I get to make music. And that is fun.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I would want to have dinner with Dolly Parton. She is someone that I look up to for so many reasons. She found a way to be beautiful without being threatening, to be funny without being stupid, and to be successful without losing her charm. I just have so many questions for her. I think she is an absolute genius.
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