The older I get and as more time goes by, I realize just how much there is to know in this world. And then, it dawns on me. When I really start to think about it, even in a lifetime, there is no way that any human being could even come close to being all knowing and all seeing. And this applies to music as well. So when I was called upon to assist with another music video shoot for HNM, even at my age, I was about to learn about another genre of music. Imagine that!? And being such a music aficionado, I, in my naïveté, thought I’d heard about every kind of music known to man….in existence! But, no….. Even as music serves as my constant companion and ubiquitous soundtrack as I move through my habitual routines – at work, in my daily commute and, sometimes, even in my sleep, I found yet another genre to add to my book of knowledge. Now did I ever hear this kind of music before? Well, sure….in its various forms. I’ve heard it in it’s subtle origins and in separating its elements, I’ve detected it in its punk and folk music roots, but if you came to me and asked me if I ever heard about Oi! music prior to last Saturday, I would have said “Excuse me….?” As fate would have it, I would soon have my introduction to Oi! music and, hence, she would come in a sweet and petite package better known as Jenny Woo.
So it was Saturday afternoon, and I was once again, making my way to our next video shoot. I was a little nervous as I was already running late and since I had to drive to the Park and Ride, park my car, and hop the bus, once I got to my proper stop, I still had to cross the bridge to get myself over to the Quebec side. I had no idea how far I needed to go and if there was even any bus that would take me to where Andy and the crew were working, if it proved to be a far trek. But, I was lucky this time. I’d just gotten off of the 95 at Lebreton Flats and looking across bridge, I saw that I could easily walk over to the Hull side of town. Not only that. This time, it wasn’t freezing cold outside like it was on our last shoot, but it was rather a gloriously sunny day with a pleasant breeze. I called Andy to see how close I was getting to their location and it turns out that I was exactly on the same street that they were on….I just had to walk 5 blocks more and I was there. Sweet! Everything was just peachy and I felt that this day was going to be smooth sailing….
So when I met up with them, they were in mid shot, capturing Jenny as she was walking down the sidewalk on Eddy Street. And then I heard it, the Oi! music! It was playing from a portable music player so that Jenny could follow the beat of her song. When you meet Jenny Woo for the first time, she totally strikes you as a very friendly and outgoing young lady with a very professional and courteous demeanor. You warm up immediately to her even more when she flashes you her great smile. As the shoot went on, we engaged in light hearted chit chat and it was becoming more and more apparent to me that there was a lot going on with this girl…and I wanted to know more about her. So instead of my usual recount of the video making process (since it went so well and hiccup free), I decided that I wanted to dwelve into the mind of the music maker this time and shine the spotlight completely on the artist. Lucky for me, Jenny was so open and had graciously accommodated my request for an interview, sharing a few details about herself – some personal life experiences and insights about where she came from, where she is and where she is headed. Check out the Q & A below and get to know a little bit about Miss Jenny Woo for yourself!
How old where you when you picked up your first guitar?
Jenny: I am really fortunate to have come from a family where music has always been really appreciated and respected, and so I was lucky enough to be enrolled in piano lessons at the young age of six years old! After I had a basic understanding of music and music theory, it wasn’t that difficult to pick up on guitar, which I started playing when I was thirteen. I decided to switch to guitar in my teenage years because it’s a lot easier to play in a rock n’ roll group with an electric guitar than with a grand piano!
What is your most memorable gig or favourite place to perform?
Jenny: I have played a lot of really great shows across Canada and in Europe over the last three years, but I would have to say that the best gig I have ever played was last summer in Germany. It was the first time I had ever played in Germany, and I was really nervous because it was a gig that was organized fairly last-minute in a remote town in the Black Forest, and I didn’t know anyone there and I knew only a couple of words in German. To my surprise, however, everyone was really friendly and even knew the words to some of my songs! I was blown away by the fact that people half-way across the world had been listening to my songs and had made the effort to drive 3 hours just to attend this small gig. It was a huge confidence booster for me, and I made friends at that show that I keep in touch with to this day.
So you have upcoming gigs lined up in Europe. Tell us about that.
Jenny: Yes, I am playing a mini-tour in Europe this September, and hopefully another one in May 2012. I am signed to a German record label called Randale Records, and since a lot of the publicity work that the label does is focussed in Germany, it makes sense to tour there in order to support my upcoming album release. The record label helped organize a lot of the gigs for me, and I will be playing in Hamberg, Schramberg, Duisberg, and Leipzig in Germany, as well as a couple of gigs in Karlskrona, Sweden, and a couple of gigs in Holland. I am really excited to meet a lot of new people, and travelling while playing music has always been my dream so I can’t wait to get out there and live it up!
Tell us one thing that is not well known about yourself, but that would surprise people to know.
Jenny: Like most people, I have a few small, hidden talents – one of my uncommonly known skills is my ability to find Waldo in “Where’s Waldo” books. For some reason or another, Waldo always seems to jump out at me, and I can locate him very easily. Now if only that skill translated into an ability to find my keys and the remote control which always seem to be hidden in my apartment…
You have recently left your hometown of Edmonton, Alberta to come to Ottawa. How is that adjustment going for you?
Jenny: It’s always hard to move to a new city, and to leave good friends and family behind. That being said, I really like Ottawa and find it to be a very manageable city to get around in – it’s big enough to have a lot of interesting things to do, and yet it’s small enough to get around in comfortably. I also like the fact that it is so close to Montreal and a few other cities, which is great for gigging and also for spending the weekends exploring and trying out new things. Overall, I’m still working on building up a social network and finding my place here in Ottawa, but I am really happy here and I feel like there is a lot of room for me to grow in Ottawa.
Where would you like to be 5 years from now and what do you see yourself doing?
Jenny: In terms of my musical career, I would like to release another full-length album, as well as some split albums with a few bands that I really respect and would love to work with. I would also really like to tour in Indonesia and through South East Asia. In five years from now, I would still like to be writing songs and improving my vocal chops and guitar skills, which are definitely life-long projects.
If you had the chance to work on a project with another artist, who would that artist be?
Jenny: I have always really wanted to work with Franky Flame, who is a well-renowned artist in the punk community in Europe. He plays currently with a band called Superyob, and has had a really long and rich musical career, which has influenced a lot of the songs I have written. I am really lucky, in fact, because I might soon be realizing this dream – Franky Flame and I are currently working together to release a single on Randale Records sometime next year, and I really looking forward to working with him on this project. I think that there is a lot that I can learn from him, and hopefully we can come up with some great songs together.
On a more personal note, besides music, what else fires you up in life?
Jenny: Besides music, I am really impassioned by a lot of social justice issues; I worked for Amnesty International for a few years trying to promote awareness for human rights issues, and I am right now really interested in issues relating to human trafficking. I am also a strict vegetarian and I do my best to promote animal welfare on a local level. Other than that, my friends and family are really important to me and I do my best to spend time with them and to continue building strong and rich relationships with them.
Who is loaded on your MP3 player these days?
Jenny: These days, I am listening to a lot of power-pop and pub rock. I saw the Vancouver band the Transmitorz play here during the Ottawa Explosion festival, and I was really blown away – I was so impressed that I purchased a few of their releases at the show and have been playing them constantly ever since. Their songs and sound has been influencing me for the last couple of months, and the songs that I have been writing for my band, The Birds of Prey, incorporate and build off of their energy and super-melodic vocal lines.
Where do you draw your inspiration to write your songs? Do you do better in happier times or when you are confronted with personal struggles and challenges?
Jenny: A lot of people have commented that my songs are super positive and optimistic, and I think they are. Most of the songs on my last album, “Alberta Rose,” have been about overcoming obstacles, not accepting defeat, and trying to find hope in seemingly hopeless situations. You might think that I write these songs in happier times, but in fact, I do my best song-writing when I am confronted with personal challenges. I believe that we are defined by how we meet and deal with the challenges and problems of everyday life, and I have always grown the most personally and learned the most about myself when I’ve found myself in tough times. It’s pretty natural for me to turn to song-writing when I have the need to express myself or figure out a problem, so it makes sense that most of my songs are written in the face of personal struggle.
So there you have it, folks. I hope you enjoyed getting better acquainted with Jenny. If you met her in person like I did, you’d get a very cool vibe from her. To me, she is a breath of fresh air! Not only do you have a great young talent with goals and aspirations in Miss Woo, but you also have an individual here who is down to earth, very personable, passionate and someone with a social conscience. For me, one of the greatest pleasures in life is not only discovering new music, but also meeting new people and finding out what makes them tick. I really liked what I found in Jenny and I will be following her as she continues to break into the Oi! music scene, building a captive audience of her own.
I had a great time working with you on your video shoot, Jenny! You now have a new friend and fan in me! I’ll be cheering you on as you blaze your new trail. Go get ‘em girl! I know you’ll do us Canucks proud in Europe!
Godspeed and Happy Trails!
Watch the video: