'There’s a really special energy when you’re about to start writing a new song.' How I made... Revival. By Jenn Bostic
We've been fans of Jenn Bostic from the very beginning, we reviewed her debut album, and interviewed her for an early Introducing feature. Since then she's released a further two albums, toured the UK multiple times, been playlisted on BBC Radio 2 more than once, and really found a devoted fanbase. And she's released 'Jealous Of The Angels' one of the decades most beautiful songs. Now we talk to her about her new record, Revival, and what wnet into making it.
What started the process of making a new album?
This album is a special one for me. I’ve been learning, growing, and creating music over the last decade, and in that time I had the opportunity to develop as an artist. When I started the process of writing and recording this new album I was writing songs with messages of hope, encouragement, love and power. I knew I wanted to record the album live in studio with some of my favourite musicians, and I knew I wanted to tap into the bluesy/gospel sounds that I love so much.
Where was Revival recorded? And how did you end up recording there?
Revival was recorded at House of Blues Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. My producer, Paul Salveson and I considered many different studios for this album. We had a vision to find a creative environment with a great vibe. We talked about renting a studio with accommodation for a few days to really get away from everything and just make music, but in the end House of Blues was too perfect to pass up, and to be honest, after each long day in the studio, sleeping in my own bed at night helped me get the rest I needed.
How do you set the studio up? Is it a standard studio space? Do you personalise it at all?
I do remember breaking out the Christmas lights and quirky accents for the studio when recording my first album, but with this album it was about honesty, raw emotion, and great musicians. Everyone brought their A game and the studio has enough thrills of its own that we didn’t feel the need to add any personal touches.
What impact does the environment you record in impact the final record?
The studio had a huge impact on Revival. I have experienced all different types of recording, but live in the studio with all the players feeding off one another’s energy is my absolute favourite. You need a beautiful studio with an amazing live room to make that happen. There was a certain soul that House of Blues has, and I think it was sprinkled all over this album.
How do you approach the studio process?
Finding the right producer is a huge part of the process for me, and I’m incredibly grateful that six-time Grammy winner Paul Salveson helped me bring this vision to life. The two of us started talking about this album one year before we started recording. His passion for the project made this album what it is. I still remember during my solo Grand Piano Tour across the US, he and I would spend so much time talking on the phone about which songs worked best together, what instrumentations would be best for each song, who the perfect players would be, etc. I’m lucky that I not only ended up with an album I’m incredibly proud of, but I also gained an incredible friendship.
Do you have the songs written fully beforehand, or do you work on them in the studio?
All the songs are completely written before stepping into the studio, however sometimes the arrangements change as we start recording. I remember specifically changing the chorus melody to 'Follow Your Own Star' while recording it in the studio. It can feel so risky to make a move like that, but I’ve learned that you have to trust your gut and capture the moment. If you put too much pressure on perfection or doing exactly what you had planned, it sucks the fun out of it.
What’s your process for writing songs?
Living in Nashville, there is a lot of opportunity to co-write with incredibly talented writers and artists. When I’m not touring, a lot of my time is spent in songwriting sessions like this, lasting a few hours with the goal of finishing a song. I do spend time crafting ideas, or brainstorming titles before sessions like this so I have something to bring to the table. On a more rare occasion, songs wake me up in the middle of the night, or find their way into my head on a long drive. Most days, I start out at full keyboard or piano, with a hot cup of coffee, and a fully charged laptop. There’s a really special energy when you’re about to start writing a new song.
How do you construct your song? Do the lyrics or music come first?
Each song is different. I hum all the time. Ask my husband, it probably drives him crazy. Sometimes those melodies that I hum end up inspiring a new song, and before I know it I’m sitting at a piano with a verse and a chorus. Other times the words come first. Someone says something in a way I’ve never heard it before and I start to rearrange words like a puzzle in my mind. However, my favourite songs usually come from the most challenging seasons of life. The times when I’m not overthinking the lyrics or the melody, but I’m writing because It’s the only therapy I’ve ever known.
Do you write things down or use voice memos?
I write down lyrics and chords, but all of the melodies I create are recorded in voice memos. It is rare that I transcribe any of my songs into sheet music.
How have you evolved as a songwriter since your debut?
I’ve become more vulnerable. I started writing songs as therapy to get through some really tough times in my early childhood, however the more songs I wrote, the more I dreamt about hearing them on the radio, which made me think more about what the radio might want to hear. While this strengthened me as a writer in the long run, I took a few detours, only to realize that the songs that will impact people the most come straight from the heart. Writing, recording and performing 'Jealous of the Angels' has taught me so much. The more specific and raw I write, the more universal the songs become.
How do you choose your producer?
I’ve worked with a long list of amazing producers, but for Revival, I wanted to work with someone who really knew my voice. Who understood my heart and my vision for the album. Paul Salveson is the creative director at my home church in Nashville. I’ve been leading worship there for the last 8 or 9 years, and he has heard me develop as an artist in that time. He cares about me as a human being, and he genuinely enjoys the music we create. When I decided to record this album, I didn’t think twice about who was going to produce it, I just crossed my fingers that he would say yes.
What’s your process for choosing the final tracklist and order? And is the order important to you?
In the past, I have recorded whatever current songs I liked best in my catalog. I didn’t think about how they worked together, or what the vision statement might be for the album, however Revival is different. I worked tirelessly with Paul to sift through about 50 songs to select the final 12. There are a few songs that I really love, that didn’t make the album because they just didn’t fit with the other tracks. I want every single song to encourage the listener, to empower them to believe they can overcome the obstacles in their lives. I believe this group of songs does that.
How do you choose what the first track released is going to be?
This is always such a tough decision. My favourite song on the album is 'Faint of Heart' but I didn’t feel it was the first single. 'Revival' felt like the natural first choice. It’s the title track, it’s upbeat, it’s joyful, there’s a gospel choir. I think it’s important to grab the listener and give them a taste of what they’ll hear on the rest of the album.
Your first video from the record is the title track, ‘Revival’, what’s the story behind making the video?
I worked on the 'Revival' video with a talented videographer from Nashville named Patrick Tohill. We wanted people to feel joy when they saw the video. I wanted people to see themselves in it, starting out their day with a cup of coffee, knowing that sometimes the struggle is so real, but knowing that with each new day comes a fresh start. It is so important to stay positive. I wanted this video to stir up hope, maybe even lead people to dance and sock slide through their own kitchen.
What’s the best thing about the whole album process?
Watching your song come to life and connect with people around the world. Every single time someone tells me a story of how their kids dance to 'Hollywood' or how 'Faint of Heart' encouraged them to keep following their dream, or how 'Jealous of the Angels' comforted them during their time of mourning, I am overwhelmed. Music is so powerful and I’m grateful to be a tiny part of it.
And the worst?
Second guessing yourself. When you’re an independent, self-funded artist, paying for the studio by the hour, you have to trust yourself and those around you to make some quick decisions sometimes. You have to live with the fact that you may not like that decision one month or one year down the road.
What’s your best tip for someone thinking about making their first album?
Put in the hard work before you step into the studio.
- Write or select great songs that fit your voice and style.
- Find a passionate producer.
- Visualise what you want each song to sound like, from groove, to the instrumentation, to the background vocals.
- Hire a studio that you feel you feel comfortable in.
- Hire musicians that play in the style you want to record.
- Enjoy every single moment.
Jenn's new album, Revival, is out now to buy or stream from the usual. We've got the Tidal stream below. To check out where Jenn is touring and all the other details about her visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.