Music

20 Questions: Jen Wood

Photo: January Fredericks Photography

Jen Wood did a duet with the Postal Service, but has an amazing solo career all her own -- as well as an invisible Lasso of Truth, we're told.


Jen Wood

Wilderness

Label: Self-Released
US Release Date: 2014-10-14
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes

It's funny, sometimes, how that one little one-off collaboration can completely change the course of your entire career.

Jennifer Wood has been grinding out her own unique, beautifully worn brand of indie rock for some time now, the Seattle native having released music with her band Tattle Tale in the early '90s before going solo. Wood's quietly proulsive songwriting never failed to get critical notices, but prior to its release in 2003, Wood was asked to contribute vocals to a project formed by Death Cab for Cutie's Benjamin Gibbard and Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello. It was called the Postal Service, and Wood wound up duetting with Gibbard on the song "Nothing Better". While sales expectations for the disc were low, the album eventually went on to become a generational touchstone for millions, eventually becoming only the third record in Sub Pop's entire catalog to platinum. In short, Wood's profile greatly elevated, and now she lived on a whole new plane of cultural visibility.

Even with the Postal Service's runaway success, Wood kept relatively quiet on the music since Give Up's release, finally returning with a full-length album in 2010, and now, finally, with Wilderness, one of her warmest, lushest releases to date. To celebrate its release, Wood sat down with PopMatters to talk about crying during Turbo, her invisible Lasso of Truth, and the importance of just showing up.

* * *

 

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Turbo. Y'know, it's about the little snail dude that wants to go fast. I could really relate to his struggles and I loved watching him overcome all the odds and have his victory in the end. If you haven't seen it yet, you really need to.

2. The fictional character most like you?

I have to admit that Wonder Woman and I have a lot in common. Both of us are brunettes, so that's one thing for starters. I too, like Wonder Woman, fight the good fight for justice, peace and love. I may or may not also have a secret identity. And, last but definitely not least, I have a Lasso of Truth, except mine is invisible.

3. The greatest album, ever?

I could listen to the soundtrack from the original Mario Brothers and be pretty content; all those cute sounds can turn any bad day into a happy day. Try it.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

This is easy. Star Trek. When I was a little girl, I had a crush on Captain Kirk (you gotta admit he was cute back then!). I also think their adventures were weirder and cooler. It's not that I don't love Star Wars, because I do. It's just that I've always more so been intrigued with the whole outer-space thing.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Mrs. Pac Man, Tetris, and Word Warp.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Now I can actually hang out at a dog park and not totally freak out and run away. It's major, life-changing progress.

7. You want to be remembered for ...?

I really would just want to be remembered as a songwriter who somehow made a positive impact on people's lives and who inspired people to make changes to become healthier and happier. I'm still a punk-rock activist at heart, so yeah, I wanna make a difference in the world however I can. I also want people to remember that I'm really short, and that short people have to work harder at playing their instruments; seriously my hands are so tiny it's pretty annoying to try and shred on the guitar. Piano is even worse. I don't wanna even talk about it, all you normal-size people are lucky and you probably don't even realize it.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Ella Fitzgerald. Etta James. Billie Holiday. Nina Simone. Whitney Houston. Bob Marley. Frank Sinatra. Sam and Dave. Chet Baker. OK so, some these peoples are still alive but they came before me as in they were born waaaay before me, so I listed them too! Joni Mitchell's Blue. Paul Simon's Graceland. The Beatles, of course. Peter Gabriel -- I've already mentioned him once, but I'll list him again anyhow, 'cos I'm a bonkers-fan of his work.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Probably Peter Gabriel's Mercy Street album.

 

10. Your hidden talents . . .?

I can confidently and comfortably do these dance moves: the Running Man, the Cabbage Patch, and the Snoop. All thanks to my 6th grade friend, Anika, for taking me under her wing.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Several years back, I was going through a rough spell. There were too many intense things happening to my family, and for a long while I just hid from the world. I was super depressed and anxious, but not many people knew why or what was going on. Anyhow, I lost contact with a lot of people because I was hiding out and sort of living life on my own little island. It's normal to retreat and try and seek solitude. But, I got to the point where my isolation was making everything worse. So, I asked a friend to meet me for coffee because I knew I had to change something fast.

She has her own business, and I was asking her for advice about my path in music (I had just started demoing my songs for this album). I felt like I didn't know where to even start, or how to even talk to people anymore; I felt pretty displaced and like I didn't have a real, solid community at times. A part of that was because my life revolved around my family who was dealing with tragedy. I was so deeply changed by a series of experiences, that I had to find myself all over again. I wasn't sure what I needed to do, and I felt overwhelmed by all the things I needed to start changing in order to be happier and more productive.

My friend told me that she was given the advice to "show up" more; to actually be there, in person (not on Twitter or Facebook) but to go out, in real life, and support the ones you cared about and believed in. I took that advice and made it my new years resolution to "show up." For me, it meant, going out more to see my friend's band's play and to also go and support bands that I was excited about. I realized that I needed to let people know that I did care, that I valued my community, and my peers. I had to learn that it was OK for me to just be myself too; just because I was maybe feeling down and struggling with stuff didn't meant that I couldn't show up. I had to just be myself and not stress so much about what others would think about me. I highly recommend this whole "showing up" thing to anyone who is currently feeling isolated and spazzy with the world. Just start with one person, show up with that one person and the rest will slowly begin to follow.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

This is maybe gonna sound weird. But, the best thing I ever bought was my dog, Boomer! I'm a former cat person (my last cat ended up going totally psycho on me, so that pretty much ruined me), and they were both rescues. I was pretty anti-buying-a-dog, or any animal for that matter. But I'm so glad because Boomer is seriously, hands-down, the best thing I ever bought. She's my little ray of light, my happy fluffball who just makes this weird and funny life so much better. I can always count on her to give me her sweet, unconditional love. Boomer for President! Oh and I wish she could be the mascot for the Legion of Boom! (L.O.B! Go Hawks!)

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?

I feel best in my black puma sneakers, black stretch pants, a black windbreaker and my black waterproof baseball cap, while jogging in the rain. Something about wearing all black and running makes me feel like a badass.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Yoko Ono. That definitely would not be boring.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

To the year 4000, just so I could see what life will be like. Will it be all Blade Runner-esque? Or more like Gattaca?

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Spa vacation! Sign me up! When and where?!

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?

Lately: Popcorn with butter, some kosher salt, chili powder and a dash of cayenne. Perhaps a pinch of nutritional yeast too.

Usually: A Mighty-O plain cake doughnut to go along with my coffee.

Always: Chocolove 65% dark chocolate (read the love poem inside!).

Sometimes: Crunchy salty snacks; pistachios, kettle jalepeno chips.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Somewhere near the ocean with a lush, green ecosystem -- tall trees! Nature! Beaches! Sunshine! Out in the countryside, where you can actually SEE the stars and hear nothing but the waves rolling and a few birds chirping. Hmmm ... sounds like Kauai, Hawaii.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Hang in there buddy! Don't let the dumb racist white people bring you down! P.S. You're handsome and, yes, I voted for you in part because I thought you were handsome.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

I'm dreaming up ideas for my next album, but whatever, more importantly I'm working on helping to spread the message of peace. Hey, speaking of which, did you see that half-page that Yoko Ono did in the NYT? It said, in all-caps "SURRENDER TO PEACE". Listen to this short interview with her talking about peace. She is so amazing!!! We can all take notes from Yoko.



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