Andrew MacNaughtan/Universal Music Canada
Jann arden’s got a sense of humour the size of Alberta. Just as rich, too.
The Calgary-born singer — does she need an introduction? — has been dubbed “the most low-key celebrity around,” known for her dry quips and absurdly hilarious anecdotes told onstage between songs. Her website’s journal archives all kinds of musings — the meaning of life, aimless trips to Costco and one particularly colourful bit: half-asleep and getting up to use the hotel bathroom, she “lets her rip” before realizing she was, indeed, in the closet. Sitting on a luggage rack.
In person, Arden doesn’t disappoint. She attributes her ability to work the crowd as something hard-earned.
“I think it comes from being in bands in the early eighties,” she says. “We only knew like six songs and we were in Yellowknife and supposed to play sets. The guys would be like, holy shit, can you talk between tunes to buy some time? And we figured they’d be drunk enough by midnight.” She pauses. “I think you just get quick on your feet when you’re in a room with drunk fishermen.”
Modesty and shameless honesty — neither highly valued in this business — colour just about everything Arden says, humorous or not. Speaking of her new album, Uncover Me, she says the pressure involved in covering classic songs, already iconic, was the “most stressful thing I’ve ever done.”
“This record was a nightmare to make,” she says. “I was worried about wrecking people’s songs — they’re already great. I mean, we didn’t need to hear California Dreamin’ again. But I still think we brought something to it.”
The collection, in fact, was a second version started from scratch after finishing the first album in October. Recorded and mastered, Arden wasn’t happy with it. “So this was the second stab at it,” she says. “I’m glad it wasn’t the third stab or I may have killed myself.”
Strangely enough, for singing other people’s songs, Arden says the album still reveals a lot about herself — the songs she loved growing up, the records she played in her parents’ basement, the artists that soothed her during rough times.
“I think people get a glimpse,” she says, “they do get to uncover me a little bit and see where I came from, why I write the way that I write. So I think from a fan’s standpoint, it was really good, but god — get me back to writing my own songs.”