A West Coast
by Bill Hornung
why Jen Chapin is happy to constantly perform around New York. She has
built a strong network of East Coast fans. She's a native New Yorker.
She and her husband, Stephan, live in New York. And New York, arguably,
has the biggest talent pool into which to dive if you want to collaborate
and grow as an artist (with the notable exception of California-bred Weird
Chapin devotees way out in the Land of Schwarzenegger, seeing Jen and
Stephan perform live is about as rare as recalling a governor. OK, scratch
. about as rare as the New York Yankees losing the World Series.
. well, you know what I mean. We don't see much of them out
here in the rugged West Coast where nearly half the people in the country
So it was a momentous occasion when Jen and Stephan added several West Coast dates to their recent tour that served as a warm up for the launch of Jen's new album Linger coming out in February 2004. The crowd at The Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena, California was enthralled with Jen and Stephan's performance. In fact, Jen commented during the show that the crowd was probably the best audience they had had during the six-week tour (take that, Long Island!).
heard Jen and Stephan perform at various WHY-related events, the California
gig was the first time I got a full two-hour shot of the duo. Jen's voice
and lyrics blend with Stephan's acoustic bass to create an inseparable
tone that's uniquely their own. The soulful and simple sounds as
featured on the latest Open Wide CD also stand out as a
soothing departure from most of today's over-produced music. In short,
it's great to be mesmerized by music once again.
let's face it, the audience has a lot to do with the music, too.
And all of us Westerners, particularly here in Southern California, proved
we could fill the venues as aficionados of Jen and Stephan's music.
Sure, Jen and Stephan had to compete with the World Series blaring in
the background at a few stops. But these slight interruptions didn't
get in the way of a tour that Jen describes as nearly perfect (undoubtedly
due to the cute, well-groomed and intelligent West Coast fans).
recent "email interview," Jen reflected on the tour that took
her through America's heartland as she prepares for next year's
big launch of Linger.
Now that you have the long tour behind you, what's your reflection of
life on the road? The good and the bad?
As a road trip, this was pretty close to perfect. We made time to stop
at about five national parks including Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.
We got to visit several wonderful old friends; we got to spin a lot of
CDs that we don't have time to play at home; and we saw beautiful country
and met some great people. I think the structure of having close to 30
dates we had to get to actually helped rather than hindered the sightseeing.
It made us have to make clear choices. There is so much to see in this
country that you can't do it all anyway.
bad part was that while all of our audiences were very kind, some of them
were quite small! Even with a publicist working on press and radio, and
with a good number of Harry fans coming out of curiosity, it's still
very hard to get people out to hear new music. So sometimes it was tough
to sustain the energy necessary for performance when you are not getting
so much back.
Had you spent much time out west prior to the tour? What were your impressions
going through Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, etc.? Any particular
memories of places you stopped?
I've been in California several times and Steph and I have had a few shows
in the Bay area before. I have been in some of the other places but not
for concerts. We loved making a little detour to Crater Lake in Oregonit
is an amazing, pristine, deep-blue lake, and we got to throw a few snowballs!
It was nice
to drive through the desert but I have to admit it freaks me out a little
bit to see the strain we are putting on the environment there--especially
on the rivers that are getting sucked dry. In wealthy Sedona, Arizona
we saw misting machines spraying water down over shop awnings so that
people need not be slightly inconvenienced walking between shops in 80-degree
weather. Meanwhile farmers and fishers up the Colorado are finding their
livelihoods strangled by a declining water supply let alone the wildlife.
And, of course, now there are the fires. It sounds New Age-y to say it,
but many times I think we need to just listen a little more to what the
earth has to say as we build and develop our communities.
Were the West Coast (or Midwest) crowds generally any different than the
There is a little bit more openness to ears in smaller towns outside the
NYC area, I think, perhaps because here in New York there is so much going
on at all times that people just have to shut down a little. We love to
play in small towns, whether it's Asbury Park, New Jersey or Chehalis,
Circle!: A highlight of the tour had to be signing your multi-album contract with Hybrid Recordings in Storm Lake, Iowa. How did it come to pass in Storm Lake? Was it uneventful via FedEx, or was it an in-person thing?
Well, by the time I signed the contract it was more a formality than anything
else. The lawyers hadn't been able to finish dotting the "I's" and crossing
the '"T's" by the time we left for the tour, so they had to send it to
me when I was in Iowa. Meanwhile, the Linger album master was already
at the factory being manufactured and the relationship with Hybrid was
already unfolding. They are good people--quite different from the cynical
characters we think of in the music biz today.
Now that you have launched a new legion of fans throughout the West Coast,
when do you and Stephan plan to move out this way?
Editor's note: Jen Chapin recently signed a multi-album deal with Hybrid Records. The Linger album, which features Jen's full band, will be the first release in February 2004. Circle! will include more information about the album in the next issue.
Watch for the Next Issue of Circle! on March 7