We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenny Shawhan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenny, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?When I made the decision to become a professional musician, I was all about taking as much work as I could get my hands on. Even though this strategy was great for survival, it also taught me where my limits were and just how important striking the right balance is. Although it can vary for everyone, my body quickly began to tell me when to take a break and rest, and how much alone time I needed to write songs and rejuvenate. Playing music for a living requires an incredible amount of energy – giving your all to your crowd, interacting with fans after shows, loading in/tearing down – not to mention some of the daily nitty-gritty like booking gigs, writing contracts, and practicing your music. A couple years a go, I was pushing 150 dates/year, and my voice started to suffer from fatigue. It took me working with a few great coaches, and making different decisions to find a new balance and create a more enjoyable day to day reality. I started raising my rates, taking less shows, and adding more downtime to my calendar like paddleboarding, reading, biking, and dinner dates with friends. Engaging in a few non-musical activities allows me to not only have some fun but also stay focused on my career. I’ve realized over the past several years that the more I show up to create, the happier I am. And the more I rest in between shows, the more energy I have to give my audience. And without fail, as I stay devoted to myself by allowing time off, I am able to return to my work feeling fresh and ready to get back to it. Sometimes it can alter my perspective in a beautiful way too, which gives my spirit a fighting chance to keep on going. And if balance means staying in this game for the long haul, then it is everything to me. Am I still working on it? You bet! Everyday…especially now in the middle of the pandemic. But I know I am here to make and share my music, so I press on.
Please tell us more about your career. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I turned 40 this July. On my birthday, we went into the studio to record my very first album. I’ve always known I was going to sing, it just took me a little longer than I expected to arrive in an authentic place of knowing – exactly who I am, what I want to say, and how to express it by writing my own music. I went to college, worked in music publishing, obtained a master’s degree, got married and divorced. I worked my way through various odd jobs using my experience and degrees and then 7 years ago, I decided to go for it. One day at a time, one open mic at a time until I could make my living 100% performing music.
One of my biggest lessons has been believing in myself. And that living is learning. As I go along to find more of what I truly want, I’m learning to let go and trust that beautiful evolutionary process. When I keep chasing what lights me up it brings me more joy. Adopting a philosophy of curiosity over one of seriousness has been a new discovery I’ve been playing with, and it’s slowly proving to be a much more interesting way of being. As a woman, I’m reminded that more doing and less ruminating is always helpful too.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
A show at Red Rocks. Dinner at Root Down. A beautiful hike in mountains. A backyard bbq. Whatever they want to do, I would help make it happen. 🙂
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Wow…yes, several! The book “The Artist Way” by Julia Cameron has been very instrumental in my creative process. My vocal coaches – Janet Kenyon (Kenyon Artist Development-Nashville, TN) , Katie Wise (Boulder), and Mary Ann Kehler (Denver) have all had significant impact from voice technique to music business mentorship. Loving support of countless friends and family, Belmont University (my alma mater) for a specialized music program and the chance to build awesome relationships.
Scott Flanigan, Bill Masure, Bernard Wooten