Jenna Lotti is one of those people that when you meet her, you can’t help but smile. Her personality is warm and friendly with a dash of spunk and a whole lot of drive. I first heard of Jenna through my friend Keelan Donovan (you may remember him from his Mass Musings interview) and then again when she joined the forces of Boston Bloggers by launched her own blog. I was lucky enough to see her play a few songs at Loretta’s Last Call and knew that she’d be super fun to collaborate with!
A few weeks ago, Jenna and I spent the morning wandering around Cambridge taking photos and chatting. What came of our day was a great interview and some gorgeous photos that truly showcase Jenna’s personality. Read on to learn more about Jenna Lotti and how her music career has come to fruition. While you’re at it, press play below.
How long have you been involved with music? How/when did you start? What inspires you to write now?
I have been involved with music since I can remember but no one knew because I didn’t start performing my music until I was in college. Growing up, I was painfully shy and would only sing alone or with my best friend, Sarah. Over the years, I taught myself how to sing. I would sit in my room for hours listening to albums over and over again until I knew every riff, run and note. It was not the norm for a young girl. Throughout my life I have struggled with anxiety and depression. To cope, I turned to music and kept journals full of thoughts and poetry. By the time I graduated college, I had a lot to say. J
The first time I performed in front of a crowd, I was with my college softball team in Florida. We went to an amusement park where my teammates encouraged me to enter a mock American Idol contest. I made it on the show and had to sing in front of hundreds of people. That moment pretty much changed my life. Everything clicked at once. I thought, “I need to do this”. Two years later (in 2011), I graduated from college and dove head first into my music career. After 3 years intensely focused on songwriting, learning guitar, performing at open mics & eventually headlining shows, I released my debut album, Tunnel Vision, in March of 2014. This record is an autobiographical collection of experiences from throughout my life distilled into 9 tracks. Tunnel Vision is a heavy album and holds a lot of pain. It’s very easy for me to write when I’m in pain, the songs just flow out of me. But, since releasing my first record, writing has been more of a struggle for me because I’m in a better place in my life. Now that I’m happy my struggle is writing songs that still have a lot of depth. I want the listeners to connect to these songs the way they did to my last album. I have about 10 solid songs for this new album that I LOVE. They are different but (I think) in a good way.
Who is your biggest musical inspiration?
Oh no the dreaded question. TOO many to name. Seriously, I have so many. They are always changing but I would say my top ones right now are Grace Potter, Sara Bareilles, Mat Kearney, Christina Perri, ZZ Ward, Tristan Prettyman, Ed Sheeran, John Mayer & Lake Street Dive. The record that is currently playing nonstop in my car is “Just Kids” by Mat Kearney. It’s brilliant.
Do you categorize yourself in one genre or do you like to experiment with different styles?
I usually say “Indie Pop”. I have experimented with different styles a little bit but I always come back to this one. I think it’s important to experiment with other genres, you never know what you can create! That’s the exciting thing about music. I’d love to collaborate with artists from other genres in the future. For the new record, I’ve done a lot of co-writing. That process is a whole new experience for me and has taught me so much. It’s fun to be out of your comfort zone!
You were a very successful softball player in college. Do you find that your competitive streak manifests itself in your music/ the interactions you have with the music industry?
Yes and yes! I’m so happy you asked this question! I always tell people how similar music and competitive sports are even though they seem worlds apart. It’s pretty amazing actually. Pitching runs in my family. My grandfather, my great uncle (who went pro), my dad, my brother and I were all pitchers. I started playing when I was about 5 years old and my life revolved around softball until I graduated college. I played year-round from age 10 to 22, had a private pitching coach at age 10 and have traveled all over the country to play. Weekends were spent playing 3-4 games a day in the hot summer sun. It’s safe to say I put in my 10,000 hours of work and that is one of the reasons I was successful. Another reason I had success came from being mentally tough (“tough as nails” as my Dad would say). I had determination, drive, hustle and perseverance on the mound. Having this mindset is just as important as the physical skills you practice.
Now, I channel all of those traits into music. Softball taught me to be a fighter and you need to be a fighter in this crazy music industry. There are certain aspects of playing softball that are parallel to playing music. Before I play a show, I get the same butterflies I got before pitching a game. The crowds are still there but now I’m on a stage instead of a mound. Adjusting to a mound you’re not used to is adjusting to a sound system that you’re not used too. Now I warm up my voice instead of my arm. My teammates are now my bandmates. Weird right?!? I truly don’t believe I would be able to pursue my musical dreams without my experience with softball. So, even though it was extremely hard at times, I am very grateful.
If you could eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Either guacamole or mac & cheese..yum!!
Would you rather always have to say everything on your mind or never be able to speak again?
Oh man!!! I guess I would choose always have to say what’s on my mind because I couldn’t live without being able to speak or SING! I’d be in a lot of trouble though! HA!