Multi-talented artist Jenina MacGillivray takes an honest and personal approach to her long-awaited debut album, Marion
If you love something, set it free. So goes that age old adage of love, loss and compromise. For Jenina MacGillivray, that is exactly the case when looking at her long awaited debut record, Marion.
“I think I was balancing a lot of things,” MacGillivray says of the lengthy leadup to her debut record. “Also there’s the idea of recording that you’re laying something down and it’s going to be finished and it has to be exactly the way you want it. Maybe there’s a sort of preciousness involved where you hang onto things for too long or you’re sort of afraid to let go of them. You think they have to be perfect by the time you release them, so there’s an element of that too, but I realize it’s just a matter of starting somewhere and laying down the song. You lay it down, it becomes what it is and you let go of it, and that’s such a nice feeling.”
MacGillivray is a welcome presence in Newfoundland’s music landscape. Something of a multi-threat – artistically speaking – the singer-songwriter, founding member of Girls Rock NL, teacher and filmmaker, has been performing to critical praise for years, earning the Newfoundland and Labrador 2017 Arts And Letters Awards in the senior Music Division for her song, Roots.
‘Great Team Effort’
For Marion, MacGillivray recorded the album with Jake Nicoll at Studio J in St. John’s, calling upon an A-team of contributors that includes Darren Browne, Ilia Nicol, Amy Nicoll, Maria Peddle and Kira Sheppard.
“It was a great team effort,” she shares. “Everyone added their own things in and you just trust the musicians that you work with. If you surround yourself with musicians you can trust, their sensibilities, then it’s always a good thing.”
MacGillivray has never been shy about taking fragments and pieces of self for her art. That is the case here with Marion, with MacGillivray grappling with highs and lows of her own experiences for a relatable and moving selection of tracks.
“A lot of the songs on this album have been inspired by things in my own life,” she says. “I’d like to say that there’s equal inspiration that comes from happy and difficult things. It seems I start to write a song when I’m feeling the need to express something, something that’s difficult or something that I’ve been struggling with or want to express a feeling about.
“There are things we all listen to music for, when we’re feeling heartbroken, or if we’re going through something,” she explains. “I guess that’s where my inspiration for songwriting has come from, but I feel I’m moving towards more broader subject matter that’s not about myself or my need to express something. That’s kind of exciting, I’m enjoying that.”
An award winning filmmaker and videographer who has seen her work screened across the globe, MacGillivray weighs the differences between her chosen artforms, noting that the art of songwriting, and indeed performance, provide a much more immediate sense of connection and self-fulfillment.
“I find what I feel most satisfying from film and writing and things that I do is playing music and performing. There’s a real connection you have immediately with the people you’re working with and the audience that’s very visceral, very direct,” she says. “You can immediately connect with the audience, have an effect and be affected that’s really unique to music and live performance. Film is a whole different kettle of fish in a way. You do become really connected to people you’re working with on film crews. You become a family, just like when you record an album, but it’s a slower process. It’s not as immediately satisfying in a way as playing music, just in the way that music connects us all in an immediate way.”
Admitting that she’s well bitten by the bug for hitting the studio with friends, we’ll likely be treated to a sophomore record from this committed artist sooner rather than later.
As for takeaways, MacGillivray hopes her music speaks to people in a way that offers connection and hope.
“I guess, if there’s something I want people to take away from it is kind of knowing that someone out there is going through a similar thing, that you’re not alone going through the ups and downs of life, and that they find some connection and comfort in my songs and are also uplifted by the more fun and calypso ones as well,” she says. “I think my songs are unapologetically earnest and directly from my own experience and I hope people find that to be something that’s compelling.”
Marion is available now digitally through bandcamp and in physical format at Fred’s Records.