Local Talent

A Fiendish Conversation with S's Jenn Ghetto

The emotionally raw singer brings in a band (and Chris Walla) for her Hardly Art debut Cool Choices.

By Seth Sommerfeld September 23, 2014

Jenn Ghetto: Not a bummer when she's not singing S tunes.

Jenn Ghetto has the being a bummer part of being a Pacific Northwest singer-songwriter down, but breaks out of the traditional vaguely woodsy mold. She keeps things a bit more odd. As S, the former Carissa's Wierd singer mixes quiet, somber writing about breakups and other downer moments with tinges of pop punk's raw musicality and emotional vulnerability. The new S record Cool Choices—her Hardly Art debut—hits stores today, and was produced by Chris Walla, now formerly of Death Cab for Cutie. To mark the release of Cool Choices, S plays a free in-store performance tonight (September 23) at Sonic Boom Records at 6. The album gets an official release show this Saturday, September 27 at the Black Lodge.

For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Jenn about the safety in expressing feelings via music, her awesome Blink-182 cover band Silly Goose, and breakdancing.

How did your approach to recording Cool Choices differ from past S records?

I guess bringing a band in… and a producer. Just having a more collaborative thing. Still, it’s like I want to keep this my thing; keep it intimate. So sometimes it was really tricky to be like, (sighs) “Okay, we’re going to take a direction here.” (Laughs)

Since many of your songs hinge on your raw vulnerability, what’s the key for you to tap into that place emotionally?

It’s probably that… like in real life… I have a lot of trouble expressing feelings and stuff. It’s gotta go somewhere, so it kind of just goes into songs. Maybe it feels safer to express that kind of stuff. And then sometimes I’m like, “Well it’s weird that I’m just going to publish this record.” (Laughs) You know?

Do you ever feel like any apprehension getting so personal on the records thinking, “Oh right, now people are going to hear these things I’m been keeping bottled up inside”?

I do. I feel like deciding to put songs on the record… some of it was hard. Like, “Am I going to go there with this record?” I think at some point being like, "Well, since I have a band and am going in with a producer, I should just try to keep it as vulnerable as possible."

What made you want to bring in a band and producer for Cool Choices?

I wanted to make a different record than the last one. That was kind of like bringing in a band. “What’s it like if I have some drums and stuff?” I feel like when I was deciding that, I kind of was in this really weird kind of mania. (Laughs) I’m like writing and like, “I’m going to get a band!” I was just kind of in this cloud of dealing with some emotional stuff that was all kind of coming out in this musical way. I think I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I was convinced I that I did know what I was doing. (Laughs)

In contrast to your own melancholy tunes, you front the Blink-182 cover band Silly Goose and often cover fun pop tunes at S shows. Is there something cathartic about playing other people’s songs?

Yeah, I really enjoy learning other people’s songs. Silly Goose is great because being able to be in a band that is really upbeat and fun, it was like, “Well, it’s kind of pretend, but it is just a fantastic time.” Sometimes I feel like covering songs is like getting to play with songs; it doesn’t feel like it has an impact on anything. It’s like, “Oooo! I’m going to take this song and, like, what would I do if I wrote this song?” Which I find really entertaining.

I also appreciate that when you do covers, Eddie Money’s “Take Me Home Tonight” comes to mind, you do it in a sincere way. You’re not one of those folks covering pop tunes ironically.

I definitely cover songs I really like. Sometimes it’ll be like, I’ll just get something stuck in my head and the only way to get it out is to cover it. Because then I’ll have to play it a million times. Then I’m like, “Okay, I’m done with that one.”

How do you feel like Seattle has influenced your music?

There are so many musicians here, and artists, and it can be such a scene sometimes. But then everyone’s also kind of family-ish. I think being around a lot of people who are making a lot of cool music and doing a lot of cool stuff, it maybe feels less like, “Oh, you better get a real job.” (Laughs) You know? So maybe it’s like, “Okay, maybe I will make another record,” instead of, “Should I back to school? I don’t know…”

Do you have any pre-show routine?

Well lately, the band and I have been having a breakdance circle before the show. Which is pretty great. It’s a real good loosen-upper, because it’s so silly.

S: Cool Choices Release Show
Sept 27 at 9, Black Lodge, $10

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