#CMchat Exclusive Interview: Jenny Tolman

“A CD of Jenny Tolman’s demos tied to the top of a roll of toilet paper with glittery gold and leopard skin ribbon, and a note that reads ‘Stan, you’re gonna shit when you hear this,’ now sits among the treasured collectibles on the desk of legendary booking agent, Stan Barnett (Buck Owens, Keith Whitley, Brenda Lee, Lady Antebellum). Jenny Tolman, an old blue-eyed soul at 21 years of age, has already left her mark among the legends, even if only in that high rise office overlooking downtown Music City. Born and raised in Nashville TN, having grown up around the music business, her grasp of country music’s roots are well beyond her years. She is classy and courageous behind a guitar, sassy and self-deprecating in spirit, and masterful in her ability to make sense of life’s ironies by putting them under a poetic microscope. Often compared to a young Emmy Lou Harris, Jenny’s voice is striking in its subtlety, and vibrant in its personality. As she’s been performing around the country from California to Massachusetts, having opened for such acts as Alabama, Love and Theft, Brandy Clark and Cole Swindell, the response from fans of all ages has been overwhelming. The truthful spirit of classic country music is evident on Jennyville, Tolman’s debut album. Dave Brainard (Brandy Clark, Jerrod Niemann, Sunny Sweeney) produced the album and gave every track a vibrant, larger than life feel, but it’s Tolman’s writing and the purity of her voice that makes it sound like such an instant classic.

Dave was so confident in my talent, constantly challenging me to reach beyond my limitations, and frankly the only producer in Nashville crazy enough to let me put a stripper pole in his studio…. but that’s a story for later.”

Tolman and Brainard worked on Jennyville for over two years, moving from guitar and vocal work tapes to the highly animated tracks that make the album so convincing. In an era where many artists settle for taking safe shots at radio, the two took the time to handcraft a concept album that feels more like a completed work of art.

“We just tried to have fun with capturing Jenny’s unique perspective on life and I feel we were successful in painting some bright colors around some meaningful subject matter” He adds, “For some reason, neon sparkly pink comes to mind.”

As everything country music could be again, Jenny Tolman brings that refreshing charm to an art form that so many of us cherish.

What was the song that influenced you to start a career in music? Was it Brad Paisley’s “We Danced?” Or was it a song from your dad’s band, The Indian River Boys, like “Way Down Deep?”

“I really think that when I heard ‘We Danced,’ it struck a chord deep in my soul. I didn’t know what to make of it at the time because I was probably only about 8, but looking back, I can tell that that was the moment my heart fell in love with country music.”

How do you get inspiration to write songs? Read your debut album focused on your teenage years.

“I draw inspiration from everywhere, it seems haha. From my own life experiences, from my friends’, family’s, etc. It helps to have a lot of crazy in your life!” 

Which artists have inspired you?

“Some of the artists that I really look up to are Lee Ann Womack, Garth Brooks, Amy Winehouse, Miranda Lambert, Brandy Clark, Emmylou Harris, and Dolly Parton. I think they are all such amazing storytellers and creators. None of them are afraid to say anything or scared to go out of the box. They connect so deeply to the human experience with their music, and I just find it mesmerizing.”

What was the first song you wrote? Is it on your debut self-titled album?

“Haha no, it’s not! The first little song I wrote was in 6th grade after my ‘boyfriend’ of two weeks broke up with me via passing notes! I believe the lines had something like ‘now I’m eating melting ice cream out of the carton, in my fuzzy socks and pajamas’ Taylor Swift was in my soul!

But the first ‘real’ song I wrote is called ‘Beautiful‘ and I wrote it after an abusive relationship in high school. I personally would just like to let it stay as the first song I truly wrote and not have it on a record at this point.”

What are the backstories of the songs on your new album Jennyville?

“That’s a loaded question haha! There are a ton of different characters in Jennyville.  There is a thread of me throughout each of the songs, but then I also get to step into roles that I wouldn’t normally play since I’m getting to be a narrator for these characters. They are all drawn from my real life experiences and my co-writers experiences. You’ll have to listen to find them all out.”

Was it the album’s producer, Dave Brainard, idea to not use any programmed instruments on your CD?

“This was just a natural understanding, not even a decision that had to be made, as both Dave and I love the feeling and sound of organic instruments. To me, music is like food. It should nourish you and heal you, and it’s harder to do that if it’s artificial. Just like I eat organic, I create organic music, haha, and that’s what attracted me to working with such a great talent, like Dave.”

How did you start pole-dancing, ala the main character of your current song, “Stripper For A Week?”

“I went to my first class just as something to do for my 20th birthday with a couple of my girlfriends. I fell in love with it immediately and have been doing it for two years now! The community of love was so surprising to me and led to this being another one of my passions now. When I started, I was reading a lot of articles about pole dancing, and I came across one that was literally about a girl that was a stripper for a week- fast forward to ‘Stripper For a Week‘ was born with Marty Dodson!”  

Behind the Pole” A mini-documentary: watch here.
Stripper for A Week” on Spotify

If you could record with any country music star, who would it be?

Dolly Parton. She is the ultimate goal of what I want to become. I think she is so smart, creative, talented, humble, and hilarious. I’ll have a theme park called ‘Jennyville’ someday, I know it!” 

Where is your dream venue or festival to perform in?

Madison Square Garden is always the top of the list in your mind of places you want to sell out some day. But I also think Red Rocks will be a dream to play” 

Where do you see yourself in two to five years?

“Hopefully making a positive impact on the world with my music, touring, making more music, coming up with new creative ways to express and spread love!”

What’s the best advice you have ever been given? Was it your mom telling you, “Birds of a feather flock together, but eagles fly alone?”

“I think that my mom telling me that is a huge thing that I have to constantly remind myself of, but, I would say the most important advice, or even just thing I’ve learned is to be grateful. Be grateful for everything that you have and more will come to you to be grateful for. I’ve seen it happen over and over, and it’s amazing.”

What prompted you to start ‘Jenny’s Joy Jar?’

“I started Jenny’s Joy Jar after I had watched a Louise Hay video talking about how the universe loves gratitude. I had been practicing gratitude and keeping my own personal gratitude jar for about a year after I watched that video. I saw how much good came out of it and how it really did change my life and create amazing new opportunities. Then I would look at social media and how it can be such a negative, egotistical trap for all of us, so I wanted to find a way to share what I had learned with the world. Hence, Jenny’s Joy Jar. Focus on the positives in your life and realize what you have, then the rest will come.”

What quote or saying do you always stick by?

“’I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb… and I also know that I’m not blonde.’ – Dolly Parton 
Even though I’m not called a dumb blonde, I love this quote because she’s basically saying that it doesn’t matter what people try and say about you and that you know what is true for you, and that’s all that matters. I think we can all get caught up in what other people think way too much, and this reminds me of my dad when something someone said or did is bothering me, and he flicks my shoulder and says ‘Just flick it off”‘haha.” 

For our readers who have never heard your music, explain your sound in five words:

“Country, Funny, Relatable, Sassy, Charming”

When you’re not performing what do you like to do?

“I love to bake gluten free and paleo things! I love pole dancing and hiking. Watching Lifetime movies is my guilty pleasure haha. They are so bad and so good all at the same time!”

If you were driving cross-country and could only bring one CD, what would it be?

12 Stories by Brandy Clark

What five artists/songs would I see on your recently played lists?

Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner ‘Fight and Scratch'” 

Amy Winehouse ‘You Know I’m No Good’

Britney Spears ‘Oops…I Did it Again’  

Garth Brooks ‘Shameless’

Brenda Lee ‘Dum Dum’

(Interesting array of music haha)”

What are your favorite songs to belt out at the bar/in the car/for karaoke?

“Definitely any of the Britney Spears hits”

If you weren’t singing, what would you be doing? 

“I’d probably be doing something in the holistic medicine/ natural and organic food world, or train to be a pole dance teacher.”

A movie of your life is being filmed – who are the leads?

“I hope Angelina Jolie would play me because I just think she could make me seem a lot cooler than I am!”

As a native, where are the go-to places in Nashville?

“One of my favorite places is 3rd & Lindsley on Monday nights when the Time Jumpers are playing. I could listen to them play forever! And then, obviously, you can never go wrong with going to the Opry!” 

What are the five things you each can’t live without?

 “1. Music

2. My family & my sweetheart

3. Gluten-free menus

4. Pole Dancing

5. Glitter”

If you were granted one wish, what would you ask for? 

“I would wish for an Opry debut where I can bring my pole backstage and get Jeannie Seely to take a spin on it and then post it on CMchat.”   

How can fans follow you on social media? 

“Instagram & Twitter – @jennytolman


Author: Country Cadre

Provide Country Music Chat, Views, News and Entertainment 24/7, inspire our community through motivation and laughter, and lead the way as a Social Media Community Pioneer helping fans connect with their favorite artists online.

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