Local Artist Spotlight: Jenn Champion

Local Artist Spotlight, Local Music
Dusty Henry
Photo by Angel Ceballos

Every week, KEXP features a new local artist with an interview and suggested tracks for where to start. This week, we’re featuring versatile songwriter Jenn Champion, who plays KEXP Rocks the Dock this Saturday at Waterfront Park.

It's hard to imagine the last two decades of Seattle indie rock without Jenn Champion. After moving to Seattle from Tucson, Arizona with her future Carissa's Wierd bandmates, they quickly became fixtures in the scene with their stirring, confessional songwriting. Since the band split-up in 2003, Champion has continued to explore new musical territory under the moniker S and now under her own name.

Following Champion has always been such a thrill because of the sonic risks she's willing to take as well as the candidness she implores in her lyrics. From album to album, regardless of the project, her audience gains a deeper understanding of who she is. Her boldness to let listeners in is unparalleled. We caught up with Champion to talk about how she continues to mix up her process, her lyrical openness, and where she's going next.

You’ve worked under a few different names since the end of Carissa’s Wierd and have maintained a fairly prolific output, changing things up from record to record. How do you keep yourself creative? Do you go into each record wanting to explore a new direction or do you have to set limitations for yourself?

When I make a record, I have kind of an idea of how I want it to sound and then do my best to execute it. Sometimes it's finding different instruments to play or different musicians and a producer who can help me get there.

One of the consistent hallmarks of your music has been your confessional songwriting. Has it gotten easier to be so open in your music over the years? Do you find it to be cathartic?

Well, I think writing songs in general is hard. Being confessional is just what I gravitate to I guess... I think the difficulty comes with deciding whether or not to publish it.

Last year you put out the No One EP, your first release as Jenn Champion. Sonically, it features a lot more electronic elements and drum loops that feel sort of akin to the first S record, Puking and Crying. It sounds like you’ve been doing venturing in this direction a bit lately with your side project Malidont. What about this style has been appealing to you lately? Do you think it’s a direction you’re going to continue in?

I have always loved electronic music, even trashy techno. I just love it. So I just got a synthesizer a few years ago and started messing around and I think I feel confident enough now to use more synth type stuff on an album or in a show.

Alongside the title-track and then six remixes from local producers like Glitterbang, Crater, SassyBlack, and more. What made you want to put a spotlight on local producers via remixes on this release?

I love the music family I have in Seattle and there are some super dope artists that I admire and I wanted to see what they would do with the song and I love what they all did .

What’s next for you? Is there a Jenn Champion LP in the works?

I am working on a new album with a producer Brian Fennell. I am really excited about it. It will be very different then Cool Choices — just always changing it up!



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