In our second interview of the series. We ‘Get to Know’ A&R manager and owner of Blue Ave Music Group, Jenny Powers. Jenny talks about her start in A&R and what A&R is. She also dives into her quarantine life and how the music industry is trying to improve in the wake of BLM & Me Too.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Hi, Jenny! Thank you for doing this. To begin, How are you doing?
JENNY POWERS: Hey Brittney, I’m excited to speak with you today. I’m doing great, thank you for asking.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Can you dive into your backstory about your start in A&R? Then started your company Blue Ave Music?
JENNY POWERS: I’d been working with the reggae rock band TreeHouse! for years. Stephanie Miller and I were helping a different band through some technical issues. She brought expertise on the touring and day to day management side and I on the business management side. We saw the value each of us brought to the situation and we realized that other bands and musicians needed what we could offer. Thus Blue Avenue Music Group came into fruition.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Can you describe to my readers what one does in A&R for those that might be unfamiliar?
JENNY POWERS: I’m sure my approach is a little different than most. I focus on getting their business structure in order, laying the foundations they need to grow, streamlining their royalties, and defining their band structure and ownership. Without those things in place it’s hard to grow the band/artist in a sustainable way.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What has been one of your most rewarding experiences working in A&R?
JENNY POWERS: I’ve been blessed to work with some incredibly talented artists. Their drive and passion for their art gives me real purpose in what I’m doing. I’ve worked with artists that top charts, but those are just moments in their careers. My greatest reward is the long term relationships I build with these artists. The music industry can be a place of highs and lows and I try to be a point of consistency in their lives where they can turn to for guidance, direction, and validation. These musicians trust me with their art and I value that above any accolades.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How have you had to adjust at Blue Ave Music to deal with the challenges that the pandemic has brought on?
JENNY POWERS: In the beginning it was challenging from a family point of view. We became homeschooling parents running Blue Avenue remotely. We scheduled client meetings in between school zoom meetings. Got up early and worked late into the night.
(cont.) My kids are now back to in person school 5 days a week. I have been able to adjust back to a “regular” schedule…. Whatever that means.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What advice would you give to other creatives to best adapt to the changes and challenges the pandemic has caused?
JENNY POWERS: The pandemic forced touring musicians off the road and forced them to be creative with the time they were given. We learned that live streams connecting the artist with fans was a great way to keep their fan bases engaged. Stripped down content worked better than flashy video production. As a society we were forced back to basics and from that I think we will see some of the greatests forms of art released over the next year.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How do you see the industry continuing to evolve under the movements of Black Lives Matter & Me Too?
JENNY POWERS: The people I work with in this industry support raising the voices of black musicians and strong women. I’m grateful to support Girls Rock Camp and the impacts on social change that they work on.
(cont.) Taylor Swift has been power moving and it is some of the most amazingly empowering boss things I’ve seen. From coming into her voice politically, calling out unwanted advances, re-recording her older albums so that she owns the masters and publishing. She is owning it and I’m supporting it in every way possible.
(cont.) Right now we are seeing a huge shift in Country Music. LGBTQ artists, women and black artists are all claiming their space and it’s beautiful to watch. In the late 90’s through about 2008 it felt that as a country music fan, I was not really connecting with mainstream music from the genre. That’s when I sought out more indie acts like Those Darlins, American Aquarium, Jason Isbell, Old 97’s, and others. During this time I distinctly remember an article written about Those Darlins by some guy who focused on their appearance and had essentially written them off as being musically talented because they didn’t meet his standard of beauty. This unsettled me, so I wrote the guy to point out that even though he had a face only his mother could love, it wasn’t his looks that diminished his writing, it was definitely his lack of skill. To be honest, if you’d ever met Those Darlins, you’d see how they exuded this badassery that if you couldn’t handle being around, you’d get left behind. Unfortunately, focusing on looks is still prevalent in music writing. I encountered it recently with a female writer and one of the male artists I work with. It was a complete missed opportunity for this writer to provide valuable content by highlighting the artist’s talents, creativity, the work he does with mental health and the new single we were promoting. Instead, she highlighted how handsome she thought he was.
(cont.) Marissa R. Moss has a book coming out that I can’t wait to read called, Where Have All The Cowgirls Gone: How the Women of Country Music Reinvented Themselves and the Industry to Become the Success Story They Were Never Supposed to Be, and Lorie Liebig is launching the podcast More Than a Cowgirl that is about women in country and how their music connects us all. But moreover, these two writers have been lifting the voices of black country music artists like Mickey Guyton. They are doing important work and I’m glad to witness it.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: For an industry that’s so fast-paced, self-care is essential. What do you practice that?
JENNY POWERS: Making sure I take a few quiet moments to myself to meditate and have gratitude each day.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: And… Last question, what is the single piece of pop culture that has kept you sane during quarantine?
JENNY POWERS: Cobra Kai
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Is there anything else you would like to say? Thanks, again for taking the time out.
JENNY POWERS: Yeah, if you are a musician looking for help navigating this industry, send me a message at [email protected]. I’m sure we can help guide you in the right direction.
We continue the series next Friday with Michelle Shiers. Michelle is the house photographer at The Greek Theatre.