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October 2018 - Jen Sygit

It's All About Time for Lansing Based Singer-Songwriter

Story by LCC Radio Reporter Sarah Spohn

Jen Sygit LiveWhen Jen Sygit was a youngster, she couldn’t sleep because of all the songs in her head. Today, she’s singing out loud, whether it’s in her band STELLA!, back-up for Joshua Davis, alongside Sam Corbin, or her own original solo material.

“My partner Geoff Ian Lewis (who also played percussion on the record) says I tap rhythms with my fingers and sing in my sleep. Music is just a part of who I am,” Sygit said. “I wrote my first songs in elementary school on a crappy organ in my parent’s basement.”

Sygit grew up in Marysville, a little town South of Port Huron, before attending Interlochen music programs. After graduating with a Degree in English and minor in Advertising and Psychology from MSU, Sygit realized music was where her heart was – even if the paychecks weren’t as steady.

11 years later, the multi-instrumentalist has been able to support herself from music full time. Her latest album – her fourth studio release, It’s About Time sees Sygit branching out from her traditional roots sound.

“I feel like I’ve stretched a bit more,” Sygit said. “Part of this ability to stretch was due to the large budget I had going in to the studio (funded by my amazing fans), but also because of the help of my talented producer and long-time friend Dominic John Davis.”

The album was made, in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign which resulted in plenty of happy tears from Sygit as well as $15,000 in donations.

“His assistance through the process allowed me try on a few new hats I’d previously shied away from,” Sygit said of Davis’ help. “For example, I play keys on this record (a first for me in studio) because of Dom’s encouragement. I had planned on having a more experienced player record the part. Another first for me was the use of a horn line on the record. At home, I listen to a lot of old soul, and I particularly enjoy the sounds the coming out of New Orleans. Being a total sucker for a horn section, these styles also appeal to me for their frequent inclusion of brass alongside a rootsy soulful sound.”

It’s About Time’s tongue-in-cheek record title, was also inspired by Dominic John Davis. While Davis was on Jack White’s tour, Sygit was in her living room in Lansing and they co-wrote the song remotely. The title track was written two weeks before heading iJen Sygit's 2018 Album "It's About Time"nto La Luna Sound & Recording in Kalamazoo.

“His help was invaluable to me throughout the process,” Sygit said, “he’s a super human and an all-around phenom. I’m lucky to call him friend.”

Nine years after So Long Polyanna, her last folk roots/Americana record, Sygit describes this album as a rebirth. She even spotted an unintentional death theme within the lyrical imagery.

“I guess I sort of view this project as a musical rebirth of sorts, similar to the idea of the death card in a tarot deck,” Sygit said. “It’s not a literal death, but a shift in focus and a letting go of the past. It takes a lot of energy and vulnerability to put your art out into the world, and I think I needed a long break... or a short death if you will... to see that I wasn’t in fact done with bringing music into this world.”

Far from done, Sygit brings one of her most star-studded albums to date – which is proving well worth the wait. Guest appearances include two-time Grammy winner Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars, formerly of The Black Crowes) and nine-time Juno award winner Colin Linden (Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, Emmylou Harris, TV’s Nashville). Backup vocals include credits from Nashville singers Ann & Regina McCrary (The McCrary Sisters) and Rachael Davis. Dominic John Davis, Mike Lynch,‘Captain Midnite’ Drew Howard, Geoff Ian Lewis, Ross Huff, Tim Haldeman and Elliot Green also make up the main session band full of Michigan all stars.

“Honestly, I feel unworthy and extremely grateful to have had so many of my idols share their talent on this recording,” Sygit said.

Songwriting for the powerful vocalist means being attentive and open to inspiration. “The real work is taking the initial idea and molding it like a ball of clay until the song starts taking shape,” Sygit said. “There is no right way to write a song, but I would say that one thing that makes a songwriter truly great is the ability to edit their thoughts. ‘Never waste a word’ is a common mantra I meditate on.”

The independent release comes nine years after her folk roots/Americana album, So Long Pollyanna. During that time off, Sygit was anything but sitting idle. Her vocals made it onto almost 50 albums, and she shared stages with Joshua Davis, Luke Winslow King, Drew Nelson, Jill Jack and more.

The Lansing-based musician is gearing up to celebrate the release of the album with shows across the state. She’s knee-deep in packages, mailing out the rewards to her Kickstarter supporters, and loving the feedback she’s received on the new songs.
Jen Sygit
“Interestingly... my top tracks on the new album have generally not been my fans top picks,” Sygit said.

Other stops include a Ten Pound Fiddle Concert Series show in East Lansing on Oct.12, and Northfield Mandolins Presents show in Marshall on Oct. 13. She’ll be at 20 Front Street, a listening room, celebrating her record release show on Oct. 18. and at the Holding House in Detroit on Oct. 19.

“It’s definitely a treat to have a captive listening audience to perform for,” Sygit said. “It’s easier to communicate and create synergy with an attentive crowd, but honestly I think the best musicians have been forced to spend some time playing long sets in bars for people who don’t want to actively listen.”

“If you can survive hours of slinging your heart out to a room of borderline-hostile witnesses, and imagine if you can win those people over... then you’ve really got something to be proud of!”

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