I met up with Jenna Bennett at the Devil’s Dyke pub for an informal chat about everything she’s doing. In between the giggles, she told me about playing open mics, her band and letting other people rearrange her songs.
“I don’t really get angry that much, I am an emotional Bernard [?] but if someone upsets me, I will write a song about it. I don’t tend to confront people about things.”
Since I started writing about music in Brighton, there’s someone I’ve wanted to tell you about. Her music is deeply personal, and yet highly relatable. I can’t tell you why, and it’s for one of the reasons I love writing about music. There’s music which just needs to be talked about, and it’s often the most difficult to quantify why using just words. Maybe words coupled with some frantic arm gestures – indicating something of the whizzes and pops that happen in your brain while you watch her perform will do. Although a video of me leaping around flailing my arms might be entertaining in a YouTube kinda way, it wont tell you much about Jenna Bennet, and she’s far more interesting.
After seeing her perform on her own live, I knew I’d end up writing about her. With little effort, she achieves something that any musician strives for; the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. There’s magic in the way Jenna performs a song. You’re being exposed to an intimately personal and cheerfully delivered part of her experience, which is part of her appeal. Her own quirky personality leaks into her delivery, giving her a unique and highly appealing sound overall that is undeniably authentic.
There’s something about the way she delivers her songs, somewhere between Eliza Carthy, Ani DiFranco, Laura Marling and Alanis Morissette, coupled with the personality that I can only describe as an explosion of colour and laughter that draws you into her music even more.
After moving to Brighton from Cornwall, she became a regular on the open mic circuit and drank in a small pub on North Road, called Three Jolly Butchers. It was here she first started running her own nights, which has evolved into regular appearances at The Quadrant and The Thomas Kemp. Playing around Brighton, she started picking up band members who appear on her recordings and at her bigger gigs in Brighton and London.
Despite all this, when I met her at Devil’s Dyke for a chat, she told me that she’s only recently become confident of her own abilities. Peppered with her signature laugh, she tells me about the attitude she feels she has to maintain at band practices, and about letting other people edit her songs for pre-production on her upcoming EP.
She’s still coming to terms with the idea of managing her own career and being more “professional” about things. “I’m finding it really fascinating learning how to be as a businesswoman, it’s weird.”
“It was very hard for me, I’ve never been in that situation where you’re like, ok, let’s change it.” That might sound like the beginning of selling out, but that’s only if you’ve missed half of what Jenna gives her audiences. Her delivery and her infectious attitude are as much a part of her and the music as the songs themselves, and it’s another reason why you need to go and see this lady live.
As much as I was blown away by her at an open mic, she’s more level headed about her own shows. “Every performance I do, I always try to connect to some kind of emotion when I’m doing it, it’s not like I’m ever fake with it but I guess at the open mics it’s a bit more like work and I am having to fill time. With gigs, people have come to see me, and I feel that connection with the audience so it’s much easier to get an emotive performance out of it.”
If you’re a regular open mic attendee in Brighton, or just enjoy drinking in pubs it’s highly likely you’ll come across Jenna at some point if you haven’t already. Either way, she’s probably playing in a pub near you, filling any empty space available with her magnetic aura.
You can see Jenna live at The Hope in Brighton on the 17th March.
JW Photography provided the lovely photography for this article.
Jenna on Balcony TV: