“First of all, thank you for the outstanding, splendid review of the album. I read this, I held my breath, and I was… I can’t believe… that was so good. You so got the idea of the whole thing, it was perfect.”
Well, with that out of the way, knowing I had properly wrapped my head around the concept of Jen Majura’s upcoming solo album, InZENity (Out November 24th), I managed to pry a very busy Jen away from practicing her newest instrument, the theremin, for a bit of a chat about everything going on in her world. But first, allow me to back track for a minute.
“Jen who?” You ask? Bassist, guitarist, singer, music school founder and rat mum, Jen is known for her work in the bands Black Thunder Ladies, Equilibrium, and Knorkator, but most recently, since 2015, solo artist and lead guitarist of the rock band Evanescence. Overdrive sat down with her to chat all things InZENity, Evanescence, and more.
We began by speaking about life following the small-town musician’s addition to Evanescence back in August 2015. Majura described it as being “a trip,” adding that “life has changed drastically, but if you think about it as a musician, who wouldn’t want to experience a beautiful adventure like this? I mean, I get to see places I’ve never been before. I’m so excited to go to Australia next year for the first time. (With Evanescence, performing Synthesis Live in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in February 2018.) Mainly of course, it’s work, but I’ve found not only a great work environment, I’ve found like a new family, and great, great friendship.”
Jen likens her relationship with lead vocalist, Amy Lee as being “soul twins,” and went on to reiterate the importance of band members having these strong friendships by saying,
“You can have the greatest guitar player and the fastest drummer or whatever, but when that person sucks as a human being, you don’t want to tour with that person because it’s the human relationship that’s so important. It’s only maximum two hours on stage each night, but what about the other 22 hours of the day?”
With her second solo album, set for a November 24th release, Jen spoke fondly about the how InZENity became possible. To assist her with the costs associated with creating an album, Jen ran a crowdfunding campaign where the US$8,000 goal was exceeded within the first 22 hours, and then went on to raise a total of 185% of the original goal by the end of its eight week run. Jen explained that when she created the campaign and set the funding goal, she realistically only expected it to ‘maaaaybe’ raise a maximum of US$3,000, so to see it blow that expectation out of the water still leaves her in absolute awe. “It blew my mind. It blew my mind! During the first twelve seconds, the most expensive perk was gone, and it was like ‘wait a minute. This has got to be a fake or there’s a problem with my app right now. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe it, every day I looked at it… I still can’t believe it,” she says with the utmost disbelief in her voice. “I’m so blessed with beautiful, supportive fans and friends and colleagues, and I’m really, really, I’m speechless about the crowdfunding experience, it’s crazy.”
On the verge of becoming teary-eyed and struggling to find the words to explain the emotions, even a week after the end of the campaign, Jen went on to explain that she still finds herself in a sense of complete and utter shock and describes just how thankful she is for all of the support from so many people around the world who have, by supporting the campaign, allowed her to widen her overall options in terms of the creation and marketing of the album. Without this incredible outpouring of support, she told me she would probably just have ordered two boxes of the album to hand out to people as she pleases, but has now been able to hire a team to assist her with marketing and promotion. Surely a welcome relief considering she will be on the road in the United States with Evanescence at the time of release.
Jen recalls the recording process of InZENity well and clarified that she had most of the songs written and ready to go before deciding it was time to hit the studio and press record. Considering how full-on this year has been for her, she tells me that had she still had more writing to do, she would not have gone in to record the album in August, and instead would have waited until she had the material and felt like artistically the time was right. Jen doesn’t recall where the idea behind the album – and song – title came from, and in fact, doesn’t remember which came first. The old chicken or the egg scenario. “InZENity (song), in the beginning, was called ‘Crank,’ I remember that,” she laughs, “and it slowly turned into InZENity because of that idea and that philosophy that is behind the album. So you can find that philosophy of your inner Zen, which you will find as soon as you accept all the opposites, all the ying and yang. Every one of us has black and white, everyone has fast and slow, happy and mellow, and the entire [idea] that everyone has the opposites thing. It’s not only in the song writing, but also in the songs themselves when you hear them all together, as well as in the artwork, because everything is black and white. There’s no colours or anything, the whole thing is thought through.” Mid-thought, Jen suddenly bursts out laughing and says, “I don’t know why I can up with InZENity to be honest. I thought it was awesome, and of course I’ve heard the joke a zillion times – ‘why didn’t you call in InJENity, ha – ha. Well yeah, I get it guys, okay,’ and yeah, it’s about finding your inner Zen, inside every one of us.
Even before beginning the recording of the album, Jen has always described the sound as being “very Jen-like.” This is the only way that Jen, her friends, and even I have been able to describe the sound and feel that the album showcases so clearly, and to her, this is possibly the most special compliment that a musician can receive in regards to their work. “That is the biggest compliment that an artist can actually get, when you’re not comparable to whatever, you know? You just sound like yourself and that is so beautiful that really it does sound like Jen.” She goes on to share a few examples of her colleagues comparing InZENity to the likes of “Extreme meets System of a Down” or “Faith No More on steroids,” but stating that at the end of the day, the only way they can really describe it is to say “it’s just Jen.” Jen then went on to describe what makes InZENity “Jen-like” to her, saying, “the difference to my first album is that with InZENity I really tried to focus on how I write, how I play, how I want to get the feelings into that song and blocked out things like how do I have to sound to make it market compatible, sellable, all those things to make it commercial. I just blocked everything out and was like, ‘okay, maybe the whole world thinks I’m nuts. Well then the whole world will think that I’m nuts, but I want to focus on what I hear. I want to make everyone who’s interested hear what I hear, and I’m not doing this on purpose to be chart entry, or world tour[ing], it’s just about the music. It’s really, really about the music.”
Naturally the conversation took a slight detour into the stories behind how some of the songs on InZENity came to be, and very quickly the song Like Chuck Norris came up. Jen told the story about how she had had a dinner with friends when a Chuck Norris joke was told on the radio and the night then immediately became about telling Chuck Norris jokes. “..I was like ‘hmm, why not write a song about Chuck Norris? That is cool, so it was just coincidence,” she grins, before adding, “You know what, just recently tried to Google if someone had written a song about Chuck Norris and I couldn’t find anything. So maybe it’s the first.” Jen also was quick to admit that she really hopes that one day Chuck Norris himself will hear the song.
Jen’s next port of call, of course, will be the US leg of Evanescence’s Synthesis tour, beginning with US dates through until the end of the year, before coming to Australia for the first time in February 2018 – which she is immensely excited about, her face just lit up like the Fourth of July talking about it. The Australian tour will then followed by a European run, after which, she anticipates she will be able to return home “for like five minutes.” As for what her plans are musically after the end of the currently-announced Synthesis dates, she doesn’t know yet. She was very quick – and clear – to point out that due to her crazy schedule, the follow-up Jen album “I guess probably won’t happen until like 2020, at the earliest.”
As for Evanescence, she explains that there will be a new band album to follow Synthesis – but we’ll have to hold tight on further news on that for a little while longer. “Well there will be a band album after this adventure called Synthesis, but we haven’t talked about it. Another thing where Amy and I are pretty much alike mind-wise is [that] we’re focused workers. Yes, there will be different things going on later, but now, focus on what’s going on now and just keep your thoughts together on this to be most effective and most productive.”
Jen also spoke fondly about learning the theremin for Synthesis, and the one word she kept finding herself repeating was ‘exciting.’ She definitely found it a challenge to learn as it is wildly different to any of the other instruments she plays in that you don’t touch the instrument at all to play it, however it looks to have turned out more successful than her saxophone playing attempts, which she describes as sounding like a dying cat. Jen also let on that the theremin is not Synthesis exclusive and in fact, features in a few songs on InZENity as well. She is confident that she will continue to play and create with the theremin often after the end of the Synthesis era, so perhaps there will be some more new sounds on that follow-up 2020 record.
With Evanescence hitting our shores soon for four shows, beginning with Brisbane on February 11th at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, followed by two shows at the Sydney Opera House on February 13th & 14th, and closing with a show at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena on February 16th, we are hoping to catch up with Jen again soon and find out what new plans may be in store for Evanescence and Jen Majura in 2018. Until then, don’t forget to get your tickets to catch Synthesis Live with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, or Melbourne Symphony Orchestra when they go on sale on Monday October 9th at 9am!