Yearning for simplicity

Jann Arden discusses how she’s managed to maintain a successful career for decades

Jann Arden says she never writes while on the road. She writes quickly, with one song taking no more than 90 minutes.
Jann Arden says she never writes while on the road. She writes quickly, with one song taking no more than 90 minutes.

Jann Arden shut it down.

“Well you see people always assume that I’m single,” she said in response to my question about her image as a strong single woman. “If I get asked questions I just shut it down … I don’t mind talking about myself but if you’re gonna talk about a relationship it involves somebody else and that’s not fair to them.”

Despite not addressing her personal life, she was incredibly candid about the current state of the music business in the days following Whitney Houston’s death. In our interview last month she constantly brought up how fame seems to damage beautiful women.

“You have to keep something under the table or you really are doomed, we see it all the time how people are just this open book and every move they make is documented and cameras are flashing,” she said. “I want nothing to do with it. I think it’s the most empty, plastic, bullshit existence.”

Arden said she surrounds herself with “good solid people” on tour, who spend their free time calling their spouses and children instead of indulging in parties and drugs.

“I’ve never done a drug in my life, I’ve never been around people that do them, I’ve never even seen cocaine,” she said. “I have never been in a room where I’ve actually seen it. I know what it looks like from TV. I smoked pot when I was I think 18 and ate a giant bag of chips and then never smoked it again.”

Arden said she lies awake at night thinking about artists who have been destroyed by the negative side of the music industry. But she said addiction is a choice.

“You can go off about addiction but you have to want to help yourself,” she said. “I mean my dad was an alcoholic so I watched that for years but he also chose to get better and really fought hard and he chose us as a family. And I’ll always be very grateful for that.”

Arden is currently on a cross-Canada tour, but she said it’s her 14-acre home that keeps her grounded. She bought the land six years ago and built a granny cottage for her parents on the lot.

“Music is about one per cent of my life,” she said. “Ninety-nine per cent of it is my family and taking my parents to Costco and my relationships and making meals for friends and watching movies and reading books and taking my dog for walks.”

Throughout our interview she repeatedly talked to her dog, who hates it when she talks on the phone.

“Do you want to come up and sit with me?” she cooed.

Throughout our conversation, Adele came up numerous times, for her ability to go out on stage and just be herself, ignoring the need for personas like Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce.

“Just being yourself is the most effortless thing in the world,” Arden said. “You can really see how desperate and how much people yearn for reality and simple things and imagery that they can relate to and grasp on to. So the proof is in how people reacted to [Adele], I mean I’ve been doing that for 35 years.”

Jann Arden plays the K-Rock Centre on March 13 at 7 p.m.

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