By Reyan Ali
4:40 PM EDT, June 24, 2013
w/ Night Beds and John Parson. $10. 8 p.m., June 27. Cafe Nine, 250 State St., New Haven, cafenine.com
One of two scenarios tends to occur when a child grows up alongside something their parent really, really loves. Either the child really, really loves that thing, too, or learns how to really, really hate it. In the instance of Long Island-bred, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Jenny Ognibene (professional alias: Jenny O.) and her father's preferred genre, the former outcome won. As she discusses the favorite music of her youth, Ognibene brings up classic rock, jazz, classical music and hip-hop. The first genre on that list wielded the most influence. Her dad manned (and still mans) bass in classic rock cover bands as she was growing up, performing Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys and Motown artists. At least one of her father's groups practiced in her home, and she would go see him play all the time. By the time she was of high school age, noted local acts played school dances and battles of the bands, and her father would often participate in such bands, as would Ognibene herself.
“All those songs were just part of my upbringing, and all those instruments were just around,” the 31-year-old says. “[Classic rock has] just always suited me. I always have been in alignment with my father on music in that way. I mean, there's a lot of differences. Even now, I'll play him things he doesn't like that I'm like, 'Okay, now, I know this is good, dad.' But as far as the Beatles [go], it's like, yeah, I love the Beatles. I've never not liked the Beatles because my father liked the Beatles.” She rebelled in non-musical ways, she adds. “Your normal stuff. Uhhh... not being good at school.”
Because of all these ties and a sense of normalcy she tied to the idea of making music, she began playing instruments at an early age. Piano came around age 6, guitar at 8, and then cello and electric bass somewhere around there, too. At 14, she finished writing her first song, but before she would graduate high school and attend secondary schools around New York, she didn't take the idea of making music particularly seriously. As she left home and realized that she needed an instrument much more portable than the piano in order to make it as a traveling singer-songwriter, she began cultivating her chops on the guitar. During one visit to California to do some recording, she met the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson, and talking to Robinson seriously motivated her and made her feel like she could make a career work. She also talks about feeling such a deep emotional connection to people in California — one that reminded her of her youth — that she made the move out west.
Automechanic, Jenny O.'s February-released debut full-length, finds her focusing on daydreamy, acoustic-heavy songs replete with hues of classic rock bands and 1970s singer-songwriter sorts. The record maintains a general peacefulness, what with its slow to medium pace and genial vocal harmonies, but half the time, it's a resigned sort of peacefulness. Take “Lazy Jane,” which obsesses over self-doubt in the face of love: “I'll never make it with the other believers/I don't have it/And I'm likely to quit” and later “I'm feeling blue/Cause I can't have you/Call me crazy/Hey, it may be true/I'm still crying for you.” But a song later in “Come Get Me,” the music is much more upbeat. Then, “Get Lost” — the track after that — returns to gloom. This is how the majority of Automechanic runs: a sad song, a happy song, a sad song, a happy song. To Ognibene's credit, it's a savvy enough tactic to help show off some range.
Much like the most famous records of artists her father prefers, Automechanic was recorded to two-inch analog tape instead of being done digitally. Clarity of sound was key to this decision, as was nostalgia — but the latter not in the way you'd think. “I recorded little songs on a tape machine as a little kid. We always had a tape machine in the house, so there's a common theme in my life of winding reels of tape and using tape machines. I guess when I'm recording or making a record, there's a sense of belonging there — kind of [feeling] in my element,” she says. “There's a nostalgia in that sense of throughout my life, this is my process, but it's not a nostalgia for another time period or anybody else's life.”
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