Still Our Girl: In Conversation With Jann Arden

Jann Arden, once resident it-girl-meets-wild-child of Canada’a music scene, is anything but idle these days. She’ll be performing in the upcoming “It’s Always Something” Variety Show for Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto this Saturday; she recently tried her hand at jewelry design; she’s an inductee of the 2017 Canadian Music Industry Hall Of Fame; and in the midst of it all, her Twitter account of late has provided fans with a window into the artist’s brash wit, honesty, and even missteps.

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Arden about her upcoming events and the highs and lows of living in the public eye.

Congratulations on being the newest inductee to the Canadian Music Industry Hall Of Fame! How did you find out that you’d been chosen?

My manager, Bruce Allen, called me and told me about it. I’m still rather shocked. I must be getting old!!

This year you hosted the Junos with Olympian Jon Montgomery. Did you know each other before hand? Did he come to you for performance advice during the process?

I’d never met Jon before, although I felt like I knew him from seeing him on Amazing Race. He was a complete pro! He didn’t need any tips — in fact, I was looking to him for some of that cool calmness to rub off on me!

You recently designed some pearl jewelry in support of Dogs With No Names. We read that it was your first foray into jewelry design — what was your process? Do you think you’ll ever create anything else?  

My dear friend Judith Samson French and I have known each other for a long time. She has been my veterinarian for the better part of two decades. She has been working with the reservation dogs for several years and looking for solutions to keep their populations manageable. It’s amazing to see her using all her knowledge and her humanity to make these dogs’ lives better, and vastly making their human partners better as well.

Long story short, she had been raising money by selling small freshwater pearls at her veterinary clinic. And then got thinking she should expand the line out a bit. Fast forward a few years later to her asking me to make some sketches of jewellery designs. I literally drew a half a dozen ideas on a napkin and handed them to her. A few months later she showed me the beautiful prototypes of the jewellery I had drawn and I was absolutely gobsmacked.

Your social media presence has received incredibly varied reception this year; in July, you shared a heartbreakingly honest post about your mother’s Alzheimer’s. More recently you came under fire for your use of a word that was deemed culturally insensitive to Canada’s First Nations, for which you later apologized. Having been a public figure both before and after the advent of social media, how do you think this has changed the way the public views celebrities?  As someone with a considerably large platform, do you feel conflicted between self-censorship and honesty, or the pressures of maintaining a certain persona?

I don’t feel conflicted whatsoever. I say what I think and stand beside it. I have enough sense to know when I have stepped over a line and I am the first person that will apologize for offending other people — honestly, I don’t always know that I’m even doing it until it’s too late. You have to be prepared to take any kind of criticism from complete strangers and not be affected by their personal attacks.  I love social media and don’t have any problems navigating my way through the mire. I find it incredibly interesting, to tell you the truth, and obviously it is here to stay.

Any idea what you’ll be performing in “It’s Always Something”? 

I think I will do some older songs at the Gilda Radner event. It’s always nice to have some nostalgia swirling around when you have a glass of wine in your hand. I think it’s going to be a really spectacular evening full of lots of laughter. Lord knows we need lots of that.

You once published your journals — what was it like to share those private writings with the world? Do you still keep a journal? 

I still write all the time and do my very best not to censor myself. I don’t do it every day, but that’s the way it goes. I’ve never really minded putting myself out there. I don’t overthink it and I don’t dwell on things that I’ve done wrong or mistakes that I’ve made. I know at this point in my life that the only way I’m going to become a better version of myself is to more or less be screwing up all the time.

What song do you get asked to play the most?

There are a lot of songs that I get asked to play over and over again and for that I feel very fortunate. “Good Mother” is probably at the top of that list.

Is there a new album in the works?

I’ve started writing for a new record and will start recording with the amazing Bob Rock sometime in the spring. I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing with him and it’s been so fascinating to watch him do his thing.