Jenny Gillespie Mason

Jenny Gillespie Mason

Jenny Gillespie Mason attended the Workshop in songwriting in 1995, then joined the residential staff as a teacher and counselor in 1999, 2001 and 2002.

Where are you living and what brought you there?

San Francisco. After 10 years in Chicago, we were ready for mild weather!

Where are you working and what do you enjoy about it?

I am a mommy to Sebastian, age 2, and a forthcoming baby boy in July 2016. I also write, perform and release music as Jenny Gillespie and Sangamo Divvens. I run a record label called Narooma for “genre-straddling” female artists such as Australian singer Via Tania. I love being a mom because the daily structure of taking care of children, and the heart expansion so natural to child-rearing, has actually informed and changed my art.

What do you find yourself most often reading/listening to lately and why?

I am listening to Morning/Evening by Four Tet; Maison Rose by Emmanuelle Perrenin; and my husband playing Ravel on the piano. It’s just what soothes and speaks to me, and my husband is just in the house playing this gorgeous music! I’m reading Selected Poems: Robert Creeley because it’s been on my shelf forever, and I love the four portraits of him on the cover—they call out to me to know his spirit, and also the Bhagavad Gita or Essential Haiku translated by Robert Hass right before bed—it calms me down for the night!

What are you working on right now and what does it represent in the larger body of your artistic accomplishments?

I recently released Cure for Dreaming, an 8 song suite recorded in LA in 2015. I feel it’s my most polished work, the most direct lyrics. It represents progression in musical sophistication but also a return to the directness and unfettered intentions of how I wrote as a teenager when I first came to YWW. I am writing new songs now that are highly autobiographical about the complexity of being an artist mother and my own familial past in Springfield, IL. I have no idea if I will release them. I’m always just trying to keep working on stuff for my own mental health!

What are your publications, performances, albums, and/or achievements that seem most important to you at this point in time?

I received an MFA in Poetry in 2013 from Warren Wilson. My album Chamma was named best of 2014 by Billboard Magazine. I performed at Paris Fashion Week in 2013, which was definitely the pinnacle of my performance history!

How would you characterize the influence of your YWW experience in your life?

It gave me the opportunity to be around other creative and quirky teenagers. I didn’t know many of those in rural Illinois—I’m sure they existed, but there was never a sphere where we could gather. So being around likeminded kids gave me confidence in my own weirdness, that it was actually cool.

What’s the best advice you can give a Young Writer?

Work without attachment. Find joy in the process. Live a full life, which includes being in healthy and kind friendships and relationships. Drama does not always equal good work!

Where can we find you online?