An accomplished, gifted and rewarded singer and songwriter whose lyrics capture the soul of real life experiences, Jenny Whiteley would have you believe she has decades of anecdotes to draw from. She has been performing for two decades already - yet she's only 30!
Her evocative, self-titled debut won the Juno Award for Best Roots & Traditional Recording: Solo in March 2001. On it, Jenny Whiteley conjures up scenes of old rusted-out cars on front lawns, takes a sobering stop at the bar and gets tangled up in a train robbery. The characters along the way pine for lost loves, lost youth and might just chase you off their property.
"As a songwriter," explains Whiteley, "I think of myself as a storyteller. So I don't feel bound by personal experience. If I come up with an idea that makes me think, 'Yeah, that's a book I'd want to read,' then it's a song worth writing."
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Aengus Finnan, an ambitious folk singer from Northern Ontario, paid Jenny the ultimate compliment recently by recording one of her songs, "John Tyrone" for his debut CD. The song is taken from Jenny's previous musical project, Heartbreak Hill - a straight-up bluegrass band that enjoyed rave reviews wherever they played.
Heartbreak Hill started a weekly tradition of High Lonesome Wednesdays at the Silver Dollar in Toronto, a night of pure bluegrass music, which continues in a slightly different form to this day.
Heartbreak Hill's only recorded effort was nominated for a Juno in 1998. As she did with Heartbreak Hill, Jenny now shares the stage with her musical virtuoso brother, Dan Whiteley. The early years of country music had magical brother pairings, so why not sister-brother?
"Through our teen years", Jenny explains, "Dan was playing guitar and got into this heavy-metal phase. At the time, I was listening to my parents' singer/songwriter-type records and some folk-psych stuff like the Incredible String Band. So there was a bit of a battle of wills around the house when Dan wanted to hear his Motorhead."
"The magic moment was discovering we could both enjoy listening to the Band. From then on, our musical tastes started to grow in the same direction, leading us back to the blues, over to Doc Watson and then to bluegrass."
Being a prodigy of such a musical family, meant her destiny was determined long ago. Her peers have recently recognized Jenny's incredible voice. Prairie Oyster invited Jenny to sing on their re-released "Man In The Moon" (a song written by Jenny's father Chris, incidentally), and that's Jenny singing background vocals on Sarah Harmer's new hit song "Basement Apartment".
Jenny has also been awarded showcase opportunities at the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals, and at the exclusive North American Folk Alliance. Jenny Whiteley's new, Juno Award winning CD, which she produced herself, is available now.