Jenny Owen Youngs brings JOY to Smith

Photo by Becca Damante ’17 and Demarree Ruthrauff ’18 | Jenny Owen Youngs, a LGBTQ figure in the music industry, discusses her podcast and other aspects of her career.

 

Becca Damante ’17 and Demarree Ruthrauff ’18
Staff Writer and Contributing Writer

Self-proclaimed “singer, songwriter and natural history enthusiast,” New Jersey native Jenny Owen Youngs is a force to be reckoned with. Owen Youngs took the stage at Smith College in Oct. 2015 as part of a panel on LGBTQ activism with the non-profit organization Everyone Is Gay. She will return to perform a solo show at Jittery’s Live on April 6 at 9 p.m. in Davis Ballroom.

Since her last visit to Northampton, Owen Youngs made the brave decision to pack up all her things and move across the country to Los Angeles. Her primary purpose was to devote more time to co-writing with other artists and writers, which she says “allows her to get inside someone else’s head or point of view” and “changed the way she approached writing for herself.” While in Los Angeles, she has written a “heap of songs” both on her own and collaboratively. She hopes to release an album in the next year.

In 2016, Owen Youngs also launched a weekly podcast, Buffering the Vampire Slayer, with her wife Kristin Russo. In the podcast, the two discuss the hit TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” through a feminist lens and perform original songs recapping each episode. Last week, we had the chance to ask her some questions about being LGBTQ in the music industry and her future musical endeavors.

You came out through a Noisey blog post in June of 2013, and then wrote an open letter about how your life had changed in the year following. In our current political climate, have your feelings on being a LGBTQ figure in the music industry changed? If so, how?

Yes, my feelings have changed and no, my feelings haven’t. I feel that it is very valuable to be visible. I think that it’s meaningful and that if it’s within your comfort zone, then I highly recommend it to my fellow musicians…Of course, everything gets a little heightened and a little raw right at this moment in American history, so it feels more important in that way to be visible and to be vocal. It’s bad out there, but we also have each other and I’m very happy that I made that decision then so that I could be as comfortable as I am by now in the current climate.

What has your experience been like working on the Buffering the Vampire Slayer podcast?

I’m really happy that we started making the podcast because it’s simultaneously like a safe, sort of escapist space for people to have something fun and feminist to listen to. Also, engaging in what’s kind of a political act in and of itself is being two queer women making a thing together where we talk about queer stuff some of the time. I’m happy that we are creating that space for people if that’s a space that’s interesting to them or feels good to them.

Where do see yourself going musically in the next year?

I have been excited to have the sort of space and reason to be trying a lot of new things. I’m really excited to make my next record, which will be like a step forward and a step back on my sonic timeline…And universe-willing, I’m going to make at least one other not-specifically-me record that I’m really excited about that’s conceptual. I don’t want to say too much about it because it’s not just my thing. And I’m going to continue to do co-writing and collaborating with people…There’s some stuff in the T-shirt gun that hasn’t come out yet that I’m really excited about. And a year from now, I’ll have written another 50 songs about “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” And I’m really hoping to create some more chapters in this ongoing serial song project that I’ve worked on that’s museum-based called EXHIBIT.

If you could collaborate with anybody living or dead, who would it be and why?

I know that I should be like “all the classics dead people.” But I really just want to write some songs with Julien Baker, Margaret Glaspy and Courtney Barnett. Those people are very exciting to me. In this exact moment, their vibes are the vibes I’m into. I know I’m supposed to be like “John Lennon,” but (pauses) LADIES.

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