With an impressive 19 top 10 singles, eight Juno Awards and three bestselling books among a plethora of other accolades, there is little doubt that Jann Arden is a bona fide Canadian treasure.
With more than one million records sold in Canada, Arden’s honest, open approach to her craft and life in general extends far beyond the recording studio. An active social media participant, Arden can be threatening war one moment but sharing tender, contemplative tales the next.
It is that dichotomy that undoubtedly allows her fans to feel close to her, both as a person and as an artist. It is hard to find someone more “real” than Jann Arden.
“I think I have an advantage in many ways,” Arden says. “I am not particularly good looking and I am not tall and thin so it immediately disarms other women because I am not perceived as a threat. None of it is intentional though. I want to look as good as the next woman but I do think that I have grown to like that part of myself and what I have to present to people.
“One advantage that stems from being who I am is that people are interested in what I have to say and what I have to sing about as opposed to what hair products I am using or what diet I am on. All of those superficial things get washed away and what’s left is the song. That is what is most important at the end of the day.”
Humility aside, Arden’s longevity in the music business is no accident. In the time since her 1993 debut record Time For Mercy, the subject matter contained in her songs is able to resonate with the common person.
Fame was never the goal for Arden; she was much more interested in nurturing her ability to write a body of work that will stand the test of time.
“I would rather be like Gordon Lightfoot than the Backstreet Boys,” she says. “That is what I aspire to because statistically speaking, only three per cent of bands will have careers that last longer than 96 months. The rest of them just fall away. Surviving the first decade in the music business is precarious at best but as I roar into my third decade, I feel as though my fans have always been there for me. We are all getting older together and are all talking about things that we can relate to.”
As experienced and successful as Arden is, she is not above criticism. She found this out the hard way when it came to making her 12th studio album, Everything Almost, released this past April.
Working with renowned producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Michael Buble), Arden says that she sent the producer a collection of songs that she hoped would comprise Everything Almost. Imagine her surprise when, instead of forging ahead with the album, Rock instructed her to go back to the drawing board.
“When I went to Bob with the songs, he looked at me and told me that I wasn’t ready to record,” Jann says. “He felt as though I didn’t have the songs and more less sent me back to square one. It really hurt my feelings – no one had ever told me that before.
“But when the record was completed, I realized how happy I was that he put his foot down. The last thing anyone needs to surround themselves with is a bunch of people that just say ‘Yes’ to their every request or whim. Those people get so watered down, they become of no use to anybody.”
Although Arden might not want to be surrounded by “Yes” people, she is clearly not opposed to saying “Yes” to new endeavours.
Earlier this month, she co-hosted the Canadian Country Music Awards with acclaimed comedian Rick Mercer. Having made multiple appearances on The Rick Mercer Report in the past, Arden says working with Mercer in a totally different arena was welcoming.
“It is always so much fun to work with Rick,” she says. “We know each other very well, even if neither of us might not know that much about country music. It was a great time though. I had the opportunity to be introduced to a lot of new music while ratings for the televised show were up 400,000 viewers. So all in all, it was a great night for everyone.”
Arden also gleefully shares that she filmed another appearance for Mercer’s show, due to be aired in early October. Despite not sharing specifics on what her next Rick Mercer Report appearance entails, she says fans will be able to see the feature for themselves soon enough.
“I still have the bruises to show for it.”
What: Jann Arden with special guests Jill & Kate
When: Monday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets are $63.28 (service fees and taxes included) Available from the Casino New Brunswick box office or by calling 1-866-943-8849