Image courtesy Vincent Lim
How long have you been in the music industry?
I started playing and performing on the bass when I was 11 with the full intention of doing it professionally. I did my first paying gig at age 15 in the 2000.
How did you get involved in music?
I was always drawn to it. My parents are both musically inclined. My mom is an amateur flute player who played in the community concert band, and my dad used to play guitar at home and at parties. There was constantly music playing in our house: folk, classical, electronic, and oldies. When I discovered the Beatles at age 11, I was a goner – I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I started playing my dad’s guitar right away, and a few months later my cousin gave me an old electric bass. I couldn’t put it down! Shortly thereafter I started junior high, at which point I learned to read music and played in the school concert bands and jazz bands. Eventually I formed a rock band with some friends that started doing some paid work, and as my skills developed I started to get hired for theatre pit work in the area as well. I said yes to every musical opportunity. All I ever wanted to do was play as much music as possible, and as well as I could.
How do you describe your sound?
It depends which style I’m playing. I think versatility of sound is one of my best assets. I can be more specific about our Guilt & Co shows! The band that plays there is called the Jen Hodge All Stars. The band includes myself on bass and vocals, Evan Arntzen on clarinet, saxophones, and vocals, Bonnie Northgraves on trumpet and vocals, and Dave Taylor on guitar. We play repertoire from 1900-1935, so think about what the music sounds like in Boardwalk Empire – it’s very lively, spontaneous music.
Can you recall your first live performance? What was that like?
I sure can! I played “Happy Together” with the school jazz band at the Fall concert in grade 7. I was so excited. I was certain I was going to be a rock star.
What can people expect when you are performing?
A Jen Hodge All Stars performance at Guilt is high energy, super fun, really swinging, lyrically cheeky, perfect to drink beer to. The room is usually full, so it’s a fun hang and good opportunity for people watching. There is a crowd of swing dancers who usually come do their thing, and often other musicians will wind up playing a few songs with us. It’s a blast.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
Not really. We do have a post-performance ritual – to head over to the Revel Room for a nightcap and last call cookies!
Can you name one of your best moments performing at Guilt & Co?
Guilt & Co is a magical venue and there are many moments I could pick, but I will go with one from last December. On our last night at Guilt of the year, the power went out shortly before we were supposed to start playing. The staff was worried that people would start to leave before the power would come back on and asked if we could start playing acoustically. We were thrilled to do so, as the music we play predates electronic amplification and had always wondered what it would sound like in that room without the PA. It was amazing! Everyone in the room was really engaged with what we were doing. It felt really intimate but also really energized; people danced, cheered and we just had a hoot. It must have been exactly what hanging in a Speakeasy on a winter’s night in the 1920s was like. The power never did come back on.
What are your thoughts on Vancouver’s Jazz music scene?
There are a lot of outstanding musicians here and a lot of different types of jazz being played with exceptional skill. We’re a jazz-rich city, for sure. The only thing we lack is enough venues for people to go hear it. There have been some new venues cropping up in the past two or three years, though, so fingers crossed that this continues.
How do you choose your musical repertoire?
For the Jen Hodge All Stars, we generally stick to the 1900-1935 time frame. We purposely pick tunes that are a little risqué. We also love to dig out obscure old tunes that no one’s heard in 80 years and breathe new life into them. I’ve found a lot of good songs that I’ve brought to the band via my collection of 78rpm records.
What have been and continue to be the best aspects of your career as a musician?
Meeting so many wonderful people, traveling to so many interesting places, the vast variety of situations I find myself in, and all the great music I get to be a part of.
Image courtesy of Brent Alley
What’s the best part about performing in Gastown?
I love Gastown! I find it historically interesting, aesthetically pleasing, and nowadays it has some of the neatest places to hang out in the city.
What are some of your favourite Gastown spots?
Guilt & Co (obviously), The Revel Room, The Alibi Room, Pekinpah, Momo Sushi, and Six Acres.
Who are your favourite musicians?
The Beatles, The Boswell Sisters, Edgar Meyer, Bix Beiderbecke, and John Entwistle.
In your opinion, what are the top three songs of all time?
Yikes, that’s a really hard question! I’m just going to pick three, but tomorrow the answer could be totally different: Stardust by Hoagy Carmichael, A Day in the Life by The Beatles, Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers.
If you could collaborate with any musician in the world, who would it be?
If you were stranded in an island, what is the one thing you need to have with you?
My bass. I could entertain myself by playing it and I could also turn it into a boat!
What do you love the most about being in the music scene?
There’s never a dull moment; it’s always different and exciting. And, of course, the music!
What is one piece of advice you would give to those aspiring to become a musician?
Don’t give up! The music industry is full of hard knocks, but it’s absolutely worth it to keep your chin up and just keep on truckin’.
You can check out Jen and the Jen Hodge All Stars band, playing live on Wednesdays at 9PM at Guilt & Co.