By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Inkoo Kang
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"My grandmother, Sadie, she's like 93 or 94--she and I have always been very close," says guitarist/vocalist Jennifer Trynin. "And since she's getting older, she can be kind of out of it--she's not always all there. But on my thirtieth birthday, she suddenly became as lucid as she was when she was forty. She was like, `Jen, I thought you said if your music career wasn't happening by the time you were thirty, you were going to quit.' And I'm thinking, `You don't remember anything anymore, but you remember that. Oh, great.'"
Her grandmother's comment stung Trynin in part because she'd been thinking the same thing. She'd been steadily pouring herself into her music for seven years or so at that point and had very little to show for it. Moreover, her quit-by-thirty promise wasn't the first pledge of its kind she'd made. "At first I was like, `If it doesn't happen by the time I'm 26, I'm hanging it up.' And then I was like, `By the time I'm 28...' And then it was, `By the time I'm 30...' So I kept extending my own deadline. But I knew I was getting older, and it was definitely shit-or-get-off-the-pot time." Still, she recalls, she told her grandmother, "Sadie, you've got to give me a little more time."
Sadie did--and it turned out to be one of the better decisions she made. That's because Trynin, now 31, is finally receiving payback for her years of unrewarding toil. Her debut CD, modestly titled Cockamamie, has just been released by Warner Bros. in conjunction with Trynin's own Squint imprint, and the vast majority of the reviews it's garnered thus far have been rapturous. Trynin's melodies, her skill at pulling brawny riffs from her guitar, and her observational/confessional lyrics have led to a slew of flattering comparisons; Rolling Stone recently likened her to Liz Phair, the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde and (no, this isn't a misprint) Joni Mitchell. Trynin is appreciative of the attention, but she's bothered by that stereotypical something that lurks just beneath the surface of these kudos.
"It annoys me that people seem to think the only things they can say are, like, `It's a girl dog, and she's like this other girl dog,' instead of going, `It's a dog, and she's like this other dog,'" she notes. "I mean, it's true, I was born a girl, but I didn't do anything to make that happen. It's not my fault--and it's also not to my credit. It's just the way it was. But when I think of myself, being a girl isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Believe me, I know I'm a woman, and I love to have sex with men and the whole bit, but it's not the number-one thing that I think is interesting.
"It seems to me that with the musical climate the way it is now, women are obviously being much more accepted," Trynin continues. "But more than that, it's gone beyond `Do we let women in?' to `We all want a woman artist of our own, because everybody has one now.' They have a Chevy, a horse and a girl. It's like a weird kind of affirmative action. But my thing is, let's get on to the next level, where it doesn't matter if you're a girl or not. I had somebody tell me the other day that I reminded him of Jimi Hendrix, and I'm like, `That's great, that's excellent, because that shows you're thinking. You're looking at me not as a girl, but as a person.'"
Jennifer Trynin the person first emerged from her mother's womb somewhere in New Jersey circa 1963, and by the time she was in fifth grade, she was already teaching herself how to play the guitar. She continued writing songs and playing them, mostly for her own amusement, through her years at Ohio's Oberlin College, where she sought a liberal-arts degree. "My plan was to make a lot of money," she says, her tongue practically jutting through her cheek. "I was a sophomore in college when I thought, `I want to make the big bucks, so I'm going to major in creative writing and philosophy, and then I'll be all set.'"
Actually, as Trynin concedes, "I did not have what we could term `the big plan.' I would spend most of my time writing songs, stories and plays. I'm just an artsy-fartsy little fuck."
Upon graduating, Trynin was dismayed to discover that there weren't a lot of high-paying job opportunities for artsy-fartsy little fucks. At loose ends, she moved to Boston with a vague plan to become a journalist--a vocation for which she felt no passion, but one that her grandmother figured was perfect for her. She subsequently landed at a publication called The Boston Parents Paper.
"I learned a lot about what people's neuroses are about parenting," she says. "You know, I may sound insensitive and crass, but I'd be typing in and editing these articles about how to discipline your child, and I'd be thinking, `This is ridiculous.' Because to me, it's pretty cut and dried. My parents brought us up to be polite and respectful, especially to elders and sick people, but no meant no--end of story. So I'd read all of this whining, sniveling stuff about making a deal with your kid and I'd be like, `No way.'"