Jann Arden never stops trying to get people to like her

Canadian singer Jann Arden. Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency

Canadian singer Jann Arden. Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency

Jane Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:48 PM ET

Calgary singer-songwriter Jann Arden’s has had Everything Almost, also the title of her latest album which sees the songstress launching her cross-Canada tour this Thursday.

“When you think about being this age and going into my 50s, which feels great I might add, and saying I have everything – almost – so there’s that real keen desire to keep moving forward,” said Arden.

“And I think it’s a huge metaphor for the music too. Sometimes people kind of turn their noses a bit and they go, ‘Like how many more Jann Arden songs do we really need? Blah, blah, blah.’ And people can be cynical. But I feel like I want to reach the unreachable, like the ones that don’t like me. Like if you don’t like that song, maybe you’ll like this one? So I never stop trying.”

In addition to her music, the 52-year-old Arden is also a broadcaster – coming up fast she’ll co-host Sunday night’s Canadian Country Music Awards (Sept.7, CBC-TV/CMT) with Rick Mercer in Edmonton – a three-time author who is handing in her first novel to Random House in the fall, and a public speaker.

We caught up with Arden in Toronto recently to talk about Everything Almost, recorded with fellow Canuck and veteran hard rock producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Motley Crue, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi), touring and her what she might do post-music.

You’ve worked with Bob Rock before – on the 2010 on the single I Can’t Make You Stay and 2011’s covers collection, Uncover Me 2, how did it go this time?

I wanted to kill myself some days ‘cause Bob really pushes me and he can really frustrate me. And he was having us go in directions that I was just so out of my comfort zone and I didn’t know where we were headed. And it really was an exercise in trust because he said, ‘Jann, Jann, do you trust me?’ And I said, ‘I do.’ But I said, ‘I’m just worried about how heavy the guitars are.’

Obviously it worked out in the end?

He records a lot of content and then he strips away. And when he sits at that desk and starts mixing, that’s gone, that’s gone, that’s gone, that’s gone, and lo and behold, there was this well thought out, really balanced, pop song that he had in his head all along and that I, more or less, was what I wanted. Now I know better. I think I’d be much more apt to be able to sit down and go, ‘I know what he’s doing. I know he’s going to push us way out on the end of this plank and then we’re going to come back.’ He really is very much a genius.

What did you think the album was going to sound like before the editing began?

I thought it was going to be f---ing acid rock. I thought it was going to like ‘70s rock-metal like it was very heavy and I just felt lost in it all.

What was his initial approach to your songs?

In July I met with him in London and I was so excited. I had like 15-16 songs and he had listened to them and he said, ‘Well, you know, frankly, we’ve got three, four, five maybe.’ And I was incensed because I’d never really been told that. And I still think the songs are good. But he just said, ‘You need to go back and you need to write another seven, eight or nine songs,’ and he said, ‘Don’t be you. Try not to be you.’ And I knew what he meant. He didn’t have to explain that further. It’s like I needed to think outside of my own limitations and my own fears and not be afraid to sing up there and to push myself.

So would you do it again?

I would definitely work with him again. I would conceive that I could do two or three more records before I hang up my spurs. Maybe I’m being really naive. Maybe I could do eight. But, for me, if you do one every three years, I’m thinking that’s another decade, I’ll see what’s happening there. ‘Cause I don’t feel old at all. I feel like I’m just getting started but you know how the hands of time can be. All of the sudden you wake up and you’re like, ‘Holy s---. You’re too f---ing tired to go on the road.’ So we’ll play it by ear.

I saw a recent interview where you said you’re also more nervous getting on stage as you age which surprised me because you seem so natural in front of a crowd?

Going out there I just get really nervous and my heart just starts going. When I’m standing in the wings to put on a show, you know, your heart’s racing. It’s just anxiety. I used to be very cavalier.

What’s changed?

I don’t know. I mean Streisand has talked about that ad nauseam over the years. So has Carly Simon. The last seven or eight years I have (had stage fright). I take Ativan. And I was very reluctant to do that. And my doctor said, ‘You don’t need to suffer.’ And he said, ‘I’m going to give you something that’s so small.’ ‘Cause I said, ‘I can’t affect how I sing and come across as half-lucid.’ He said, ‘What I’m giving you is more of a salve than anything.’ It’s .5 milligrams and it’s an anti-anxiety medication. I only take it when I’m going to go on stage. That’s what I take. And I kind of feel just a little bit better.

What can fans expect from the tour?

Living Under June, I’m definitely doing 25 minutes dedicated to that record, because it’s 20 years old this year so Insensitive and Good Mother and I think there were six or seven singles off that record so we’re going to utilize a lot of those old videos and have them up and just do a retrospective of the album.

Would you ever do a Las Vegas residency?

I’d do it in a second. (But) no one in America knows who I am. I’ve sold a few million records down there but that’s over the course of the last twenty years. I’m not that kind of draw. (Celine and Shania) were perfect. They were known. And I think they are a huge draw. And I see someone like (Michael) Buble there. Not now but maybe in ten years. I think he would kill it there. He’s had so many hits.

What about it appeals to you?

I just think, for me, I’d rather be in one spot, getting up, going to work for a couple of hours than flying all the hell over half-acre. Have your audience come to you. What a dream. You don’t think if people would f---king fly to Springbank, Alberta, and sit in the field, I’d love to sing to them. I don’t think it’s going to happen. Maybe (in Vegas) they have a cute, quaint 100 seat theatre on the back of a buffet somewhere where people get their crab legs. That seems to be the big draw in buffets. And then I could just be back there singing Insensitive ad nauseam. And here’s Insensitive as reggae!

You just did a guest stint on CTV’s The Social earlier this year, can you see hosting your own talk show – you know as long as they did it from Calgary?

I’d absolutely consider it; I’d be a fool not to. And maybe down the road that’s something that might interest me. I think realistically I can probably sing really well, I want to say eight or nine or 10 years. Because then I’m just going to be dealing with the biological physics of not singing as well as I want to. It literally is you’re just fighting that hill of just muscle deterioration. Your vocal chords are just muscles.

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Jann Arden’s Canadian tour dates:

September 4 – Royal Theatre, Victoria

September 6 – Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver

September 8 – Northern Jubilee, Edmonton

September 9 – Southern Jubilee, Calgary

September 11 – TCU Place, Saskatoon

September 12 – Conexus Arts Centre, Regina

September 13 – Centennial Concert Hall, Winnipeg

September 15 - Thunder Bay Community Auditorium, Thunder Bay

September 16 - Sudbury Arena, Sudbury

September 18 - Hamilton Place Theatre, Hamilton

September 19 – GM Centre, Oshawa

September 20 – Budweiser Gardens, London

September 22 – Centre in the Square, Kitchener

September 23 – Massey Hall, Toronto

September 25 – National Arts Centre, Ottawa

September 26 - Olympia Theatre, Montreal

September 29 - Centre Casino, Moncton

September 30 - Metro Centre, Halifax


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