Jennifer O’Connor, a New York-based singer-songwriter, adapts her songs to both folk and Indie rock aesthetics with seemingly equal ease.
Always a lover of music, she sang as a little kid, but it wasn’t until she graduated from college that she began writing her own songs. In an interview with The Hatchet, even she admits, “I just didn’t think of it as something I would really do.” It’s been some 10 years since she started, but with the release of her latest full-length album on Matador Records, “Over the Mountain, Across the Valley, and Back to the Stars,” it seems things are really coming together.
Listening to the album, there seems something intrinsically personal about her songs. She gave a glimpse into her recent struggles revealing, “One of my siblings died before we started recording it, and I was also going through a break-up of a long-term relationship. So it was kind of a dark time.”
Through all of this, O’Connor could have rightly used the album as a sort of personal diary, but instead of wallowing, she asserts, “It’s personal, but I think there’s uplifting stuff too.”
What is it that has driven her to get where she is; a successful artist on a major Indie label? It was a love for music, but when she starts to list her influences, it’s difficult to find a pattern. O’Connor lists artists ranging from Indie folksters Aimee Mann and Silver Jews to hip-hop artists Jay Z and Dizzee Rascal. At first these “influences” seem random. How could such different artists influence her?
“I think they’re all really good with words,” she said. “I think that’s their similarity. Hip-hop, you know, is really not that much different from folk music, and those Indie rock bands, those are really great lyricists. That’s probably a common thread, though I know I sound completely different. But I like all kinds of sounds. I really like it when someone in a song, whether it’s a rock song or rap song, expresses kind of a common thought for whatever, but in a new way, and I think that all of those artists are really good with that. So I think that’s really exciting to me as a fan and inspiring to me as a writer, as well.”
If that is the influence she means, it’s certainly apparent on the record.
But when asked about her ultimate goal for her music, she seems to approach it from the standpoint of a fan, an honest and unassuming goal, but perhaps the best an audience could hope for.
“I’m trying to write good songs because I’m such a fan of music and songwriting and songs, so I hope that I improve with each record that I write,” said O’Connor. “I want to bring people happiness or insight or joy, you know. It sounds kind of cheesy, but that’s kind of my main drive to do it. I’m just really interested in and love music, and I’d love to participate in it.”
Jennifer O’Connor will play The Rock and Roll Hotel, 1353 H St. NE, on Feb. 16. Tickets are $12. Check out her MySpace at and listen to her tracks at myspace.com/jenniferoconnor