Addresses: Record company--Warner Bros., 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505- 4694.
Unlike some artists, Jen Trynin's first glimpse of fame was overwhelming and disconcerting. Up to that point, she had been perfectly content playing her smart and funny songs in Boston's music clubs, working a couple part-time jobs, and operating a small desktop publishing business out of her apartment. Then she put out her first record, Cockamamie, a collection critics described as hard-edged, quick-witted garage rock which deftly balanced tenderness and a sardonic attitude. This debut led to a contract with a major record label, promotional appearances, and a tour. "The weirdest thing was just losing my entire life as I had known it before," Trynin told Robin Vaughan of the Boston Herald. "(Before signing a record contract) I would stay up all night doing desktop publishing stuff, drinking beer and writing songs--and I loved it."
That all changed in 1994, however, after Trynin released Cockamamie on her own label, called Squint Records, and the big record companies came calling. She ultimately signed a lucrative deal with Warner Bros., which re-released Cockamamie and sent Trynin on the road to promote it. She quit her jobs, left her friends and her home, and swapped the solitude she cherished for a chaotic lifestyle and a stream of one-night appearances and long van trips. Cockamamie received good reviews and spawned the modest hit "Better Than Nothing," but radio play was minimal and sales were weak. As a result, pressure mounted for Trynin. "When you think, 'Oh, I'm going to get a record deal, I'm going to travel the country,' you don't think of all the incredible pressure that other people are putting on you because so many people's livelihoods depend on your success," she was quoted in the Boston Globe. "I was going around the country for months with these guys in a van and I kept asking myself, 'What am I doing?' Then the record wasn't doing all that well, Warner Brothers was going through some trouble, my management was going through trouble, everything was just falling apart, and I had given up my whole life for this."
When Trynin returned to the home she shares with her boyfriend and producer, Mike Denneen, she spent a few months in seclusion and regained her bearings. She ultimately emerged from the experience "scarred but smarter ... armed with both knowledge and experience, two commodities she earned the hard way," Michael Saunders wrote in the Globe. "I learned a whole lot," Trynin confessed to Vaughn. "Not just about the music business, but about myself and what I really want. I was kind of surprised by what I want, because it's not what I thought it was."
Trynin's second album for Warner Bros., 1997's Gun Shy Trigger Happy, revealed a softer, yet stronger performer. "Both the music and the musician appear to have arrived at a more soulful place," Vaughan wrote. "The floating, funky arrangements suggest the feel- good grooves of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder more than the boys- school rock rhythms of Cockamamie. And a breathy, feminine singing voice has replaced Trynin's old growl." On the other hand, Trynin did not abandon her fatalistic humor and biting, acerbic lyrics on the new record. On the song "Bore Me," for example, she croons to an ex-lover who wants to remain friends: "Oh baby, bore me just a little more."
Meanwhile, she handled the requisite promotional appearances and touring with more balance and perspective the second time around. While on the road, Trynin decided that she would ensure a daily dose of solitude by driving her own car, stay fit by running each day, and maintain other elements of "real life." "I just feel more relaxed," she told Saunders. "Now that I've been through it, I can understand that I won't have three interviews a day for the rest of my life. It just happens at certain times. That's OK, I can handle that. And, OK, you travel sometimes, but sometimes you're home. And I know that when this record cycle ends, I can take a year off if I want and be by myself again."
If the reviews for Gun Shy Trigger Happy are any indication, that cycle will last longer and be more intense than it was the first time. Billboard praised the album as "strikingly lovely," while Rolling Stone said it "achieves a perfect balance between wry chutzpah and forthright tenderness."People called it dazzling and one of the best discs of 1997, featuring "Trynin's hypnotic vocals, gritty guitar playing, and grown-up lyrics about faltering relationships and lost innocence--with the kind of mixed emotions her album title cleverly captures." And the Minneapolis Star- Tribune concluded, "Gun Shy Trigger Happy is loaded with hooks and crackles with raw energy, thanks to the sensitive production of Mike Denneen. Most important is the singer-guitarist's emotional purity, which resonates with heartbreak, resignation, and warped wit."
Trynin wrote the songs on Gun Shy Trigger Happy in her living room on an acoustic guitar and recorded them with drummer Chris Foley and bass player Ed Valauskas. They are evenly divided between guitar-driven numbers and quieter, introspective ones. "In addition to moodier pieces like 'Go Ahead' and 'I Resign,' they turned out savvy pop-rockers like 'Love Letter' and 'Bore Me,' bristling with drum loops and guitar spasms," Andy Seiler wrote in USA TODAY. "Trynin's music, however fraught with romantic quandaries, sparkles with clean hooks and rare intelligence." Stereo Review, meanwhile, suggested that the disc projects a confident songwriter who's just getting started--an assessment that's hard to argue with. "It took me a while to get my feet back on the ground and enjoy playing music again," Trynin told the Boston Globe. "I'm not capable to living in the regular world. I played in little clubs, I waitressed, I had no money for eight years. I just wanna write and make music--and I still am. I'm used to being an underdog ... (but) I'm not feeling all the weirdness, the emotional willies, anymore."
by Dave Wilkins
Jen Trynin's Career
Began career performing songs in the Boston folk music scene; released dubut album, Cockamamie on her own label, Squint Records, 1994; signed with Warner Bros. Records, which re-released Cockamamie, 1995; released sophomore effort, Gun Shy Trigger Happy, 1997.
- Selective Works
- Cockamamie, Warner Bros., 1995.
- Gun Shy Trigger Happy, Warner Bros., 1997.
- Billboard, August 23, 1997, p. 92.
- Boston Globe, August 15, 1996; September 19, 1997.
- Boston Herald, September 18, 1997.
- Entertainment Weekly, August 15, 1997, p. 72.
- Minneapolis Star-Tribune, September 7, 1997.
- People, September 22, 1997, p. 30.
- Rolling Stone, August 21, 1997, p. 112.
- Stereo Review, October 1997, p. 92.
- USA TODAY, August 23, 1997, p. D1.