Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin student Jenny LaJoye releases first full-length album

Photo courtesy Jenny LaJoye

As she prepares to leave Calvin College, senior Jenny LeJoye celebrates the upcoming release of her first full-length album. Jenny sat down with Chimes to discuss music, faith and what the future holds for her music career.

Chimes: Why is the album called “Vapor”?

Jenny: So one of the songs is called Vapor, and I wanted to capture this idea that most things in life evaporate. That means we are grasping at things that feel like everything, and we are grasping at it with a really permanent-feeling love.

But everything is essentially impermanent, and these things we’re grasping at are really just vapor, and that can feel really hopeless. But there’s something hopeful in that permanent love and I’m trying to live in that tension throughout this album.

Chimes: Is there some sort of event or feeling in your own life that inspired you to write the music for this album?

Jenny: Yes. A series of things. I released an EP last year, and since then life has taken a lot of very interesting turns — myself and musically especially. In my own song-writing career, I’ve gained a huge handful of people that have supported me.

I don’t know how that happened. I think it’s because we’re in this college environment and people latch onto things very fast.

But I feel like I have this bubble of support that I’m about to leave because I’m about to graduate and I felt like I had to do something with them and for them in this time. So I decided I had to make something that would represent this time of my life.

Chimes: What is it about being a musician in a college environment that gives you so much life and encouragement to go on?

Jenny: It’s because we’re surrounded by people all the time. People are living together, they are working together. Very emotionally, spiritually connected, like in every way you are connected to someone else all the time.

So if I have one person who latches onto my songs or I have my housemates who latch onto my songs, then they are immediately connected to a network of many other people within this college bubble. So it just spreads very fast.

Chimes: Were you overwhelmed by the success of your EP and how many people have responded to it?

Jenny: It is! It’s more humbling than ego boosting. It’s strange because I don’t feel like I’ve done anything differently than any other artist has done. I just feel like my people are better! So the people who have supported me, I can only look at them and be like, “Why? Do you know who I am?”

So it’s a little awkward and I don’t understand because I’m just making something out of my life experiences, and then for people to like that is just a little awkward but really humbling.

Chimes: What are you hoping that people take away from “Vapor”? If somebody came up to you and said, “I just listened to your music, and now I’m feeling this way,” what would you want them to say?

Jenny: Gosh, that’s a great question. I think that vulnerability begets vulnerability. This album is very raw, and I’m very straightforward in a lot of places. So I hope it gives people permission to do the same. I hope it gives people permission to not tie a bow on things.

My second to last song is upbeat and happy but then I put a song at the very end that kind of leaves it hanging. Generally the arch of my album tries to ease you in and then it starts to plunge into the depths of despair and then it lightens up a bit just so you can breathe and then it really goes there!

Chimes: A mixed bag of emotions?

Jenny: Right. I hope it has a slightly redeeming arch because I intentionally crafted it to be an experience that reflects real grief in life and a real experience, and I hope that people feel a little bit more understood by listening to my experience. I hope that they can hear themselves in that.

Chimes: What are some other things in art that influence you? Not necessarily music, but is there anything you can point to?

Jenny: It honestly is music. But you know what? Theology does. Because I’m a religion major, and as dorky as that sounds, that’s artful to me. One of my professors, and I won’t tell you who it is, but he always says, “You’re being a theologian when you’re making stuff up.”

But in that, there have been some beautiful ways to describe life and describe God and to try and paint a picture with what life throws at you. And I’ve read that and thought about that very theologically because of what my major is.

Chimes: Is it hard to be a religion major and not write Christian music?

Jenny: Oh, it’s so much easier! The religion majors, we’re very cynical people. I mean, we’re the people who poke holes in what we believe all day. We don’t speak “Christianese” in our classes, we use words like “mortification and vivification” — theologically correct words that haven’t been overused.

So to write overtly Christian music would feel very inauthentic to me. Especially where I’m at as a religion major, and having these conversations all the time that don’t leave me with easy answers. So I don’t try to write Christian music.

Chimes: I know this is probably an unfair question and is like asking which of your children you like the best, but if you could choose one track on your album as your favorite, which would it be?

Jenny: It’s so funny you say that because I was just talking to a friend the other day and I was saying, “It’s like all of these tracks are my kids, but I do have a favorite kid!” It’s called “End of Your Rope.”

I think it was one of the most honest tracks that I wrote, but also one of the most poetically done. I very proud of it and the ways it has evolved; it’s changed a little bit, but it still remains true to what it’s been since it was born.

Chimes: So what is next for you, musically? Do you have any future plans that you have in your mind?

Jenny: I’m kind of moving in phases right now. It seems that I write and then I record and then I release and perform. Then I do it again. So next I just have to perform and ride on the wings of this album a bit.

I’ll be also be moving out to California next year, so I’ll actually be leaving this beautiful community of support. But I know the support will still be there and I’m hoping to bring all that I’ve learned here to California.

Vapor will be available on May 13 on iTunes and CD.

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