The spotlight is on Jen Rim. A former backing member of the indie-folk band Run River North, the Los Angeles-based artist finally transitioned to center state with her self-titled solo debut.
Co-written and produced with friend Boaz Roberts, the seven songs of Jen Rim depict the different stages of rebirth, breaking out of a shell and into her own artistic space, grappling with self-awareness and worth on “Again,” echoing As I’m getting closer I fall / On my knees, I pray at times when I can’t say more, and a more reparative “Hanging On,” singing the Waiting for too long, is it worth / Enough to give myself the time to breathe / Sinking into fear ’til I’m quiet/ Joking from the lies I built inside. Crunching reverb signals the impatience and disappointment of “A Little Longer” through the gentler heal of “Dreaming” and “Time I Have.”
Throughout each musical vignette, Rim unravels something unsettling and revealing, capturing all her darkened and lighter states.
“I’m still slowly learning how to come out of my shell,” shares Rim. “Writing these songs has been a gateway to learning how to say things that I wouldn’t be able to say in conversation. It feels less judgmental. The songs were a challenge, to be honest with myself, how I feel and how I view a certain situation, and I had to learn to deal with what the truth is.”
Rim adds, “I think this album really speaks for myself learning how to be truthful and honest, not to be embarrassed and ashamed about how I expect myself to be. I’ve had enough of the expectations. I decided not to let all those words that I spoke or that were spoken to me define me. I hope to continue to write songs that progress and move forward.”
Rim chatted with American Songwriter about the self-discovery around her debut, drawing from her classical music roots as a writer, and how James Franco ended up on the album.
American Songwriter: Some of the songs on Jen Rim were older ones you needed to revisit. Why were they still resonating with you now?
Jen Rim: Writing these songs was a way to learn how to find my voice. I wanted to add some older songs like “A Little Longer” that was written about five years ago into the bunch with more recent ones I wrote during the pandemic because I guess it was a way for me to reflect on where I was and where I am now. For me, it’s about the experiences at that moment and writing when it feels most raw. “A Little Longer” was one of the first songs I wrote. If you listen, you can hear the imperfections in my guitar playing and lots of open spaces in the verses. Even though we could have recorded a better take, it was a way for me to see the progress I have made not only musically but just in life. I think it’s important to reflect, remembering who I was and the decisions I made along the way that shaped my current self.
AS: The songs definitely touch on something more personal, but there’s more unraveling. What is the common thread between the songs for you?
JR: I think this album was more about self-discovery through personal experiences, but also listening to others’ stories. The song “James Franco” was inspired by watching some of the actor’s interviews. I was intrigued by the way he spoke about his father and how he worked hard to earn love and validation from his dad. I think the desire to feel accepted, loved, and heard are all elements that I don’t feel alone, but in many or dare I say all of us as human beings.
AS: How do songs typically come to you, or come together for you?
JR: I think I’m always inspired to write from personal experiences because I know the situation the best. It’s the most honest I can be and that’s personally easier than writing about something I am unfamiliar with. Growing up as a classical musician, I am drawn to melody and it plays a big part in having that align with the lyrics. I’m usually trying to find a melody that evokes some sort of feeling and then try to figure out what I want to write about that would support the melody line.
AS: Sonically, was there something you wanted to intentionally capture on your debut?
JR: I think writing these songs and taking them to the studio really helped to slowly figure out my sound. When Boaz and I first started to write, I expected them to sound really loud with tons of drums, more electrics, etc. But with several different takes, I was more drawn to less. I remember I kept asking Boaz if we could take out a couple of instruments or lower down the levels. I wanted the focal point to be about the melodies supported by the electric guitar that was the backbone for my vocals. I think it was a way for me to express vulnerability both sonically and lyrically.
AS: Do you think music has the ability to move, shift the way someone thinks? What kind of imprint do you hope your music, and this specific album, leaves?
JR: I think the beauty of music is there is so much room for us to allow ourselves to just feel and feel safe in it. It’s almost like an escape for me, where I don’t feel the pressure of having to be a certain way. I just want to be heard and understood, especially in times when I feel alone. I hope for just that with this album and the music I write in the future. I don’t want to tell anyone how to live or how they should be, but the only thing I can do is have the courage to share and be honest.
AS: Now that Jen Rim has been released. What kind of stories do you think you’d like to tell now?
JR: I hope to just keep writing out of honesty. I keep mentioning that word, but it’s the best I know.
Photos by Nancy Park / Junkfood PR