LEDGER: A Femme Edge for Modern Rock
They say that your gifts make a way for you. When you're as talented a drummer as Jen Ledger, then even spotlighted drum solos and the occasional vocal part will only give way to more. Jen Ledger has stepped outside the drumkit for a solo EP that Atlantic Records quietly released on April 13.
Jen sat down and answered our questions about her new album and this solo adventure.
Tell me about your new album?
My new EP, LEDGER, is finally out! It’s super exciting for me because I’ve actually been working towards this for six years now. I wrote some of it with Korey and John Cooper, and I also wrote with the talented Seth Mosley. It was an awesome journey, because I started as a novice writer who was able to learn from my talented and successful friends/musicians. Writing the EP was incredibly empowering for me. A lot of these songs have come from the ups and downs of my journey over the last six years and I sing about some pretty real topics. So, much of it is influenced with my battle over fear and anxiety, and choosing to fight and not give up.
Are these songs and sounds the direction you prefer? Why? For how long?
We really took the time to make sure the songs, sound and direction were the right choices. None of us wanted to release a “Skillet part B” project, but wanted material that had its own identity and sound. Obviously, Skillet is one of the biggest musical influences I have, since I’ve been touring with the band for ten years! However, there are other sides of me that we wanted to express and reflect through the song choices and sounds. We wanted it all to be unique to me. I am so glad we took the time to shape and perfect it. I am really proud of the project and how it all turned out. I feel like I hear all different parts of myself reflected through the music.
What was the songwriting process like for you?
It was long, but I really enjoyed it. When I began the process six years ago, I was new to songwriting, so my songs were all over the map directionally. Some were very rock, some were way pop. It took me some time to find my feet as a writer and also as an artist. On the journey I learned who I was, what I want to say, how I want to say it. I have learned my strengths and weaknesses, and I have learned to let my guard down and just keep trying. I’ve loved collaborating with other writers to stretch, challenge and inspire new creativity in me. Even though a lot of my songs didn’t get chosen for this EP, I loved the process of creating them.
How bout the recording process?
The recording process was not very glam. Full-time touring with Skillet made finding the time to record the EP on the road a little tricky. Korey and I spent most of our time in the back lounge of the bus or in grimy backstage dressing rooms recording tracks for the EP. We’d have to stop when you could hear line check, or take break when we had interviews. I even have some funny video footage of me singing into a microphone with my head between the cushions of a hotel armchair! We were having to rush to meet deadlines and we needed to finish the vocals, but I didn’t want to wake the other hotel guests. And so, the makeshift vocal-booth-chair came to the rescue. Haha!
Even though it was tricky, it was super exciting and fulfilling. We really took the time to make the tracks right. And now having something come together and that feels so true to me is an incredible feeling!
How much input have you had in the past with Skillet’s songwriting?
John and Korey are the writers for Skillet, so I haven’t had much involvement.
How’d you get this album deal?
John Cooper, Korey Cooper, and Zach Kelm have started their own imprint label at Atlantic Records. Their imprint is called Hear It Loud. As the Ledger project began to take shape, it seemed clear that it would be a good match for me to sign to Atlantic through Hear It Loud. I feel like I have won the lottery, because I not only have signed to an incredible label, I’ve signed to my friends’ label, and they’re friends who I look up to and respect tremendously.
As a creative person, how does your drive to write affect your support role as a drummer?
If anything, I think it helps me as a drummer. It’s key for drummers to get out of the way and learn to do what’s best for the song. I think getting more involved in the writing side of things has allowed me to be less small minded about my drum parts and more musical. It’s helping me highlight hooks or be more catchy, rather than be so concerned about what can fit where.
Fun stories from your experience as a drummer for skillet?
Drumming with Skillet is such an adventure. From my first ever show at 18-years-old with a sold out arena (and my hair setting on fire) to traveling the world to Russia all the way to Japan. I feel honored to be a part of something so influential.
How do you like being featured so prominently in their live show?
It was hard for me to step into. Performing doesn't come naturally to me and I struggle a lot with feeling afraid. (I initially said no to auditioning with Skillet, because I was so sure I could never be a drummer. I would get nervous playing for 200 people at church on a Sunday!) As I played with Skillet, John Cooper would stretch me and challenge me. It was uncomfortable, but it shaped me and helped me grow significantly as a performer. I’ll never forget when John Cooper told me I would be spinning around on a drum riser 20 feet above the ground. I think I went white with terror! It’s ended up being great though, and I’ve learned so much about showmanship and ensuring your audience has a fantastic time. The Coopers taught me how to perform with all of your heart.
How long have you been playing the varied instruments you play?
I’ve been playing the drums for about 15 years now.
What’s the main messages of the songs on this album?
Overcoming and fighting through. Whether it’s fear, anxiety, feelings of wanting to give up, the Ledger EP is music with threads of overcoming throughout.
What do you think God’s heart is for this generation?
I believe He wants people to know His reality, greatness and truth. We’re living in a time with so many voices and opinions. So many are abandoning the truth of the Word of God. He is the same God now and forever. And He is more real and sweeter and greater than anything you could ever imagine. He wants to display His glory and love through our lives, no matter how broken we feel.
Favorite styles of music? Other bands? Any surprise super heavy (metal) bands on your iPhone playlist?
I grew up listening to a wide range of music - from the Beatles and Alanis Morissette, to Flyleaf, Blink 182 and Jimmy Eat World. I love a lot of styles. I have a couple of Five Finger Death Punch songs on my iPhone as far as the heavier stuff.
Check out the Ledger EP wherever fine digital music is sold.
Photos by Gina Monahan.