Nelson musician Jenny Robinson can’t imagine a better setting to launch her new album Lost Years from than this weekend’s Kaslo Jazz Etc. Festival. She considers it a unique privilege to share her songs from the floating stage on Kootenay Lake.
“I’ve been working on these songs for a really long time, so having a chance to share them at this beautiful festival, in this beautiful location, it’s really exciting for me,” Robinson told the Star. Her songs are a retrospective of her last 15 years, and address such far-flung topics as suicide, substance abuse and war.
And she’s got plenty of material to share with the audience when she takes the stage at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“These were the nine songs, a lot of them deal with heavy issues. It’s like a therapy work for me, so they tell the story of many of the people I’ve worked with over the course of my life, as well as people I’ve lost.”
Robinson, who is the executive director of Nelson CARES, aims to share feelings about the current state of the world through music, which she calls “a change agent.” One song, “Kids Are Afraid of Airplanes,” came to her while she was watching the sky.
“I was watching planes fly by overhead and I realized for children in war zones it’s a totally different experience. We have choices to make and from my perspective war shouldn’t be one of them.”
She aims to draw attention to those who the media ignores.
“After decades of war there have been hundreds of thousands of people killed in Iraq, and we don’t hear about it in our press. We hear about the casualties we incur, but we don’t hear about the casualties on the ground and how many of those must be regular civilians and children.”
She believes “war motivates war.”
In a more personal piece, the title track of the album “Lost Years” tells the story of a high school friend who committed suicide when they were both in their early 20s.
“His story came back to me when I was 40, in a flash, and I sat down and wrote this song about him. When he passed away there was never a clear understanding around how he died. I remember preparing for his funeral while I was leaving the next day from rural Manitoba to L.A.”
She reflected on their different trajectories.
“This story came to me about my journey and his, how they intersected and we took different paths. Thirty years later and I still think about him. I don’t think we ever get over that, and I think we need to acknowledge we’re fragile and we need each other. We need to reach out even when it’s uncomfortable.”
She read recently that “compassion isn’t about being comfortable, it’s about being in a place of discomfort” — because true empathy involves feeling others’ pain. That’s something she experiences through her work, and something she feels is crucial in developing a supportive social infrastructure.
“We need to reach out to each other,” she said.
Robinson is effusive about the community support her music has received, and said she can’t wait to see familiar Nelson faces when she takes the stage this weekend.
“I’m really grateful to have a community that supports live, original music,” she said. “It’s a really encouraging community. I may not be a born and bred Nelsonite, but I really feel like this is my home.”