Jennie DeVoe is stressed. She"s got a cold, she"s appearing in The Vagina Monologues at the Murat and her music has just been on national TV. She might be excused for being a bit nervous. "I think getting a cold is my way of handling stress," the singer says. "I get sick when I get stressed. And it"s all really good stress, but I"m kind of burning it at both ends these days."
Photo by Sparks-Houser photography
Indeed. Besides the above-mentioned activities, she"s been performing around the country and doing extensive work in commercials. She"s happy to be performing in the play, which began its run at the Murat on Tuesday and extends through Feb. 9. "Cameron Smith from ClearChannel called me and asked me to do it," she recalls. "They had Kristi Lee from Q95 do it last year and I guess they thought I"d be good at it. I"m excited about it; I"ve got my monologue all picked out. I"ve done some civic theater in the past. But when I moved here, I only had time to focus on my music." She says of the award-winning play, "Some of the stories are really sad; some of them are really funny. It"s a biting way of getting people to not be scared to say the word. It helps people empathize with the cross that women have borne over the years." Performing onstage brings a different kind of jitters than singing, she says. "I think it"s scarier than singing, for sure. You want to be able to get the point of the monologue across. I"m trying to get familiar with the monologue. I"ve been practicing around the house. I mainly want to do it justice. Each of us do three stories, and I want to make sure I get the feeling of the thing." After Thursday"s performance, she"ll be getting on a jet and flying to Nashville for a contest showcase, then returning on Friday to finish the play"s run. "I"m trying not to enter contests anymore, because I"m trying to be confident about my validation as a real singer/songwriter," she says. "But I entered this contest called the USA Songwriting Contest and I was in the top 10 for the folk genre, with a song that"s not on any of my CDs. So after The Vagina Monologues on Thursday, I have to fly to Nashville to perform a showcase with the other finalists." And a week later, she"s going to Hawaii to play a radio showcase with Edwin McCain, John Hiatt and Rosanne Cash. "My hands sweat whenever I say these people"s names," she says. A few weeks back, one of her songs was featured on the TV series Dawson"s Creek, another landmark for her. "They played the song for 60 seconds, and there was no talking over it, which I thought was really cool," she says. "When they said I"d be in the opening scene, I thought the actors would be gabbing over it. But they did a nice edit and it sounded pretty cool." And how does one get a song on Dawson"s Creek? "A couple years ago, I was feeling tenacious and made some calls until I got some music producers from Columbia/TriStar television on the phone," she says. "And I said something stupid like, "My friend says my music would be really good on your show." The guy was really cool; he asked me how I got him on the phone. I said, "I don"t really know. I"ve talked to about 11 different people today." "They sit and watch TV all day, with shows that don"t have any music. They sit and try all this different music with the shows. They try to put you on 20 shows and you get one. But I"m up against artists who have a lot more pull and power than I do. So I get knocked out of the ring a lot of times." After several years in the Indiana music scene, DeVoe describes her career this way: "I think artistically I"ve really come a long way. I try to put blinders on, because you"re always seeing what"s really hot right now, and you can really emulate anything. So the true test is to ignore all that, to still try to be fresh. To be able to do all that and the business part is a little daunting." She"s always been known as a savvy businesswoman, something for which she makes no apologies. "The business part is 50 percent of it, if not more. The business part is what you have to be really tenacious about. And then you have to have the product. So you go back and forth between, "Do I work on songs today?" or, "Do I make some calls today?"" she says. "I think people know I work hard," she says. "I"m kind of goofy onstage. I don"t have a slick act, and I don"t think I ever will. I make a setlist, but I always change it. I think audiences know I like to get something out of them. Your best show is when you have this give and take going on. "I think people see me as this kind of singer/songwriter, this hard-working girl, who just puts a lot of passion into what she does. And there are some people who don"t like you. And you can"t help that; it"s just the way it is. You just hope they don"t come to your show." She points to a recent show at Birdy"s as an example. "I hadn"t been there for so long and I really wondered if people were going to be milling around, drinking, or if it"d be a listening show. I"ve been going out East a lot lately, and in New York City, everything is pindrop quiet at shows. They"re like, "Entertain me. Captivate me." "The more you get those experiences, the stronger you get at demanding quiet from your audience. It"s funny, because Birdy"s turned out to be this really great listening show, which I didn"t expect." Meanwhile, DeVoe continues her lucrative commercial work. "I"m lucky because I"m doing Meijer"s again," she says of the grocery-store commercials. "They"ve been using me a lot for voiceovers. I"m able to say no to a lot of singing work, and I do that for artistic reasons. I"ve gotten some connections nationally, so I"ve done some voiceovers for different things. I did a Canadian Ivory Liquid thing. You"re a lot more anonymous in voiceovers." It"s not easy money, she hastens to point out. "It"s a lot of work, though. The directors like to produce you and get what they"re thinking in their head out of you. You have to take a lot of direction. But Meijer"s has been a big blessing, because that"s allowed me to go out and tour." Despite being so busy, she tries to make time to listen to music as well. "I listen to Tom Waits a lot," she says. "I listen to Kim Richey, Lucinda Williams, Ani DiFranco, Beth Hart. I like Bob Schneider. I"m a lyric listener. I like good melodies and I like a lyric that means something. But I"ll get in the car with my husband and he"ll have X103 on. So I"ll listen to that, too. I listen to just about everything. I bought some Hank Williams and some Cole Porter music the other day. It"s amazing how simple and how awesome his songs were." She"s frequently asked for advice from aspiring performers. She says, "The best thing to do, is to decide whether you"re a singer and a songwriter. Come up with your own style. Listen to the people who you respect most, but don"t listen to them so much that you copy them. Just try to hone your craft and be different than everything else. "If you"re mainly just a singer, and you want to get on the fast track, try to get on one of those shows like American Idol. It sounds hokey, but if you"re going to be in the business, get there fast if you"re in your 20s. I"m in my 30s, so that"s not realistic for me, plus I like where I"m at. I think I"m on a nice steady upward track. "Advice-wise, I"d say, move to California, get your feet wet, network, knock on a lot of doors and write a lot of songs." "The Vagina Monologues" runs through Sunday at the Murat Egyptian Room. For ticket information, call 239-5151.