Songwriting Meets Collaborative Production: Jenn Bostic

Singer Songwriter Jenn Bostic In the studio with Lauren Christy & Benj Heard
Jenn Bostic takes singers behind the scenes of her collaborative recording project, “Take My Hand”

Image: Jenn Bostic in the studio with Lauren Christy & Benj Heard

Jenn Bostic is Nashville’s talented singer-songwriter who has found a world-wide audience. After years of producing her own albums and creating countless tours, she’s been working on a project which teams up her voice and music with the creative talents of producer, hit songwriter, and vocalist Lauren Christy.

We’ve asked Jenn to take us behind the scenes and tell us what it is like to share a project with producers and work collaboratively with the songwriting and recording experience. 

You’ve produced several independent albums – what is different about this project? 

Take My Hand Part 1 is the fifth project I have released. It is a collaboration with Lauren Christy, as well as a long list of amazing producers, songwriters, musicians, mix engineers, etc. There was a freedom to this project that I had never before experienced during the creative process. Lauren and I wanted to create something we could personally listen to for hope, peace, and encouragement that would be an honest expression of our love for God. 

Recording background vocals for the EP

Did anything surprise you about the process?

I’m not sure either of us realized the amount of spiritual growth that would take place during the process, or how strong the sisterhood that originally brought us together for this project would become. We took our time, the songs seemed to flow freely, and the internal hustle to create something for radio or worldly success (that I have too often been consumed by) was replaced with a desire to create beautiful art that came from an honest, real place. There has always been a thread of faith in my music; I have been a believer my entire life, but something shifted when we started writing for this album. Creating with a focus that points directly to God has been incredibly life giving. It feels as if I was meant to do this all along.

Take us into the song-writing process – how did this work? 

The songwriting process has always been incredibly therapeutic for me. The majority of my songs start from personal experience. While I have written many songs on my own, the process of co-writing has helped me to grow as a writer and has led to some of my favorites. 

What is it like to collaborate in the songwriting process?

We all have different strengths and our minds work differently. I love collaborations that start out as a good old-fashioned life talk. Spending an hour, discussing thoughts, feelings, situations you’re currently facing can reveal parallels in the life of your co-writer and yourself. “Write what you know,” has been one piece of advice I received a long time ago that continues to ring in my ears. Sometimes words, phrases or even full sentences that come out during conversation find their way into the song as powerful lyrics. 

Jenn Bostic and Lauren Christy collaborate on “Take My Hand”

OK. What are the “nuts & bolts” of the collaboration process? 

If I know the focus of a writing session is for my upcoming album, I take time to get ideas started before I get to the session. If I am the one that will be touring the world singing that song, the core needs to come from something I have experienced. This also allows a collaborator to step into an idea I might be too close to, and take it in a direction that makes for a more powerful impact. Working with Lauren for the last eight years has been such a gift. She has become a dear friend and mentor. I love that even after writing countless hits and being one of the only women nominated for “Producer of the Year” at the Grammys, you can still feel Lauren’s excitement in the studio when a great song starts coming to life. She treats me as an equal regardless of her success and experience.

So, Jenn, you get to the studio to lay down the tracks. Is it as simple as coming in and singing the parts you planned?

Sometimes it is. I love to be organized and overly prepared, almost to a fault. I live in Nashville, and this project was written and recorded in Los Angeles. I had the opportunity to fly out to California several times over the last year and a half, and the focus for each trip was this project. I’ll admit that there are more distractions for me in Nashville between dirty dishes, laundry, dog walks, and so on – so I really enjoyed escaping my space to create this album. 

Sounds like recording away from your home had its benefits…

Recording vocals in Studio City, California

I had the chance to get really comfortable with the songs before recording the vocal. Most of the recording process started with a simple piano/vocal the day we wrote the song, then I would fly back to Nashville or go back on tour while the producers started building the tracks. A few months later I would fly back to Los Angeles for two or three days of recording vocals. As I mentioned, I do tend to be very prepared before going in the studio, but it’s important to leave room for magic. 

What does “leaving room for magic” look like?

Several times throughout the vocal session Lauren would be sitting in the control room and come up with an idea for me to try. Many of those ended up on the final recordings. I think it’s important to be open to all ideas and try them out. You can always mute or delete something later. With this project I had a chance to live with the vocal recordings for a few months, and had the opportunity to re-record anything that bothered me or seemed to stick out. That was a luxury that having a specific timeline might have hindered. 

What can all singers keep in mind as they prep for studio singing?

That’s a great question and a difficult one. I had to learn my own voice, and it has taken me awhile. Recording a studio vocal and performing a live show are two different things and I’ve had to learn specific nuances that work for me in each setting. I have a big voice and I have spent hours in voice lessons learning to control it. Some things I do in a live performance don’t translate the same in the studio. Also, the energy of a live show isn’t there to influence my performance in the vocal booth. 

So, how do you prepare for studio singing?

I like to record myself singing the song, whether it be into a cell phone or with my home studio set up, then I listen back. This allows me to hear the song as the listener will, not only as I’m hearing it in my head. On more than one occasion this process has led to me to enunciate or place something differently when it comes time for the final vocal.

What musical magic happened that you did not anticipate?

One song that I didn’t have a chance to sit with before recording it was Tell Me Again. It is a Christmas song and it was time sensitive when we wrote it. This meant I had to record it the day after it was written. The vocal placement challenged me, but there is something about pushing yourself in the studio that can help overcome whatever mental blocks you’re facing because you don’t have the time to overthink it.  I had the opportunity to use a part of my voice that I don’t often use, which scared me a little. However, we were all really happy with the way it turned out, and to this day it’s still one of my favourite songs to sing from the project. 

Performing “Tell Me Again (Immanuel)” at the Westwood Community Church Women’s Event in Chanhassen, Minnesota, November 2019

What did you learn from this project that you would definitely keep in mind for future projects?

Patience! Good things take time. I get excited and I have a tendency to rush things. Take My Hand Part 1 is just half of the full-length album we created. The entire album is finished, and I am so excited to share it with the world, however it has been a beautiful process of waiting to find the right moments to release these songs. For example, my latest single Wrapped was released on April 10th, just after I returned from an interrupted UK tour due to Covid-19. I faced a lot of fear on that journey, but the lyrics of this song kept finding their way into my heart. I was compelled to release it when I finally made it back to the states and it has been amazing to hear stories of how the song has brought people peace during this uncertain time. 

What can singer-songwriters who haven’t worked with a producer learn from your experience?

I had a chance to work with some unbelievable producers on this project. Lauren is the executive producer and a songwriter for the whole album. Benj Heard produced the majority of this EP, as well as many of the forthcoming tracks. He is also a co-writer, musician, mix engineer, mastering engineer, and background singer for the project. Brandon Christy did a lot of the vocal production, which was great because I had already worked with him on my Faithful album in the past. Theron Feemster AKA Neff-U produced God of Big Dreams as well as the new single Wrapped. Working with each of them was such a gift. Due to distance and schedules I have still yet to meet Neff-U, however that’s the beauty of technology, especially during a time like this. We can collaborate together from a distance. Each of these amazing producers brought something different and special that made the project what it is. They took the songs to a level beyond what I could hear, and the trust and belief we have in each other is what allowed that to happen. 

Sounds like the lesson is: stay open to others’ ideas on our music!

Sometimes as artists we can hold our songs, ideas, or even dreams so tight that we can suffocate the life right out of them. That’s a tough lesson to learn for control freaks like me, but the outcome is so much better when we learn to surrender to the process. 

Take My Hand Part 1 is a six song EP, including five songs from a forthcoming album, as well as an original Christmas song, Tell Me Again (Immanuel). All songs were co-written with Lauren Christy (Avril Lavigne, Jason Mraz, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Enrique Iglesias, Kelly Clarkson, Dua Lipa, Katy Perry, The Struts, Bebe Rexha).   

See more about the “Take My Hand 1” EP and Jenn’s other music at http://jennbostic.com/

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