It began as a discussion to play one show, then snowballed into something much bigger and different from what she had in mind.
But that’s just fine with Jennifer O’Connor, who looks at her upcoming Tower of Song songwriters series as an artistic blessing of sorts.
“What is so great about this series is that it’s really allowing me to stay close to home this year and work on music and play shows and work on [my new] record,” she says.
Originally, O’Connor was in talks to do a gig at The Rock Shop in her home base of Brooklyn, N.Y. Then the idea developed into a show that included other artists, “like a songwriters-in-the-round kind of thing,” she explains, “but with a little bit more of an indie-rock element to it.”
From there, it morphed into a monthly series that she would host and curate, featuring a mix of performances and discussions about songwriting.
And so Tower of Song, which begins Jan. 11 and will feature Chris Brokaw (Come, The New Year), Amy Bezunartea (Clint Michigan) and Tim Foljahn (Two Dollar Guitar, Cat Power), was born. O’Connor says she’s always been a big fan of Inside the Actors Studio and the Elvis Costello-hosted Spectacle, and her series is somewhat inspired by those TV shows.
The basic format for each edition of Tower of Song is that O’Connor might sing or play guitar on somebody else’s songs, and vice versa, with some banter about the creative process intertwined.
“I think it will be fairly natural to play our songs and talk about them,” she says, “and I will figure out as I go along how and what to focus on, interview-wise.”
For the Jan. 11 edition, all four participants will get together ahead of time to work out some material that they can play together. And for each edition of the monthly series, there will be a songwriting assignment, O’Connor says, in which she and the others will have to write a new song for the gig based on a shared parameter that the group comes up with in advance.
O’Connor says she plans to play a few of her new tunes during the series, and those songs may end up on her upcoming album, which is still in the early stages.
“I have written a ton of songs and have recorded demos of all of them, [along with] one or two ‘real’ versions that will probably end up on the record,” she says. “But I’m still writing. I have done some recording at Nuthouse in Hoboken [N.J.] with Tom Beaujour, and I will do more there I’m sure, as well as at a few other studios possibly. I may float around for this one; I’m not totally sure yet.”
As far as a label home for the album, she says, that’s also up in the air.
“I may release it myself on Kiam, my label that has been growing pretty rapidly as of late, or I may look for another label to help out,” O’Connor says.
— By Chris M. Junior