Jann Arden on New Tour and Canadian Music Hall of Fame Induction

Jann Arden

Jann Arden announced a new album and cross-Canada tour during a press conference on Tuesday in Toronto. Photo: Alkan Emin

Jann Arden just might be the hardest working woman in show business. The singer-songwriter is also a TV star, with the second season of her critically lauded sitcom Jann airing this year. She’s also the best-selling author of four books (with a fifth on the way), host of The Jann Arden Podcast, and is slated to perform at the 2020 Juno Awards in March, where she’s also being inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Clearly she doesn’t feel she’s busy enough, so on Tuesday the 57-year-old announced Jann Arden Live — a cross-Canada tour that will kick off in May — and the May release of Hits & Other Gems, a collection of some of Arden’s hit songs, cover tracks, live performances and three tunes from the second season of Jann.

Most people get winded just reading the list of projects Arden’s got on the go, but after her tour and album announcement in Toronto on Tuesday, the star walked into an interview with Zoomer with an air of humour and humility that’s made her one of Canada’s most beloved  figures.

Zoomer is the only magazine I’ve ever been naked in. So we’ve got that going on,” she quipped, referring to her April 2012 cover story for which fellow Canuck musician Bryan Adams photographed her in the buff.

Jann Arden

Arden credits her penchant for taking on new challenges to a habit she picked up as a kid. “What do you want to be when you grow up? Well I want to be all of the things.” It helps her stay healthy, motivated and helps keep her brain sharp. And don’t think she’s concerned with failure.

“I’m just not worried about getting it wrong. I don’t care if I fail. It doesn’t bother me the least. I’m like, ‘Oh well.’”

It’s a sentiment she addressed at the press conference preceding the interview,  where she declared: “As you get older, you’ll be like, ‘Damn the torpedoes.’” Make no mistake, there have been torpedoes, both personal and professional, including her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease that Arden chronicled in her 2017 memoir/cookbook Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss.

“Good things come out of bad things,” she notes, adding that she’d, “never write a song, I would never push myself forward if it weren’t for difficulty … And that’s what keeps me going when crappy things happen. When my mom was sick and when the world was lost and I was crying all day long, I just thought, ‘I’ll come out of this, but this is what this is. So I need to ride it out.’”

Hit the Road, Jann

Arden drops her Hits & Other Gems disc on May 1 before kicking off her cross-Canada tour on May 7 in Newfoundland, where she  last performed in 2002 on her 40th birthday. That night, the power failed in the stadium, causing a half-hour blackout.

“People just got giddy,” she recalls. “Everyone had lighters [in the air] and we had a violin player in the band at the time and she started [playing]. And the entire place was very true to form, jigging and singing songs and laughing. And when the power came on, they were almost mad that it did, because we were having such a good time.”

Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong during her years touring Canada.  “We’ve had things break and things blow up,” she says. “I remember getting electrocuted one year. I remember falling off the stage once.”  It’s a wonder, then, that she’s still in one piece today.

Before she hits the road, Arden heads to the Juno Awards on March 15 to be fêted as one of the latest inductees into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

“I know this sounds like a typical response, but I am very honoured and humbled,” the eight-time Juno winner says. She calls the honour “wildly wonderful, I can’t even believe it” and remembers crying when she was told about it by Allan Reid, president and CEO of the Juno Awards. Reid, who at one time worked for Universal Music, signed Arden to a record deal in the early 1990s.

An Open Book

For some, a Hall of Fame induction serves as the cherry on the top of a career, but Arden still has so much more to do. She admits that, of all the projects she’s got on the go, it’s the success of the TV series that surprised her the most.

“I don’t consider myself an actor. I didn’t think I could memorize the lines, because I usually learn 15 pages of dialogue every day ’cause I’m in practically every scene,” Arden says. “But I’ve surprised myself. I didn’t even think I could do it. And once again, I’m not afraid of completely flubbing it out there. I was ready to be really heavily criticized and contrary to that, I was quite well supported and the show was well received. And my fans really stuck it out with me.”

Which leads to the question: If fear of failure isn’t an issue, what other projects will she attempt in the future?

“I really would just like to keep writing,” Arden says, adding that her next non-fiction book, called If I Knew Then, is slated for an October release. Writing books like Feeding My Mother is “something that can help people negotiate their own terms with themselves and to kind of get through their lives knowing that somebody else is out there really screwing up and not getting it right.”

She’s been working on a novel for about eight years, an ongoing project she says is “probably a piece of crap” that “might take so much heavy lifting of 19 editors.” Still, she’s loved writing it and it helped her cope with her parents’ battles with dementia.

“I don’t think you’ll ever read it, because I don’t think it’s gonna make it, but it’s probably one of the most important things that I did for myself and I continue to do,” she says, joking that she might keep writing it until the day she dies. “It’ll be a very interesting project for somebody when I croak. It’s on my computer with the Olivia Newton John sticker.”

Until then, fans can check her out on her tour.

“Come for just the hair and the outfits,” she quips. “You’ll want to see that.”