Interview with an Up Here Artist: Jen Holub

Jen Holub is as comfortable behind a guitar as she is a paddle. Navigating life's rivers with a philosophical attitude, she inspires her audience and her students with corn-ball humour and a gentle hand. Here are some things you may not have known about this Northern Ontario gal. 

The artist herself, photo provided by Jen Holub

The artist herself, photo provided by Jen Holub

On Music

What are your goals and inspirations?

I like to create stories that trick you into learning something. Using music to combat injustice through activism is high on my agenda. I’m influenced by artists like Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha, and Tom Morello. Closer to home it's Quantum Tangle and Nick Sherman. 

What was your turning point for musical growth?

Guitar lessons from Dan Bédard and learning of Gillian Welch. 

Favourite Instrument you wish you played?

Pedal Steel guitar: Love Paul Franklin (Nashville) and Matt Gravel (Haunting Album) 

A young Jen, photo provided by Jen Holub

A young Jen, photo provided by Jen Holub

On Stage

You employ self-deprecation on stage. Why?

I am so humbled by the opportunity to be able to do what I do on stage and I feel it's important to humanize yourself when connecting with the audience. 

Dream band opener?

My recent biggest influence of late, Sharon Van Etten: singer/songwriter, clinical psychologist, actor, and mom. I love her album Are We There?

Who have you been mistaken for?

Cindy Doire ("Great show Cindy!") 

Cindy Doire, photo from musician’s website

Cindy Doire, photo from musician’s website

On Life (etc.)

When life gets hectic, how do you keep your balance?

If I need to I'll opt out of things to be sure my work and relationships don't suffer ... Cheez Whiz helps. 

What animal do you most identify with?

Shark: About two dozen species have to keep moving or they die. That's me. Or Owl: Known to be discerning 

Favourite movies?

Clue (1985) and Haunted Honeymoon (1986) with Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner. On the deeper side, a psychological drama: The Hours (Virginia Wolfe).

What types of movies will you not watch?

Horror. Even Sherlock Holmes can be too much for me. 

Favourite books?

The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns: It unpacks the myths of over-generalizing/ mind-reading gone wrong 

On Food

What food and beverage Items do you take with you on tour?

Coffee, water, energy drinks, and apples. 

Favourite road food?

Wendy's salads 

Band's favourite road food?

Diners and other establishments that are locally-owned.

What’s your go-to recipe for a full day of prep?

Veggie spring rolls with nut dip
Chickpea side salad with vinaigrette
Pesto pasta, chicken with veggies
Raspberries with cream &and chocolate flakes
Coffee 

Guilty Pleasure?

Kraft Singles or Cheez Wiz (I can put it on anything, but on Kraft Dinner especially). I avoid buying the bigger jars as they’re too tempting. 

Cheez Whiz on toast, photo provided by Jen Holub

Cheez Whiz on toast, photo provided by Jen Holub

On the Road

Other Interests en route?

Thrift stores. Once, whilst out in Moncton, we found a huge two-story thrift store. We needed a shovel and a hairdryer. On sale were some beautiful wood-framed mirrors that fit perfectly into my vision of our new place, so I decided to buy them. They were 4x4 feet. As we had a trailer, we could bubble wrap and blanket the heck out of them and stand them to the side.

Any unpredictable road experiences?

Trailers have a latch on the back door. If not closed properly you get to see your musical gear spilling out all over the highway. Luckily, we noticed it before the second item spilled out …

Where would you like to visit?

Canada's Arctic. When I was 16, I did a month-long canoe trip in northern Manitoba. Seeing the tundra was like nothing I've ever experienced. 

On Childhood

What were your favourite childhood activities?

A child of the YMCA John Island Camp, I always had a keen relationship with the outdoors in all seasons. I wound up being canoe guide for Wild Women Expeditions for many years. 

What impact has your family and spirituality had on you?

My uncle Bruce was a professor of nutrition, a deacon, and an optimist who loved to study and do research. I'm drawn to a moral compass and how faith can offer a framework to guide our actions. When I've attended Unitarian services, I've been inspired by how socially justice-minded they are.

Photo provided by Jen Holub

Photo provided by Jen Holub

Dar ~i~