Interview with Jen Trynin, author of "Everything I'm Cracked Up to Be"
Jen Trynin’s "Everything I’m Cracked Up To Be" is a must-read for anyone in a band that is on its way up, or has ever been on the way to stardom or semi-stardom. For that matter, it should be a must-read for anyone interested in the music business on any level. But even more than that, Trynin’s first book is an entertaining read and she is an even more entertaining person to speak to. Bullz-Eye recently caught up with Trynin about her book, her life as a rock star, and what she’s up to today.
Bullz-Eye: So how has your book been received so far?
Jen Trynin: It’s doing great. I’m very pleased. Lots of great reviews, and that’s always good. It’s just been really fun. I did a book tour and lots of people came out, and it’s just been kind of a blast.
BE: That’s awesome. I saw a review in our paper, The Tennessean, a couple weeks ago, but I think it was a syndicated review.
JT: It might have been the Associated Press review.
BE: Yeah, I think it was. That was pretty cool.
JT: Yeah, whoever that guy was I want to kiss him because he gave me a fantastic review. It got printed a million times. So I was really psyched.
BE: Good. So what do you think has been more successful to date, your music career or the book?
JT: Umm, I’m going to say the book just because it’s the beginning of it. (laughs) I’m hoping it will be the book part. I also really enjoyed my experience in music even though it didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted. It was a great and intense experience. I met billions of people. I just feel lucky that I was able to experience it at all. Otherwise life really can get, as I know now, tedious and boring and the same thing every day. There’s some relief in that but it’s also really fun just to do different stuff, be different places. Like this past weekend I went to Los Angeles to be part of the L.A. Times Book Festival. It was SO MUCH fun. I was really shocked. I thought it was just going to be some stupid little book fair, but there was like 100 panels. It was incredibly well organized. It was held on the campus of UCLA and in two days, like 150,000 people came through there. It was incredible.
BE: Did you get to speak?
JT: Yeah, I was part of the music panel on Saturday and I did a radio thing on Sunday. And then I went to lots of panels and listened to people talk. It was fantastic.
BE: Cool. So has writing the book had an impact on your music at all?
JT: Um yeah. It has, but you know, my record came out now ten years ago. And they’re also not in print anymore, so it’s not like there’s activity on my whole music thing. But they’re still being sold. I still have some, so you can go to my website and buy my records. And they’re being sold on eBay and stuff…you know, for like a dollar or ten cents or two cents. I think it went from they were being sold for like a dime and now they’re being sold for like a dollar AND ten cents.
BE: (laughs) Right on.
JT: Right! So there’s been a real spike in that way. You can say they are selling for ten times the price now. (laughs)
BE: Well I bought a couple of your songs from iTunes.
JT: Well that’s good! That’s right, you can buy anything you want from iTunes.
JT: Well, thank you for doing that.
BE: I really like title track from the second album.
BE: Yeah. What a great song.
JT: Thank you. I like that song too.
BE: What inspired you to write the book about your experiences?
JT: It was a very intense experience. I did stop playing music as I say at the end of the book. And just the whole thing was really haunting me. I had done creative writing things, just as much as I had done music, since I was a little kid. I wasn’t using the creative energy to play music, so I found myself writing in journals and stuff like that. And I just started writing about all my memories of what had happened, and it just was…. I can’t stand it when writers are, like, “Oh, it was so cathartic.” But the fact is, it felt really good to get the memories out of me and onto a piece of paper and I found I wasn’t as obsessed by all the memories. And that’s where it started. I just started writing about it and I took some workshops here in Boston where I live. Some of my teachers were like, “Have you ever considered writing a book about this?” And I was like, “Wow.” No, I never really had. And that’s how I wrote the book.
BE: So when did you start writing it?
JT: Embarrassingly, I kind of started without realizing what I was doing back in ’99, which was about a year after I had stopped playing music. But in earnest, it took about two years to write. Have you ever tried writing a book?
BE: No! (laughs)
JT: It’s not for the faint of heart, I can tell you.
BE: And where the names changed in your book at all?
JT: Yes, almost all of them were. The only ones that weren’t are common domain names like David Geffen or Courtney Love or something. Everybody else’s names have been changed.
BE: Well, it was funny because my wife read it too and said something about, “you know, her husband’s pretty well known.” I’m like, “Her husband’s name is Guy.” And she’s like, “No, it’s not!” (laughs)
JT: (laughs). That’s right.
BE: So who is your husband?
JT: His name is Mike Denneen.
BE: Is he working on anything now?
JT: Yeah, he does lots of stuff all the time, but his main project right now is this young rock boy band called The Click Five.
BE: Oh, yeah! I love those guys!
JT: I love those guys, too! Do you really? Because I really do.
BE: Yeah! I know a radio guy from Atlantic Records and he was down here about a month ago, and he gave me a bunch of new releases. Well, I guess it’s not so new, but their record from last year. I put it in, and it was kind of boy band-ish, but listening to it, you can’t get the songs out of your head. Some really cool stuff. And then they did that really cool cover of the Thompson Twins song.
JT: Yup! They do great cuts. They’re really an amazing band. To call them a boy band is a little bit unfair because the fact is they’re all incredible musicians and they were all kind of together before the manager and my husband got involved. But the only difference between them being a regular band and on what they’re doing is that they allow my husband and their manager to have a lot of influence on what they do.
BE: Really cool.
JT: Yeah, I love it too. And they’re really nice guys. So that’s Mike’s main focus right now. They’re doing another record now.
BE: Very cool. Do you think the music business has changed at all in the last ten years?
JT: Oh, well, it’s changed tremendously. It’s changed tremendously and it hasn’t changed at all. A lot of the avenues by which people acquire music, obviously that’s changed a lot. But what makes it, and what doesn’t make it, goes in the same circular patterns as it always has. Oh you know, “female pop singers are really popular.” “No, now we hate female pop singers. Now we want to hear boy bands!” “Oh now we hate boy bands.” It’s all the same. The trends are the same, but obviously how people are buying the music has changed a lot. And the old-school record companies are folding. There are fewer and fewer of them and another twenty-five years from now, I can only assume they’re going to look very different then what they look like right now. What do you think?
BE: I think so too. They’re just been so much merging and so many little labels popping up all over the place, not to mention any Joe Blow now can release their own CD.
JT: That’s right. There’s just too much music out there again so there will be new kinds of guards at the gate, but it might not be the old-school record labels unless they start being run by much, much younger people who know how things are actually moving now.
JT: You know what I’m talking about. (laughs)
BE: So do you still write music?
JT: You know, I don’t, really. I spend so much time writing prose stuff. But I don’t rule it out at all, because I miss it. I played guitar in somebody else’s band for five years after I stopped doing my own thing. And I loved that and I hope to do that again too.
BE: What band is that? Was it anybody I know?
JT: It was just called Loveless. It was a band based here in Boston, and it was really my friend’s band. I just played guitar for him, and I loved that band. But it ended, unfortunately.
BE: Do you still talk to the guys from your band?
JT: Yeah. I’m still friendly with pretty much everybody.
BE: And do you still talk to Aimee Mann at all?
JT: Not only do I still talk to Aimee, I just saw her on Saturday night in L.A.
BE: Very cool.
JT: Yeah, she’s doing very well. She’s playing here in Boston with the Boston Pops in June. I can’t wait, I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful.
BE: I just saw her in an episode of “Love Monkey.”
JT: Oh I haven’t seen that! Was it good?
BE: (laughs). Yeah, it was really cool. So I think the best quality of your book is that you had no regrets and that you accepted everything for what it was and were kind of relieved to get back to a normal life. Do you still feel that way, or do you think that things could have been different if you were marketed better?
JT: You know, most of the time I don’t regret or think about it in any way other than what you just said, and that’s just what happened. I don’t delude myself into thinking if I had been marketed better that would have done the trick. That’s too simple. But would it have been really exciting had the general public responded to my music and to me and everything and I could have done it professionally for 10 or 15 years? I think it would have been really interesting. But I don’t know. It didn’t happen, so I don’t think about it a whole lot. You know, I like my life now.
BE: That’s the most important thing.
JT: Yeah. I really love writing. So I’m just kind of hoping the writing thing’s going to work out for me.
BE: That’s good. Are you already thinking about another book?
JT: Yeah, I’m kind of working on a book and kind of working on a screenplay. You know, just writing as much as I can, pretty much.
BE: Sweet. Are you listening to anything now in particular?
JT: I like that Click Five record. My daughter adores that Click Five record, so we listen to it all the time. What else have I listened to lately? I’m a big Fountains of Wayne fan, as everybody knows. (Note: Deneen, Trynin’s husband, has also produced them)
JT: What else? What else am I listening to lately that I really loved? I know I’m forgetting something really obvious and I can’t think of it right now.
BE: Have you heard the Fray yet?
JT: I haven’t.
BE: Oh they’re really cool. They’re from Denver. I think they’re on Epic.
JT: Oh cool, I’ll check it out.
BE: Yeah, their album was released last fall and they have a single now that’s like number 14 or something. But the record is just really great.
JT: Oh I will keep it in mind, for sure.
BE: Was the process of getting your book published anything like the music business?
JT: You know, for better and worse, it wasn’t – just because the music business, for all its bad points, is very exciting. The people who work in the music business are very excitable. And that’s cool. You know, it can be really annoying because sometimes they’re really stupid and they smell bad and all they’re doing is drugs and they’re not actually excited. So that’s a drag, but on the other hand, everyone’s really excited and passionate and energetic and weird, and that’s why they’re in the music business. And there is a lot of excitement when a record comes out. Even when nobody cares, there’s still a level of excitement you get to go on the road. They’re just some excitement happening. In the book business, at least the way I experienced it, it’s just very quiet and everything moves very slowly.
BE: Like a library?
JT: A little bit. Everyone’s very polite. Everyone’s very bright, so I kind of like that. It’s just very staid. And the enthusiasm never reaches the same level of, like, “YAY!” I mean, except for between me and my editor, who is a real character. But for the most part, the whole vibe of the entire machine is very different.
BE: That’s interesting. Was it difficult to find a publisher? Was it a lot of work to do that?JT: I was pretty lucky in that way. I had no problems getting an agent or a publisher because my book kind of had a little bit of a hook to it. It wasn’t like I wrote some long novel about my grandmother traveling though a time space continuum machine and how much I love her. It wasn’t a book like that. It’s like a book about rock and roll. So there’s some audience for it, they figured. It wasn’t too tough.