Jennifer Owens: How a career in music stemmed from a Tinder date

PUBLISHED: 15:12 27 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:12 27 March 2017

Singer Jennifer Owens on stage

Singer Jennifer Owens on stage


Trotton-based singer/songwriter Jennifer Owens tells Duncan Hall how an online dating app led to an amazing first year on the music scene

It was a Tinder meeting which arguably set Jennifer Owens on her musical career.

Now living in Trotton, near Midhurst, the 21-year-old Basildon-raised singer had spent her childhood singing. But it was meeting her producer, fellow songwriter and current partner Guy Gyngell, 31, through the online dating app which really began her professional journey. Last year, following that fateful meeting, Jennifer made her headline live debut in Portsmouth Guildhall in January, hit more than 1m views on YouTube with her cover of Sia’s hit Chandelier, released a live album and DVD of her debut concert and in November unleashed a studio EP, The Young History, on the independent Annexe label.

As she talks to Sussex Life in a Chichester café it’s clear that the pace of everything has taken her breath away. “I can’t believe how much it has blown up,” she says, having only begun building her career in the spring of 2015, shortly after that fateful meeting. “When I first started Guy said it might take some time, that it might be longer than I would want it to be. But it has all happened quicker than we imagined — it has been a real confidence booster.”

Launching with a live album is a rare step to take, but Jennifer and her team made the decision after seeing the quality of the film made during her Portsmouth debut, accompanied by a pianist and string section. “The studio EP was ready to go,” she says. “We came away from that show thinking: ‘Wow — that was amazing, let’s do something with it’. My strength is in live performance. I can do recorded stuff — that’s part of the job I guess — but my time is best spent performing live. People can connect with me.”

There may be something in the blood — both Jennifer’s mother and father were singers. Jennifer’s nan spent hours at the piano teaching her granddaughter the basic principles of how to look after her voice and hit the difficult notes. In return Jennifer has used her as inspiration — in particular in her new song For The Better.

Jennifer believes in the healing power of music — having experienced it herself. She moved to Chichester to attend university three years ago, but was hit hard by clinical depression in 2014. “I was ringing my mum every morning to get me through the day,” she says. “I heard this song Anything Worth Holding On To by Scott Alan — the power of it was unbelievable. It was a big release for me.” The song was the last track on her debut live release and opens her EP. She finds songwriting in itself cathartic: “The best time to write is when you’re angry,” she says. “You sit down and write what you want to say, to get out that feeling and then it is in the song forever.”

Keeping everything real is key. Her popular YouTube videos saw her dressed in normal everyday clothes. Her musical style eschews synthesisers and processed beats, instead going back to the classic arrangements explored by her heroes Karen Carpenter, Barbra Streisand and Neil Sedaka. “It’s the music which made me love music,” she says. “Why not be brave — not go down the BBC Radio 1 route and make dance music, but make music that doesn’t fade, music that people can listen to and connect with.”

She and Guy are now writing as much as possible, but also taking the time to explore Sussex. “When I moved to Chichester I fell in love with it,” she says. “Trotton is beautiful — there are deer, squirrels and pheasants in our back garden, nature all around us. We like going to the Elsted Inn in Trotton — it’s a great local and the food is amazing. And every Sunday we go to a garden centre for breakfast — they are so old-fashioned it’s great. It’s like stepping back to the 1980s or 1990s.”

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