For several nights, before she fell asleep, Port Townsend High School senior Odette Jennings would write down little phrases in a notebook – sentences she’d heard others say, and ideas of her …
For several nights, before she fell asleep, Port Townsend High School senior Odette Jennings would write down little phrases in a notebook – sentences she’d heard others say, and ideas of her own.
In the morning, she would look them over.
She was trying to write a song – something she’d never done before – for her senior project.
The idea to write, produce and release an album of original songs was that of friend and fellow musician Declan Goldenbogen.
At the last minute, unable to decide what her senior project would be, Jennings joined in to collaborate on the album.
“It was kind of intimidating for me,” the pianist and violinist said of the idea of composing one of the album’s tracks. “I was a little hesitant to become part of his project.”
She’s glad she did, and so is Goldenbogen.
“I was happy to have her on board,” he said. “Initially, I was just going to write the music and record it – just me with my guitar.” Having Jennings join in expanded the possibilities of the project; it was no longer a solo act, but one of collaboration and camaraderie.
They formed a band, Shuttle Service, along with fellow high school seniors Ian Coates and Rowan Halpin, and rehearsed, recorded and released a debut album, “A Slight Misunderstanding.”
That album is now for sale for $8 (those interested in purchasing it can contact either Jennings or Goldenbogen via Facebook), and the band is set to play a concert featuring the original music beginning at 7 p.m., Friday, May 26 at Quimper Grange, 1219 Corona St. Funds raised from the concert go to the Port Townsend Music Boosters, a program that supports PTHS music programs, such as high school orchestra, that helped foster the teens’ musical educations.
Goldenbogen and Jennings have known each other “forever,” they say, but became friends when they started playing together in Band Lab, a rock group composed of six young musicians.
Jennings was one of the original members of the musical group, which formed in when she was in fifth grade in the OCEAN program. Two years later, when they were in need of a bass player, Goldenbogen, who also plays guitar, joined.
The group played covers – tunes by The White Stripes, Black Keys and some classic, older songs, too; group members suggested pieces to play, and they performed around town, opening for other bands in various settings.
In the 10th grade, the group disbanded as members made plans to go on other adventures; Jennings and Goldenbogen left to study abroad in Italy and Denmark, respectively.
Before they left town, there was a going-away party at which the two played a few covers on piano and guitar, and made plans to come back from Europe and play together again.
Those trips abroad were inspiring, and influenced the future album project on which they would collaborate.
Jennings ended up staying with a musical host family in Italy, and learned to play guitar – an instrument that helped with her songwriting – while Goldenbogen found inspiration for his own compositions.
“The people I met there really influenced me,” he said. “It was kind of a dramatic change for me,” he said of his time in Denmark. Much of what he described as an “emotional experience” made its way into the songs he wrote.
Writing the four songs that ended up on the album is “all pretty much a blur,” Goldenbogen said. “It all just kind of happens at the same time” – creating the melody, writing the lyrics. “I just really enjoy when it all comes together.”
For Jennings, the process was a bit more difficult. “I didn’t expect to even get that far,” she said of the one song she wrote for the album.
Jennings loves writing prose – poetry, not so much. And she had never written a song. After several nights of writing down ideas, she picked up the guitar. Writing on the piano would, she said, have engendered something “predictable.”
As she experimented with melodies and rhythms, the song formed. “The majority of the words [came] to me in that moment,” she said. “I wrote it without really knowing what it was about.”
The meaning, and what it’s about, is evolving for her. “Every time I listen to it, I get different meaning.”
MAKING AN ALBUM
Songs in hand, Goldenbogen and Jennings teamed up with Coates (bass) and Halpin (drums) to form Shuttle Service, a name inspired by the white van Goldenbogen drives.
Jennings joked one evening that it felt like they were always driving around in a shuttle service. The phrase struck a chord with Coates, and they all agreed it was a great band name. (Although people tend to make fun of the van, Goldenbogen notes, it’s useful for transporting band equipment.)
Recording the songs on the album was a daylong educational experience in the album production process. After a couple of months of practicing the songs, the band headed over to the recording studio of George Rezendes, Goldenbogen’s mentor.
“It took about one very long afternoon and evening,” Jennings said. “It was just incredible to have that experience.”
“George is really wonderful,” Goldenbogen said. “He definitely made some suggestions that helped.”
After recording the tracks, they visited Pete Lack, Jennings’ mentor, for sound mixing. “There’s a lot of crazy stuff you can do to recorded [music],” Goldenbogen said. “It’s like night and day,” Jennings said of the difference between the raw versus the mixed recordings.
Jennings and Goldenbogen are looking forward to sharing their music with the audience on May 26 as a way to give back to PT Music Boosters.
“It was our initial intention to do a big show that would be a benefit,” Goldenbogen said. Both played in the high school’s band and orchestra for years, and are incredibly enthusiastic about that experience and excited to have an opportunity to give back.
And soon enough, it’s off to college. Goldenbogen is going to The Evergreen State College to study “sustainable creative practice,” a program that equips creative types like himself with skills, such as finance, to support their careers. “I’m sticking with music – I’m always going to be a musician,” he said. He wants to play music professionally, and hopes to find a band in the future.
Jennings is set to attend Reed College in Portland; she’s not positive what she’ll study yet, but it will probably be something related to language – such as linguistics, she said – and music, too. “I always saw music and language as being so separate,” she said of her two interests. Writing her first song for her senior project showed her just how connected those two passions could be.