Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
- Posted on Apr 24th 2007 10:00AM by Steve Baltin
As an actress, Jena Malone, though only 22, has already built a career based around her fearlessness, eclectic tastes and forthrightness. And now she's bringing all of those same attributes to a burgeoning singing career that brought her to Southern California to perform on April 13 at the Viper Room, in L.A. Backed by a stellar band, dubbed the Bloodstains, that includes Russell Simins, former drummer of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Malone performed a nine-song set that ran the gamut from Tom Waits-like experimentation and straight-ahead rock anthems to ballads augmented primarily by a violin.
Talking to Spinner before the show, Malone, who will begin work on her debut album later this month, with hopes to have it out before year's end, said it was acting, in a sense, that led her to music. "I started making a lot of music the summer of 2005," she says. "I was working on this film in Spain that was kind of like the death of me. And I had been singing to myself a lot. I had been doing all this weird mythical Spanish freestyle, because I didn't know that much Spanish, but I was surrounded by it. I didn't even know what I was singing, but it opened up this whole thing inside me and I was freestyling all the time. Instantly, all the years of writing poetry, it all came full circle and I was like, 'Wow. This is the venue for poetry, for storytelling, for my heart. You can open your mouth and tell a story, and it lives and dies in a moment. It's just so beautiful.'"
When she returned Stateside, she began turning that freestyling into more formal songs. "When I came back to Tahoe in the winter I just caved myself in, got all this music equipment, set up a music studio, literally cracked out and made two full-length demos. So it's just like pouring out of me and I'm like, 'F**k, I've gotta sing this live.' But I'm not a technically proficient musician. When I was making the songs it would be just be more intuitive, what sounded good, what rhythm sounded good, and it's like really outsider music in a way just because I don't know any structures."
Regardless, indie label The Social Registry responded, offering to put out a single as well as bringing Malone to New York to play shows. And fans responded as well, writing in-depth analyses of her songs online. "It was really intense. I couldn't really read it," she says. "I was like, 'Oh, wow.' I thought I just had 14-year-old boys instead of really smart college students, but I guess all the 14-year-old boys grew up," she adds, laughing.