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Canada's Bold and Beautiful Singer-Songwriter

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Canada's Bold and Beautiful Singer-Songwriter

She’s not only smart and funny, she’s surprisingly bold and blunt for a superstar. But if you’ve listened to her songs or read her books or web-based journal postings, you know she is not afraid to say whatever’s on her mind.

I am worried about interviewing Jann Arden–she’s written and said so much to the public and press already. Will we be able to cover new ground? Jann Arden is talking to alive on the phone from her home in Calgary, telling me about her life as a teenager, smoking menthol cigarettes, eating fries, having acne, and getting the occasional glimpse at, uh, “small wieners.” She doesn’t mean tofu hotdogs. She’s not only smart and funny, she’s surprisingly bold and blunt for a superstar. But if you’ve listened to her songs or read her books or web-based journal postings, you know she is not afraid to say whatever’s on her mind. In fact, she will speak on subjects that most people, never mind celebrities, would consider off limits. For instance, in her book, I’ll Tell You One Damn Thing, and That’s All I Know! (Insomniac Press, 2004), a journal entry reads, “My period is a riot this month. I just sneezed and blew my tampon halfway out…excuse me while I fix myself up…oh, the fun of womanhood.” This is the kind of stuff most of us wouldn’t even discuss with a best friend. Uncensored It’s also one of the many reasons why people are drawn to Arden. Not afraid to speak her mind on delicate or controversial subjects, she always tells it like it is. She describes her philosophy in the introduction to her second book, If I Knew, Don’t You Think I’d Tell You? (Insomniac, 2002). “In the last few years, my diaries, my journals, have leapt off of their bits of paper and into cyberspace. When we started my website, jannarden.com, I wanted it to be somewhat interactive. I wanted there to be a reason for people to log on everyday. Something that made them want to know what was going on in my world. I thought to myself, ‘my journal…that’s it!’ I wasn’t the least bit wary about doing it either…I figure there are not many things that I get up to that I couldn’t write down. “I don’t need to censor myself at this point in my career. I just write like no one is reading. I sing like no one is listening. I have found that to be the most gracious way of being accurate about anything I do. I have to be honest with someone; it might as well be me.” Small Changes, Big Results Today on the phone from her home in Calgary, she is no different. Arden recently graced the cover of Chatelaine, revealing her weight loss of more than 50 pounds. She assures me that “it was an organic process,” during which she told herself, “I’m just going to make changes,” rather than “I want to lose weight.” For Arden, it was all about making small changes. For 20 years she’d been eating “once a day.” While she has always been active, she “jumped up cardio a bit,” and “started eating breakfast.” This led to having small meals and snacks throughout the day–she laughs as she tells me she’s carrying around healthy little snacks like “cheese sticks in my stupid purse now. It’s so easy.” She sounds like she can’t believe she’s talking about herself: it still seems new, this life of snacking and eating “a lot more food.” Arden tells me she’s now also taking 2,000 mg of nonflushing niacin and 2,000 mg of omega-3 to keep her energy levels high while losing weight. She has done all of this, remarkably, without a trainer or diet books. She used common sense. Huh. Although she says she “jogs at the speed of a turtle,” she keeps at it. “Change is possible,” she says. Most importantly, she is “gentle with my soul. I don’t punish myself.” I pause and listen to this woman who is unlike anyone I’ve ever talked with, especially a celebrity. She is what we all strive to be–good to ourselves, taking care of what’s important to us. Life on the Road “No one’s more surprised than me,” she admits, when she considers her life as a celebrity and award-winning singer-songwriter. Arden was 12 or 13 when she first picked up the guitar. At that point in her life, she was the “class clown, the funny kid,” and wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. She took theatre arts at college and even considered being a teacher, but it wasn’t until turning 30 that her career began to take off. In 1992 her debut album, Time for Mercy, was released to critical acclaim, and by 1994’s release, Living Under June, with the wildly successful single “Insensitive,” Arden was already a success both here in Canada and the States. Over a decade later, she still loves life on the road, although she travels “well over 200 days a year.” She doesn’t mind hotel life, as she is constantly in contact with friends (she calls them her “peeps”). “I do well on my own,” Arden tells me, “I like thinking.” She has thought about what’s important to her and made those things priorities. Easy Being Green She is environmentally proactive, for example, and the new house she is building is fitted with solar windows, geothermal heating and air conditioning, and higher-than-typical R-values (for insulation). Although it’s been “complicated–and not cheap either,” Arden has built on property that she describes as a “123-year-old Douglas fir forest.” She is clearly happy to have a place she can call home that is not harming the earth. “We have to get together as a planet,” she says, starting with the small things, such as recycling, as well as the big ones, including building an environmentally friendly house. Boldly into the Future The new house will also be a great place to write, an activity that clearly brings her joy. Whether it’s writing, painting, acting, singing, or simply making us laugh–with a purse full of cheese sticks–Arden’s philosophies are ones that we can follow ourselves: tend to your relationships, do what makes you happy, and live peacefully and congruently with nature. I can’t wait to see what she does next, but I have no doubt that it will be just as smart, funny, and thoughtful as she is. Arden isn’t afraid of change, and she certainly isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind. And here I was thinking that it might be hard to find new things to talk about. Jann Arden on…Friends “Friendships are my greatest accomplishments. Nurture your friendships.” Family “I love going to Winners with my Mom.” Arden lives just a few miles from her parents, with whom she is extremely close. She writes about them and talks about them during her live concerts. Pets Sweet Pea, Shrodie, and Maybelline, Arden’s three cats, play a big part in her life, and she writes about them in her web journals. Uncover Me, Jann Arden’s ninth album, was released on February 6, 2007. Her cross-Canada Uncover Me Tour 2007 ends May 18. Check jannarden.com for dates and details. (photo credit: Andrew MacNaughten)

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