Scene News: Jenny Mitchell Announces Album ‘Tug Of War’, Releases New Single And Video, ‘Lucy’

Singer/songwriter Jenny Mitchell is thrilled to announce her new album Tug of War, to be released on July 22 (with vinyl to arrive later on October 14) via Cooking Vinyl Australia, and unveil the latest offering from the record, the single and video, Lucy.

Produced by Matt Fell, Tug of War is a deep and emotional dive, for the artist and the listener. It finds Mitchell at her most raw and honest as a storyteller while creating a musical work that’s as rich and fertile as the farming country in New Zealand where she grew up. The title, Tug of War, hints at the turmoil at the heart of the songs while the musical settings draw on inspiration from old-timey country to dark folk mountain music and classic singer-songwriter albums. The music defies easy categorisation but if you admire music by genre-defying artists from Emmylou Harris to Kasey Chambers and Jason Isbell, you are going to love Tug of War.

Mitchell explains, “Tug of War is years of writing, recording, filming and collaborating. When I reflect on the process now, this collection of songs are so much more than I initially imagined they’d be so it’s fair to say I’m very excited to be announcing the news today. Matt and I have really explored my sound and I can’t wait for people to hear that.

“Like many in their early twenties, my life has been turned inside out in the past couple of years. I’ve lost people, learnt lessons and also had some of the best moments of my life along the way. So it’s fair to say this record is a bit of a mixed bag. I feel very lucky to have created it with the incredible players and producers that I did. Counting down to July 22.” 

Discussing the single Lucy, Mitchell says, “I spent some time studying the 1950s hit tv series, I Love Lucy, at Uni and became pretty fond of the main character. She had dreams of being a performer and wished for a life very different to her own. At the time I was touring a lot and worried I was missing out on things back home. It made me think about how often we’re all looking over each other’s fences and wishing we had what another has and so, ‘Lucy’ was written essentially as reminder to myself to be more grateful for the gifts in my life. Rather than worrying so much about what other people were doing or had. It starts with just a simple acoustic guitar part and my voice but I really love how this track builds. Jenny Thomas’ viola instrumental is one of my favourite moments of my new album.

“This track features the voice of one of my dearest friends, Liv Cochrane (Invercargill). She was the vocal producer on the new album and you’ll hear her backing vocals on a few of the tracks too. When we were in studio, she was singing her part of this track and I suddenly had this realisation that it was almost as if her backing vocal was Lucy – this female character from another decade. “As I had that realisation, the vision for the music video became quite clear. I’d always loved the idea of including mirrors in the clip but it became obvious that the other side of the wall/mirror/fence needed to be Liv – as Lucille.

“This song feels very true to my writing style. I loved the challenge of painting of picture of Lucy’s life and comparing it to my own. A housewife and a troubadour. I think the sound is also very true to me as an artist; a simple vocal that really focuses on telling the story.”

The songs of Tug of War were written at a time of big life changes – graduating from the University of Otago, musical career on hold in lockdown, the break-up of a relationship, the death of Jenny’s grandfather, taking a job and leaving a job, moving from her long-time base in Dunedin for a new life in Wellington.

“As the pandemic started I had just finished uni. I wanted to make an album, to tour overseas, and just like everyone else I felt that something had been stolen from me,” Mitchell says.

The making of the album wasn’t a straightforward process either, with Mitchell unable to travel, sharing demos with Fell in Australia and musicians sometimes in lockdown also making contributions from home studios.

The album concludes where Mitchell started out, in the loving arms of family, the song Love Isn’t Words to her father and grandfather Bruce, and a song that honours the life of Bruce, The Bush and The Birds. When you hear it, with the voice of the three sisters lifted up in harmony, with Jenny’s aunty Jill acknowledging the family’s heritage in te reo Māori, you know that this is music about something deeper and more enduring than making pop hits.

As an adult the richness of her life experiences is reflected in the variety of topics she addresses in her songs. Mitchell is a writer with important things to say, and brave enough to say them.  

Mitchell made her stage debut at four with her country-music loving father Ron at the local country music club in Gore near Invercargill in New Zealand’s south. At 14 she placed third in national TV show New Zealand’s Got Talent, a formative experience which taught her how to stand up for herself and to believe in the songs she was writing.

She specialised in Gender Studies in her Bachelor of Arts degree, studying the struggles of women dealing with sexism, writing about artists who inspired her like New Zealand songwriter Tami Neilson.  

Tug of War is released on July 22 via Cooking Vinyl – pre-order HERE

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