Although The Wailin’ Jennys haven’t released an album in over four years, they’ve been steadily touring and performing, usually going out for three dates a month. But their latest run, which includes a stop at The Birchmere on Tuesday, Oct. 20, is a nine-day tour with performances on the West and East coasts.
Nicky Mehta, a mezzo-soprano and one third of the folk-bluegrass trio, was just getting over a cold when she spoke to the News-Press and said that the group “kind of likes” the longer tour runs. “It’s easier to kind of get in the groove of things and the shows benefit from that I think,” Mehta said. “When you do only two or three shows…it’s harder to kind of really sink into them and try new stuff…they’re still fun, but it’s nice to have a tour where we have five shows and can settle into it.”
It’s only marginally reminiscent of the group’s old touring schedule of over 200 days a year. “Those tours were a great opportunity to get into a real groove, but that’s just impossible these days,” Mehta said.
The primary reason why it’s impossible, as Mehta puts it, for The Wailin’ Jennys to tour as much these days is part of the reason the group hasn’t released any new recordings in the past four years: Two of the trio, Mehta, who has six-year-old twins, and alto Heather Masse, who has a three-year-old, are raising families.
All three singers also have healthy side projects and solo careers outside of their group dynamic, but family life is a priority for the group as well.
“I mean there are certainly [musicians] who leave their kids behind [and go on tour], but that’s something that we don’t want to do,” Mehta said. She said that when her sons her first born The Wailin’ Jennys went on tour slightly less than they had in the past, but still went out a ton more than they do now.
“It was 125 days on the road, which is really hard with twins in retrospect,” Mehta said. “I don’t know how we did it, actually, but I think when you have two kids it’s a lot tougher. So it became unfeasible to travel once Heather had her little guy.”
The last album released by The Wailin’ Jennys was Bright Morning Stars, which was released in 2011. Despite the lull in recorded material, all three of the vocalists have been working on solo and side projects.
Mehta said that she’s been writing and scoring music. Masse’s 2013 release Lock My Heart with legendary pianist Dick Hyman spent time on the Billboard charts. And the trio’s soprano Ruth Moody released These Wilder Things in 2013.
When it comes to working together, Mehta, Masse and Moody write songs separately and then come together to put together the arrangements for songs.
“I think we all see writing as a pretty solitary process and I think none of us really write particularly with the band in mind,” Mehta said. “We just write and we can kind of tell the difference between a song that’s going to be a solo song and a song that’s going to be a band song….But mostly the creative part of the group comes in the arrangement of the songs and that’s a really satisfying creative part of the process.”
Mehta said that although the group hadn’t found or made time over the past few years to create new songs as a group, new music is likely on the horizon.
“We just haven’t had a pocket of time to focus on writing and arrangement,” Mehta said. “And we’ve sort of favored being on the road. But I think it’s time for another album. We’ve been discussing how that’s going to come together, so it is in the works.”
• For more information about The Wailin’ Jennys, visit thewailinjennys.com.