Jenn Champion has been making music for more than 20 years, both solo and as a member of Seattle’s saddest misspelled indie band Carissa’s Wierd, and she’s released music through some of the Northwest’s coolest record labels including Suicide Squeeze and Hardly Art.
This year, she’s doing something she’s never done before: Putting out her music her damn self.
Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, with which she raised more than $40,000, Champion will release The Last Night of Sadness on October 13. The record, she wrote on Kickstarter, is about “the difficulty and absurdity of being an alive person.” It’s no surprise nearly 500 people contributed to hear the results—few songwriters do sadness as well as Champion can.
Case in point, the first single, “Famous.” It’s a moody, mid-tempo dance track that sounds like a disillusioned Taylor Swift on downers. The synth tries to sparkle through Champion’s foggy memories of a difficult childhood and mistakes made along the way. Gloomy, contemplative—it’s the perfect music for fall. But also summer, winter, and spring, too, because for folks like Champion (and myself, if we’re being honest) sadness isn’t seasonal, it’s forever.
You have lived in LA for a while now, but I still think of you as a Seattle artist. I don’t know why, it just seems right. Do you still consider yourself a Seattleite?
I will always feel like Seattle is my hometown. I didn’t go to high school there or anything, but the person I am today was made in the dish pits of Seattle.
But Seattle is way better than LA, right?
I refer you to my weather app.
Your new record, The Last Night of Sadness, is the first time you’re self-releasing an album. Why did you choose to forgo a record label this time around?
Short answer: Capitalism.
Longer answer: Ughhhhhh capitalism!
I got to work with all my dream labels while putting music out over the past 20 years, but, at best, with a label you get an advance and have to pay it off. I just didn’t want to start in debt. So I raised the money by asking fans to donate and it worked. I can’t believe my life sometimes, that enough people like my music that they were like, “Yes, here is some money for your art.” The relationship is so much more direct this way and I love it. So it’s like Jenn Champion (Taylor’s version).
I like the title, The Last Night of Sadness. It can be interpreted in different ways. It could be a good thing! It could be the last night of sadness because the sadness is fleeting. But it could be the last night of sadness because sadness has won and it’s the last night of... everything. How do you intend it to read? Or maybe you like the mystery?
I intended it to be read exactly as you read it! Because I am both happy and sad, always. The title is actually a line from Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” which I covered earlier this year. But I think once people hear the whole record they will get it. And um, sorry?
The first single, “Famous,” has a cool dichotomy going on—personal, difficult lyrics paired with beats that make it sound more like a bop. A moody bop! But still a bop. You say on Bandcamp that it’s okay to cry along to the songs, but is it okay for people to dance to your grief, too?
I prefer it. I think this album is meant to have all the emotions in all the songs. I hope people listen and dance and cry and sing along really loudly and take a bath and maybe smoke in the shower or sing it with a friend. Mostly, I want people to like it. Whatever that looks like for them.
One of your old bands, Carissa’s Wierd, is one of the bands I listen to every fall. It’s very autumnal to me. Are there any songs or albums that are total fall music to you?