MIDDLESEX - Walking a byway tread by few, she’s a country musician from Reading, Mass.
In an industry where singers from “north country” most likely hail from North Carolina, 23-year-old Jennie List certainly set out on an unlikely career path when she traveled below the Mason-Dixon line to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a country music artist and lyricist.
But through a bit of good luck and a heap of the dogged determination that has set ablaze the stardom of many in the nation’s music capitol of Nashville, Tennessee, List has overcome far more than just geographic obstacles.
In fact, if you pick up a copy of her first debut full-length album, “How it Starts”, what might be most surprising of all is what you don’t hear: the Boston accent she grew up with.
“I think it just came naturally from listening so closely to country records all my life,” laughed List, when asked how she managed to pick-up a slight southern twang in her vocals. “My cousins joke with me all all the time that I got a southern accent while I was down here.”
“I’m so grateful to everybody who has helped me pursue these dreams. When most people might have [incredulously] said, ‘You’re majoring in songwriting?’ [when I headed off to Nashville several years ago], my neighborhood was always just so supportive,” she later said of her native Town of Reading.
Recording 12 tracks, 10 of which feature her own original lyrics, List’s debut album was produced by Dallas Jack at Record One Studios in East Nashville. The product of at least two years of hard work, “How it Starts” features cameos from several world-class musicians, including renowned drummer Sandy Gennaro.
“Its kind of a double meaning,” said the 23-year-old musician of the album title. “I’m hoping to open some doors, play some more live shows, and get my music and name out there…It’s kind of a concept album in that it follows the arch of a relationship, but it’s also hopefully about how my music career starts.”
Starting the project in 2019, ‘How it Starts’ was like many things sidelined at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, List tried to use the extra time to improve her craft and the album, which was officially released via streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music on July 2.
According to the former Killam Elementary School student, who graduated from Nashville’s Belmont University in May of 2020 with a degree in songwriting and music business, Gennaro is just one of many established musicians who happily stepped in to take the aspiring lyricist under his wings during the project.
“I learned so much. I’m just so grateful to be in Nashville and surrounded by people who are so talented. I was in awe of a lot of the people who were willing to work on this project. People [like Gennaro] could play circles around me.”
“I can’t speak to New York or Los Angeles, but the music industry in Nashville is just incredible. So many people here had to fight and work so hard for what they got, and they turn around and reach out their hand. That tradition has continued through today,” she later explained of her experience in the music city.
Immersed in music as a child, List grew up taking singing lessons and playing the piano and guitar.
From an early age, when she was a member of the North Shore Music Theatre Academy’s selective youth ensemble, the Belmont college grad new she wanted to be on the big stage.
So how is it that a young girl from the Yankee north came to love a music genre that got little play time in the Boston radio circuit at the time?
“Growing up, most people I knew always said, ‘I hate country music,’” acknowledged List, referencing the local attitude towards the musical genre that was prevalent in the Boston area until very recently.
“But my mom was a huge country fan and we always had a bunch of country albums playing from the 1980s and 1990s. I fell in love with it,” the New England Country Music Organization’s two-time “songwriter of the year” continued. “Then the [television] show ‘Nashville’ came out. Just the idea that you could be a songwriter was fascinating to me. I didn’t even know that was a job.”
At the time hoping to be involved in the music industry’s mixing booths, List’s parents sent her off to Nashville, Tennessee for the first time to attend a summer camp at Blackbird Studios in 2014.
While there, she experimented with songwriting for the first time.
“It was a three-day audio-engineers camp. It was really during that camp that I became interested in songwriting,” recalled List, who has been writing music lyrics since she was 15-years-old.
“Hopefully, this is just the beginning,” the Nashville transplant added. “I’m already in the first stages of working on my next project…I’m just so grateful to everybody who has helped me pursue my dreams.”
Those looking to learn more about List or listen to her new album can logon to https://www.jennielist.com. List also has a Facebook and Instagram pages, and her music can be uploaded via Spotify, Apple Music, and iTunes.