Original Americana with Yorkshire personality.
Imagine if folk icon Buffy Sainte-Marie and banjo-player-turned-comedian Billy Connolly had an unlikely lovechild …who lived in Yorkshire! Sheffield-based artist Banjo Jen is difficult to categorise but easy to fall for. With razor-sharp songwriting, percussive Appalachian step-dancing and between-song banter to make you laugh out loud, her refreshingly original live act is guaranteed to win the heart of every crowd.
Perhaps Jen’s unusual heritage of roots in both the tropical Bahamas and the gritty Nottinghamshire ex-mining town of Worksop has contributed to her fascination with juxtaposition; with contrasts and contradictions; of looking at life from different angles and alternative perspectives. Her songs explore light and shade, humour and sorrow, hopes and fears, the pleasurable and the darker aspects of being a mere floundering human trapped on this crazy rollercoaster ride of life. She’s still waiting for an acceptable explanation from her parents as to why they chose Worksop over the Bahamas!
Jen also took a somewhat unusual path to becoming a musician. A metalsmith and an Art & Design teacher by training, she cut her teeth in workshops and classrooms, not bands and bar rooms (well, she may have drunk in the bar rooms!). But a few questionable life choices later, and inspired by her icons Dolly Parton and Kermit the Frog, she’d bought a banjo and taught herself how to play it. Throwing her settled life up in the air and moving to Sheffield with little more than the banjo on her back, she was bestowed the nickname ‘Banjo Jen’ and encouraged by friends and other musicians to start performing her own original songs. Suddenly she was discovering her calling and found herself on the compelling but cripplingly unprofitable journey to becoming a folk singer-songwriter.
Tipped by Maverick magazine for a ‘long musical career’, Jen hit the ground running by playing fringe events in Austin TX during SXSW 2017 - just a couple of months after her first ever gig. She's since been selected by the Americana Music Association UK to showcase at both Red Rooster and The Long Road festivals, was invited to perform at Eagle Music / Deering Banjo Company’s banjo event of the year, and has supported many touring international Americana acts and British folk artists. Often accompanied by punchy double-bass, her live sets have proved a hit with audiences and she has recently added accordion and backing vocals to the regular line-up.
The ‘smart and sassy’ debut EP “Lost & Found” is a collection of Jen’s early songs, showcasing her rhythmic ‘frailing’ style of banjo-playing and her fiercely melodic approach to songwriting. The eagerly-awaited follow-up EP “Cloud of Dust” has just been released and is a collection of the more country-style songs in Jen's repertoire, recorded with a full band (including backing vocals by Bob Harris Emerging Artist 2022 award-winner Lauren Housley and production by AMA UK award-nominee Thomas Dibb). Catch Banjo Jen and her band The Junk on tour this autumn, with the new EP and new merch in tow. There’s a lot more to come from this charming Yorkshire songstress, so grab yourself some cowboy boots and come along for the ride.
'What more do you need to gladden the soul?' - Metro newspaper
'Taking inspiration from life experiences and traditional stories, her songwriting approach has an irresistible and quirky humour' - PennyBlackMusic magazine
'Smart and sassy' - Maverick magazine
'Fantastic ...we don't hear enough brilliant music like this on the radio' - BBC Radio Sheffield
'She has the talent, the songwriting and the live skills to back up her reputation' - Rogue Country podcast