Five Questions With... Jenesia
The Albertan husband and wife folk-pop duo has just released a debut EP. In this interview, they discuss its recording, their support of charities, and a memorable engagement.
By Jason Schneider
Hailing from Spruce Grove, Alberta, Jenesia is comprised of husband and wife duo Jenesa Dawn and Alexander David. Their recently released debut six-song EPCatch-22, recorded at Edmonton’s Resonate Music with producer Justin “Dunna” McDonough, captures what they are best known for: a folk-pop sound that provides the foundation for heart-on-sleeve, deeply personal storytelling.
Previously known as Soap Box Duo, Jenesia has played over 300 shows across western Canada, and racked up a long list of accolades. Several reflect the duo’s passion for affecting social change, with one of their current efforts documented in the 2017 short documentary, Soap Box For Haiti. While one of their main motivations is to address the issue of childhood sexual abuse, the film also focuses on the beauty of the country and its people, along with showcasing other organizations doing great work there.
With a goal to make music that’s both danceable and thought provoking, Jenesia is a new breed of pop artist suited to our times, with a goal to use music as a platform to talk about issues of justice both locally and around the world. Find out more at jenesiamusic.com.
What was the process like making Catch-22?
Alexander: New and exciting! We invested many months interviewing producers across Canada and even Nashville. Once we talked to Dunna, we felt a connection and spent a few more months in studio with him experimenting with sounds. This was our first time working with a lot of samples and programmed sounds, but we also got to partner with some great musicians like keyboardist Kevin Castro as well as a three-piece horn section.
What songs on the new album are you particularly proud of?
Jenesa: Our personal favourite is the title track.It was the most involved from a writing and production standpoint, and we’re really proud of its combinationof musical ideas. We also love the single, “Mexico,” for many reasons—the Latin groove and the lyrical message, but also the memories of producing the video in Cabo San Lucas.
How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?
Alexander: It’s been a long journey. The two of us came from different musical backgrounds and met in music school,so we were fluent in many different styles. Before going to university, Jenesa was in a rock group called Aphesis, and I played in a rockabilly band called Bryan Coffey and the Beat Friends. But our influences have always been wide-ranging, from John Mayer to Beyoncé. We started bringing a lot of that together when we formed Soap Box Duo, but over the last two years we’ve concentrated on our co-writing and the songs on Catch-22 were drawn from over 15 songs we had ready to record. We’ve honed in on the genres we enjoy performing and writing and are excited to join the pop music scene.
You're also passionate supporters of several charitable causes. Where does that stem from and how are you balancing it with your music?
Jenesa: We have both always been passionate about using our influence to make other peoples’ lives better. We both grew up in families that taught us to treat others the way we want to be treated and exemplified generosity and philanthropic hearts. Our primary focus is the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse, as Alexander was a victim of it, and I was invested in it before the two of us met. Together we worked towards healing and eventually sharing with others who could be encouraged that there is hope after trauma. Balancing this passion alongside music has gone very well. The two and beautifully enhance each another.
What do you recall about your first time performing in public?
Alexander: Our very first performance as Soap Box Duo was scheduled a week after Jenesa came back from a family trip to Mexico. I was also planning to propose to her that week in Jasper. Jen wasn’t feeling great but still wanted to do the day trip so I drove and she slept the whole way. I found a good location to pop the question, and she said yes! Then two days later she was hospitalized and told she had e-coli.
While she was in a morphine induced-sleep I tried to ease her dehydration by using a small sponge on a stick that the nurse had given me. Little did I know that Jen had a cold sore and by sponging her mouth I had spread it everywhere, and when she woke up her mouth was nearly double the size. Our debut show as a duo was the day after she got out of hospital, and each day her face swelled more. When we got on stage and performed, I saw the type of partner she was going to be. No matter how much pain she was in she would not miss a performance. Even this past February, Jenesa had an appendectomy days before a performance but she still got up on that stage and sang, winning us the United Way Voice Contest!