Jen Baron
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Jen Baron

Santa Barbara, CA | Established. Jan 01, 2001 | SELF

Santa Barbara, CA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2001
Solo Pop Indie


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Jen Baron Wants Girls To Rock"

About a year ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Jen Baron — a remarkable musician and passionate educator. Her zeal for teaching music as a means of building confidence and fostering self-expression in her students is nothing short of inspirational. Jen launched the Santa Barbara branch of Girls Rock just a few years ago and already it’s given hundreds of girls in California the opportunity to rock out. I sat down with her in sunny Santa Barbara to chat about Girls Rock SB and the musical journey that led her to start it.
Tell me more about Girls Rock. Based on what I’ve heard, I wish it had been around when I was growing up!

A lot of people have said the same thing. We’re actually doing an adult ladies’ rock camp in May!

I’ve volunteered and participated in some of the Girls Rock Camp Alliance‘s ladies camps. We haven’t run one of our own yet, but because there has been so much positive feedback around the idea, we’ve decided it’s time! It’s a three-day program and at the end, participants will play at Soho [Restaurant and Music Club] and we’ll have a headliner follow them.

But our main focus are our girls’ programs. We now have a full after-school program. We’re in several different schools all over Santa Barbara and just launched a home school curriculum as well. This winter we have 140 girls. We’ll have 200-300 in the summer.

We have girls who have been playing since they were four and are already recoding in studios and working with producers, and we also have girls come in who have never picked up an instrument.

While you might be more advanced than someone else in reading music or playing an instrument… it’s amazing how valuable everyone’s skills are, especially in the context of a band.

How does that affect their interaction, especially at that age?

For the most part, there’s actually a lot of peer teaching that goes on. Every once in a while we’ll get a girl who thinks she’s better than everyone else, but what I try to instill in our students is this idea that while you might be more advanced than someone else in terms of reading music or playing an instrument, maybe she’s an awesome lyricist. It’s not just about who has been playing since they were four or who’s classically trained… it’s amazing how valuable other people’s skills are, especially in the context of a band.
How do you determine what makes a great teacher?

Girl Band - Girls Rock SBStaffing is probably one of the things I spend the most energy on — not just choosing instructors, but training them. It’s not just about finding a musician, it’s about finding someone who can drop their ego at the door and be present for our students.

Finding female musicians in general, especially ones who are knowledgeable about their instrument can be hard. Finding people who know how to be with kids can be the hardest part, because you can’t necessarily figure that out in an interview. It’s such a unique skill — you need to be able to be a supportive mentor, but you can’t let them walk all over you. When someone has the right energy, kids know. They listen, they participate.
Did you have teachers growing up who shaped you?

I can think of so many mentors. That’s the thing — good teachers are more than just instructors. I try to instill that in my teachers. If you come in and your kids are having a bad day and it turns out they’re all kind of going through a similar experience — maybe you talk about bullies that day. Some of the teachers walk away feeling like they didn’t accomplish much because they didn’t write lyrics or work on a particular song. But from my perspective, it was a success.

That’s what those girls needed in that moment and you were able to be that for them and they were able to be that for each other. Plus, they’ve all connected over an issue which means that when they do write a song, it’s going to be so much more powerful. We often have girls from the lowest socioeconomic schools mixed in with girls from the highest socioeconomic private schools. There might not be anywhere else in life where those two people would meet.

Everyone has the potential to be an artist. It’s just a matter of self-identification.

What do you think people need to unlock their potential?

They need to have an open mind. People form ideas over time like “I’m not creative, I’m not this, I’m not that.” Everyone has the potential to be an artist. It’s just a matter of self-identification. I hear a lot of people say things like “I’m a math person, I’m a science person.” Well, there’s a mathematician who wrote a symphony based on algorithms and formulas. He figured out which intervals sounded good to the ear and wrote this equation. He had never played music in his life, but he ended up writing this incredible symphony based on a computer program that he wrote. And when he played it, it was an incredible piece of music.
Tell me about your personal musical background.

Girls rock - Girls Rock SBI came from a really musical family. My dad played guitar in a big band and wrote music. All of my cousins, my brothers — everyone plays in a professional way, not just as a hobby. I started playing piano when I was around four because I was so desperate to play “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I just sat at the piano and pounded out the notes until I had learned the song. My dad played like every instrument so he taught me piano. When I was eight I got another teacher. I started playing guitar when I was nine. My dad was my only guitar teacher. I started writing songs pretty immediately. I would stay up really late at night and write music. I also started taking vocal lessons when I was five or six.

I think I got scared when I hit high school – you start thinking more about college and what you want to major in. I freaked out. Music didn’t seem like it would be a viable career — even to my dad who was a professional musician, so I ended up studying journalism in college.
Did you stayed involved in music then?

Only in the sense that I never stopped playing or writing on my own. I moved up to San Francisco and lived in the Bay Area for about seven years. I loved it and thought that I would live there my entire life. I ended up moving with my partner to the East Coast. I had my son there and stayed for about four years. I kind of took a break from everything other than being a full-time parent. I wrote songs for him, but my music was pretty closeted.

Then my dad got really sick, which brought me home to Santa Barbara. Writing music was something we shared, so I would write songs and play them for him. One day I played something for him and his reaction was weirder than normal. He was like, “I just don’t get why you haven’t pursued music. I hear you write songs and it makes me sad, because you just write them and they disappear. They’re not being recorded.” I think he was at a time in his life when the idea of things being temporary — writing something and have it go off into the ether — this was on his mind. He offered to help me fund an album.

“I don’t think my dad’s going to live a lot longer. I have four songs. I just want to get this recorded as quickly as I can because I don’t know how much time I have with him.”

I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that. I held music so close to my heart. I was afraid someone might judge it and I didn’t want to have to think about that. But I got past that since it was something my dad requested. Someone recommended an engineer. I remember I walked into his studio and said “I don’t think my dad’s going to live a lot longer. I have four songs. I just want to get this recorded as quickly as I can because I don’t know how much time I have with him.”

I was really scared and hadn’t sung for anyone but my five-year-old in a really long time. I said, “I’m probably going to have to record in your closet.” During the process, my dad got better for a little while. It ended up being a much longer road than we originally thought.

I decided I didn’t want to record those four songs after all. I wrote and recorded an entire album in the studio. I’d go in and record something, then go home and write something and come back and record it the next day. I worked on that album for a year and (laughs) I didn’t have to record in the closet.

I had been so worried that what I had to offer wasn’t good enough, but that year took me to another level. I really didn’t care what people thought.

Robinson Eikenberry, who recorded it, is a very encouraging, positive person. All that support, day after day for a year, really opened my eyes. I had been so worried that what I had to offer wasn’t good enough, but that year took me to another level. I really didn’t care what people thought. I realized I was a good songwriter and it boosted my confidence in a way that I hadn’t experienced before.

When I finished the record, a friend of mine listened to it and asked for some tracks to send along to someone she knew who was a music supervisor. We didn’t know if anything would come of it. Two of my songs ended up in a Sharon Stone documentary, which was really exciting.
Did you see the movie and was it a weird experience to hear your music like that?

I did see it. It’s called “Femme,” and it’s all about female empowerment, which is weird since Girls Rock SB was only in its earliest stages at that point.

Girl Singing - Girls Rock SBI had wrapped up the album and heard my music in that movie. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I had a six-year-old son and I was a single parent. It wasn’t a reality for me to be out playing every night. My dad had passed away at that point and I started thinking about that whole year — how it felt to have that kind of experience and support. I realized what I wanted to do was start a program for girls that did basically what I had just experienced. It would teach them about songwriting and music. I looked it up and realized no one was doing it in this area, but I found the GRCA (Girls Rock Camp Alliance). I contacted them and ended up going to this big conference with people from all of their organizations from all over the world.
What’s on the horizon for Girls Rock SB?

This year we’ve added film, photography, and music journalism. We partnered with the Santa Barbara Independent and the Santa Barbara Bowl. The Bowl will give our girls $5 tickets to any show they want to see. We’re running these classes and then pairing a photographer or a filmmaker with a writer. We’ll have them go to a show and do a piece on it. The Independent is going to print their stuff and some other publications will re-run it. I’m so excited about it!

I want to show kids that there are jobs that are typically held by men that women can do. You don’t have to be the person on stage! There’s so much that goes into creating.

In the summer, we’re also going to have a live sound/engineering track. I want to show kids that there are jobs that are typically held by men that women can do. You don’t have to be the person on stage! There’s so much that goes into recording and mixing and creating.

Girl Singer Songwriter - Girls Rock SBOn top of that, we’re doing two week-long sessions of “Amplify Sleep Away Camp” in July. Girls ages 11-17 will have the opportunity to take instrumental or vocal lessons and participate in band practices, workshops, and a final showcase. It’s all happening at Ojai Valley Boarding School.
And what’s on the horizon for you as an artist?

I’m going back into the studio this summer, which I’m really excited about. Now Girls Rock is so busy that I don’t get to play out too often, but I’m still happy to do it when I can. I still write music, trying to balance that and the other ten million things.

Ideally, I would like to do more licensing stuff. I just want to have a house with a recording studio somewhere in the middle of nowhere where it rains a lot. But for now, this is so perfect. I get to do what I love and still come home to my family everyday.

Click here to learn more about Girls Rock SB.

Check out some of Jen’s music here.

To learn more about the math behind music, check out this fascinating TEDxMIA talk that Jen recommended! - Sound Fly

"A Beat of Her Own"

As we wind through the shared office space in downtown Santa Barbara, past colorful community boards, flourishing house plants, and group meeting rooms filled with people in business casual attire, Jen Baron says, “you’re the third interview I’ve had in two days,” somehow without sounding exasperated. Not surprisingly, she and her organization, Girls Rock Santa Barbara, are both in high demand. With 700+ girls completing her numerous female-empowerment music-based programs each year, Baron, a Santa Barbara native, has established Girls Rock SB as the most successful program of its kind.

In 2008, Baron was a new mom living in Maine when she happened upon a documentary film called Girls Rock! about a global movement comprised of programs that embolden young girls through learning to play and write music. An avid musician herself, Baron was awestruck. “It was the coolest thing”, she remembers. Upon moving back to the west coast with her partner and son, she began travelling all over California to volunteer for Girls Rock programs. After one year, a new career path seemed to call her back to Santa Barbara — it was then that she began thinking seriously about opening a Girls Rock program in her hometown. She faced one daunting setback, though: she knew nothing about starting a non-profit. Fortunately, what she lacked in experience, she made up for in inquisitiveness. Baron began attending workshops, asking questions, researching, and reaching out to directors of non-profits throughout the community, many of whom agreed to mentor her. Using her strong background in freelance journalism, marketing, and public relations, she was able to tap into the insight they had.

“Everyone I sat down with said ‘you don’t want to do this’,” she recalls with a smile, “there are more non-profits in Santa Barbara per capita than anywhere in the country, which means that even though there’s a lot of money, it’s distributed amongst quite a few organizations”. Breaking through the clutter would be necessary, especially when it seemed that no one supported her. In addition to her community mentors trying to dissuade her from going through with it, her parents also said it would be too overwhelming.

Ironically, all the doubtful voices in her ear created the opposite effect: instead of discouraging her, they pushed her to find her own voice. “As women, we hear those things so often, like ‘here’s the box, you can stay inside here, but anything outside, don’t even try’, but my heart was so invested… failing wasn’t really on my radar”. Breaking out of that box became the cornerstone of Baron’s philosophy for Girls Rock Santa Barbara (GRSB). She wanted to show girls that conforming to others’ expectations and limits will never breed the sense of accomplishment that comes with exceeding them. It became clear to her that succeeding and staying true to that philosophy was the only option she had.

Six years later, Girls Rock SB is the largest, most robust organization of all 44 chapters worldwide. It has the most in-depth programs that last longer than any others of its kind. In addition to popular year-round programs such as their twelve-week after school program, private music lessons, toddler rock and pop rock choir, Girls Rock extends into the Summer, with multi-week sleep away camps for girls and ladies. Furthermore, Baron has infused other creative arts elements into her organization in the form of photography, film, and music journalism. What truly differentiates Baron’s model from the rest, however, is her commitment to endorsing women for the work they do for GRSB. “While we do have volunteers, we also have a core, paid staff year round… as artists and as women, it is really important to be validated financially”, she remarks. Still, Baron’s impact on the Santa Barbara community extends far beyond writing paychecks. Holding a safe space for female artists to do what they love, teach young women, and get paid for it has become part of GRSB’s legacy as well. Rachel Joyce, volunteer coordinator for Girls Rock SB, states, “most of the women who volunteer for us have no musical experience at all, and that’s because the true accomplishment of Girls Rock is more than just music. It’s the sense of confidence, the sense that, ‘I can go further than you think I can’, and I think Jen leads by example. She provides a safe haven for girls who are facing the ups and downs of growing up, and instilling them with the core feeling that they are worthy”.

Aware of the current climate of feminism — and she isn’t afraid to use the word — Baron thinks there is still much work to be done to reach equality and empower young women. She works on the premise that there is fierce urgency behind this mission. Using a game called “consent win, consent fail”, where the girls will jump on another’s back, or crawl into another’s lap, they discuss the basics of consent and what it means to have a conversation before taking an action. “As they grow up and get in more complicated situations, [the girls] know what it looks like, and how important [consent] is”. She often speaks about how girls growing up tend to cut each other down and compete with each other, and how collaborative, supportive environments are so important when trying to boost self-esteem and confidence for healthy development. In theory and in practice, Baron often refers to the idea of a safe space. For her, her safe space has always been music. For 700+ local girls, it’s music class or summer camp. She continues, “everyone deserves to have a safe space, where your opinion is valued and included…but not everyone knows what that looks like. I would have liked to have something like that growing up”. Baron is proud to have created a place that celebrates being different, being awesome, and being a girl, even when no one said she could. Perhaps not coincidentally, one of her favorite success stories is one where a girl overcame doubt herself.

“I have a twelve year old girl named KJ, and when she first came to the program, her mom sent me this long email with a YouTube video attached to it. It said how much KJ loved music, how rough school was for her because she didn’t fit in, and how they did not have any money to pay for this program — it seemed like it was coming from a place of worry”. Baron gave her a scholarship, and over the next three years watched KJ transform. She says with pride, “she’s [KJ’s] just such a light… she went from barely being able to look up while singing, to owning the whole stage — I’ve just seen her confidence skyrocket”. Having shed the common self-consciousness that accompanies trying new things, KJ embodies Baron’s philosophy: that girls do not have to be put in a box, that they can have a safe space to learn, play, and be free and true to themselves. Then, they can turn around and give the world something that’s bigger and brighter than ever before.

“It’s a hard task to go and sing something you wrote in front of a big group, to be that vulnerable”, Baron says. I voice my wholehearted agreement with that statement, saying, “oh, my gosh, yes, I could never”. Then, sitting in her yoga clothes on a Friday morning, taking her third interview in two days, she challenges me with a smile and something I will never forget: “but you could”. Jen has instilled a reflection of herself and her journey in each of these girls, something they will carry with them throughout their lives. Whether it’s choosing a new job, a new partner, or a new instrument to play, each of these girls are equipped with the tools to be success stories in their own right.

Baron’s hope for GRSB is that girls can come, be their truest self, and shine. As far as the next steps go, she is looking forward to the possibility of creating sister programs, and one day passing the torch on as director. KJ came to thank Baron one day, and asked her if she could possibly work for Girls Rock in the future. “I looked at her and said, ‘I think you could do better than that. You could run this whole thing”. Gracefully and successfully knocking down boundaries seems to be a common thread with Jen Baron, and the Santa Barbara community is better for it. - Medium

"Jen Baron - 'Till I've Got You"

Jen Baron - 'Til I've Got You.

Background - Jen Baron is a songwriter and producer from Santa Barbara, CA. Her work can be seen in multiple films including Sharon Stone's, Femme. She has worked with some of the industry's top song writers.

She is also the Executive Director of Girls Rock SB, a non-profit organisation that empowers girls through music education, creative expression and performance. More about Girls Rock here.

This song was written and produced by songwriter Jen Baron and sang by recording artist Sophie Rose for the demo

'Til I've Got You' suggests that Jen Baron has a very natural flair for writing intimate and intriguing songs. The production brings the best out of the musicians and vocalist, giving the song that little extra edge. It's also provides me with an opportunity to mention Girls Rock (link above), which is a pleasure. - BeeHive Candy

"Talking To - Jen Baron"

A week ago we featured singer and songwriter Jen Baron and her composition 'Til I've Got You.

Since then we have had the opportunity to ask her some questions, and of course being Beehive Candy use this, as a valid reason to share another song, in this instance 'Joy Machine' a much rockier piece and a really good one at that!

The major labels have been slow adopters of all things Internet, do you think they now 'get it'? - I definitely see their presence on platforms like Sound Cloud and Instagram. It's a great way for them to promote their artists. I think we'll only see more engagement in the future.

Live gigs or selling music, whats the lucrative one these days? - As a songwriter and producer, I'm rarely out there playing live music. The last time I played live was for a Girls Rock SB benefit concert. For me, I'm focused on licensing my music and working with artists directly to cover the songs I write. What I love about the landscape of the millennial music industry is there are so many options for artists to get their music out there.

Can music still influence people on mass, like the "protest songs" of the sixties, and if so, in a positive manner? - Wow - that's such a good and thought provoking question! I would like to say yes and believe that exists, but honestly I don't know if music is the catalyst for change anymore. It seems like the power of social media has taken it's place in a big way. I wish music was still a driving force of political activism - I know the punk scene still uses it in that way.....but that is usually more underground.

How does a song writer go about getting others to perform their material these days? - All I can do is speak from my own personal experience. I asked people I knew for a lot of advice starting out. I think industry folks are just inundated with artists wanting them to listen to their material and help give them a leg up, but asking for advice - I think it's less daunting. I keep every response I've ever received in an email folder and I frequently go back and look at peoples comments . I focus on forming meaningful relationships. I stay open to critique and always, always try and remember those pieces of critique when I'm writing. I work hard. However hard I expect a publisher or management team to work for me and run the material, I expect even more of myself. From the outside the music industry looks like a locked kingdom - but if you take the time to form the relationships, be open to advice, and really work on your craft, you'll start to see the doors open.

What's the future of music radio in the age of streaming Spotify, Itunes etc? - I rarely stream music. I have an 11-year-old who lives by streaming services like Spotify though. There is something I just love about radio: great DJ's and personalities, contests.. oh my god there was seriously nothing better than winning a pair of concert tickets as a teen! If I heard one of my songs on Pandora I'd be like, " that's cool!", but if my song was charting on the radio -- I would flip out! I think radio still has such a strong place in our future.

Whats the best thing you have got out of the music industry (and the worst)? - The best thing are the wonderful people I've met. I've had the opportunity to work with incredible song writers and industry professionals who have become like family to me over the years. The worst thing? hmm.. I think in the beginning hearing critique from music bloggers especially was hard. Now I look back - and I considered a bad review someone saying " such a great song, just needs some work on the production" - and it would just gut me. Now I'm like, "cool - i'm gonna focus on a killer production for this track".

What motivates you to write songs? - Heartbreak. mine or others. I'm an overly empathetic person, which as a songwriter gives me a really unique ability to tell stories that are not my own, but still have the emotional underbelly of a first hand experience. My kid says I only know how to write sad songs, so then I wrote " She Looks Like Katy Perry " just to prove him wrong.

Tell us a little about the Girls Rock project? - Girls Rock SB is a non-profit I founded that empowers girls through music education, creative expression and performance. I started it in 2012 with 29 girls enrolled and today we serve over 500 girls between the ages of 7-17 years old a year. It's just the coolest curriculum: girls sign up to learn to play either drums, bass, guitar, vocals, or keys, they form a band, are mentored by our all-female staff, and spend 10 weeks in our after school program or a week in our summer camps writing an original song, recording it and performing it to a sold out crowd. Last year girls in our program wrote 81 original songs!! Two years ago we expanded our program to include a photography and film track, journalism track and sleep away camp for our teens. Girls are gaining important leadership skills and learning to work in a team, supporting each other instead of tearing each other down. We're changing the world and the coolest thing is we are part of a much larger network of like-minded non-profits who share the same mission. Want to talk about music influencing political change - it's rad!

Can musicians, songwriters, survive professionally long term these days? - I sure hope so. Ha! I think the best thing to do is surround yourself with a creative team you believe in and who believe in you. - Beehive Candy

"Daily Dose: Jen Baron – If I"

Jen Baron is a songwriter and producer from Santa Barbara, CA. Her work can be seen in multiple films including Sharon Stone’s, Femme. She has worked with some of the industry’s top songwriters. - Jammerzine


Beautiful Mistake, 2012
Wasp Nest, Release January 2017



Jen Baron is a songwriter and producer from Santa Barbara, CA. Her work can be seen in multiple films including Sharon Stone's, Femme. She has worked with some of the industry's top song writers. She is also the Executive Director of Girls Rock SB, a non-profit organization that empowers girls through music education, creative expression and performance.

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