Jill Zmud
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Jill Zmud

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | SELF

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | SELF
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Preview: Jill Zmud at the Freehouse"

2 June 2011

Jill Zmud’s biggest musical inspiration these days is a man she never met. Her late uncle Ed Clynton was part of Witness in the 1960s, a band that formed in Saskatoon and went on to tour with Roy Orbison.

Though he died before Zmud was born, his influence is everywhere from her songwriting to her hand-me-down guitar.

“Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been hearing stories about my uncle Eddie. He passed away three years before I was born. He was an incredible musician, it’s just in the last year that I’m really delving into his story more,” said the Saskatoon native.

Clynton died tragically in a car crash at age 28. But his music lives on through Zmud, who recently discovered his old reel-to-reel tapes in her parents’ basement.

“I’d heard him play guitar with Witness, but he didn’t sing with Witness so it was the first time I heard his voice and what he’d written. It was really bizarre to extract that stuff from 40 years ago and all of a sudden have the opportunity to play his music. I feel like it’s such a gift.”

Zmud now covers one of Clynton’s songs, New Jersey Turnpike, and even wrote an original song based on him. She premiered both pieces in May at Prairie Scene in Ottawa, the city where she is now based. She calls the experience a “big love-in” where she got to meet lots of great Prairie musicians, including Alexis Normand who is opening her Saskatoon show.

Zmud has also been “entrusted” with Clynton’s old Telecaster guitar, one of a collection of family guitars.

“It’s this beautiful old thing. He had the finish removed and I actually think it’s way cooler without it. It looks like a tree.”

Discovering her family history is understandably having a big influence on the direction of her second album, which is still in its early stages.

Though music is clearly in Zmud’s blood, her path as a songwriter had an unusual arc. As a teenager, she attended the National Ballet School and was convinced that she was going to be a ballerina. Later, she completed undergraduate and master’s degrees and even had a stint in the military. All this, before discovering her musical passion.

Her master’s degree in international affairs and a Rotary exchange to South Africa prompted the seemingly unusual military turn.

“I learned a lot and it was amazing and I actually got to spend most of my time in Quebec City which is a phenomenal place,” she said. “But I will confess that I had a moment in basic training where I got handed my C7 rifle and I was like ‘Oh my god.’ ”

All along, Zmud knew the military wouldn’t be a forever thing, but said she’s happy to have gained an appreciation for what soldiers go through.

Music found its way into Zmud’s life quite gradually. Her brother, noticing a creative void that needed to be filled after his sister stopped dancing, gave her a guitar. It wasn’t brilliant right away, but Zmud found herself writing songs.

“Initially when I started writing it was so exciting and inspiring. You think everything you’re writing is really good,” she said with a laugh. “Then a few years later you think ‘I really have to work at that.’ ”

Work at it she did, and in 2009 she released her debut album As We Quietly Drive By.

Zmud is returning to Saskatoon for a hometown show and said she is most excited to bring Clynton’s music to the present.

“It’s a real honour. There’s a sense that even after people are gone they live on. There are stories we can tell and feel connected to people that we’ve loved and lost,” she said. - Saskatoon Star Phoenix (by Stephanie McKay)

"Best Canadian CDs of 2009"

31 December 2009


Jill Zmud

On her debut album, the Saskatchewan-born, Ottawa-based artist shows she is not only a fine songwriter with a striking voice, but also a gifted lyricist, strong guitarist and inventive piano player. Intimate production and mostly acoustic instrumentation underscore the warm, vibrant sound. - The Ottawa Citizen, Victoria Times-Colonist and Saskatoon Star-Phoenix (by Lynn Saxberg)

"Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest: Saturday's Satisfied Fans"

12 July 2010

The Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest started just over 15 years ago with one stage and three days. It’s now grown to a multi-staged, 12 day event with some of the best music you’ll experience in one location. Less a bluesfest than an eclectic music festival, the Ottawa Bluesfest is a must-see event. And while one of the standards to measure any festival is the quality of its lineup, another way is to watch the fans. I did this on Saturday, and found many smiling faces, dancing legs, grooving heads, and plenty of clapping and cat calls. The fans love the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest.

The Bluesfest has done a great job of programming Canadian music, both local and from across the country. With that in mind, my partner, Louisa, and I first headed to the Barney Danson Theatre to check out Jill Zmud’s performance. Transplanted in Ottawa via Saskatchewan, Jill is a young and very talented singer songwriter, with a sweet voice and a unique ability to draw out the best in her accompanying musicians.

[But first, an aside - enroute to the Zmud show we passed through the Blacksheep Music and Comedy Tent. I spotted another local music lover, Sean, sitting outside. He wasn't interested in talking because he said I must go see the Mohawk Lodge in the tent. He said they're a cross between the Constantines and Wolf Parade, and from what I heard he was right. Just as interesting were the band's stage antics, filled with plenty of super energetic jumping and banging and all-around cacophony. I asked Melissa, who had seen the whole set, how it was. "Crazy", she replied.]

Back to Jill Zmud. When we arrived about 20 minutes before the show started, there was a substantial lineup. Clearly, these people had heard about Jill. The crowd was as varied as the Bluesfest lineup - young and not-so-young, hipsters, regular music lovers, and lots of people looking forward to a great performance. One young woman spotted an older man in line – presumably a relative or older friend – and asked with surprise, “Do you know Jill Zmud’s music?” With a smile he said yes, the smile stressing that anyone of any age can enjoy good music.

One measure of a musician’s skill is the interest that other musicians have in her. In line ahead of us was Jon Bartlett, from Kelp Records, chatting with Rolf Klausener from the Acorn and Alan Neal from CBC radio. Of course, Alan and Jill are a couple, so Louisa wondered why he had to wait in line to get to see her perform. The crowd loved Jill’s set. She played plenty of songs from her latest CD, as well as some new material, a sweet version of Tennessee Waltz, and some incredible a capella tunes. Jill’s band features local uber-producer Dave Draves on keys and guitar (here’s an idea for a contest – ask someone to guess how many records Dave has been involved with in one way or another), guitarist Chris Page, who plays with gorgeous finesse and understatement, and vocalists Christine Mathenge and Jerusha Lewis from Voices of Praise gospel choir, whose ability to sing is amazing.

*** For the rest of David Yazbeck's review of Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest, please go to:
http://www.ottawatonite.com/2010/07/cisco-ottawa-bluesfest-saturdays-satisfied-fans/ *** - Ottawa Tonite (by David Yazbeck)

"Sounding Out Jill Zmud - A Name You May Be Getting to Know Well"

13 November 2009

One of the many things the Online Music Revolution has begat is an unprecedented explosion of successful female artists. Which is a refreshing change after decades of women lying on the outside of a now-dying male dominated industry model -- largely shut out from lucrative record deals, major tours, and radio play. With the Internet as a distributional and promotional tool, women now have the platform to record and release music as they please, and more control over the way they are portrayed visually.

The consequence of these developments is an ever-brimming glut of female singer-songwriters possessed of good voices, solid tunes, but very little else to distinguish themselves by.

Enter Jill Zmud into this complex scenario. She arrives with a significant head of steam--nominated by Ottawa Xpress as the best new local artist of 2009, she has received backing by CBC Radio's Amanda Putz and airplay on Bandwidth. For the recording of her debut full length, As We Quietly Drive By, Zmud has capitalized on this buzz by surrounding herself with ace collaborators. In the producer's chair sits Dave Draves, who was behind Kathleen Edwards' 2003 breakout debut, Failer. Zmud added another key component to Edwards' debut, the vocals and guitar work of Jim Bryson. The Draves-Bryson team invested heavily in Edwards' promise, in turn moving her from obscurity to the stages of Letterman and pages of Rolling Stone. Zmud appears to be their latest protégé.

With As We Quietly Drive By, Draves may have hit pay dirt for a second time. The production is stark and satisfying, and the songwriting boasts a level of maturity rarely attained on a debut record. Draves' experience with the genre shines through on arrangements subtle yet adventurous, as exemplified in the opening track, "Gold", which contains an unexpected tempo change at the 1:25 mark -- serving to inform the listener The production is stark and satisfying, and the songwriting boasts a level of maturity rarely attained on a debut record. that this is no ordinary county-folk waltz, and no ordinary female singer-songwriter. Zmud's opening line refers to her unusual sounding surname, singing "don't be afraid to sound it out" -- you may be saying it a lot. Other moments of the song expand on this allegorical premise, addressing her future audience as a newfound lover, extolling her "good fortune to be with you" and later saying, "You are gold". This is a tactic she returns to on the chorus of the album closer: "Even in the dark/I fit right by your side" -- inducing the listener to dim the lights and put on headphones.

The sonic adventurousness reaches its pinnacle on "Shark", boasting Krautrock-sounding breaks, and a playful standup bass that seems to taunt the sneering anger of her vocals and backing music. The opposing forces conspire to produce something both unsettling and addictive, with unpredictable arrangements that refrain from becoming goofy and overly theatrical in a way Canadian contemporaries Christine Fellows (and to a lesser extent, Jenn Grant) are prone to do. One can do anything in a studio these days, so it can be hard to know when to hold back.

"Reconcile" perfectly exemplifies this album's prevailing sense of restraint. Expertly sequenced between the plodding madness of the aforementioned "Shark" and upbeat jangle of "Late to Bloom", "Reconcile" is wonderfully understated and sparse, providing plenty of room for the dobro work of Ottawa institution John Carroll and Zmud's blues-tinged singing and contemplative lyrics -- almost Gospel-like in its resignation in the face of unspecified adversity. The song creates a unique mystique for Zmud, painting the little-known singer as a purveyor of ancient wisdom.

As We Quietly Drive By contains plenty more little pleasures for the listener to sink their teeth into, from the male baritone backing vocals in "Late To Bloom" that spark the chorus with a chain gang buoyancy, to the grandiose payoff to slow-burning album standout "Wish", (featuring more adventurous background singing). The sonic consistency of Draves' production helps tie together a collection of songs that distinctly vary in melodic, lyrical and rhythmic approach, and could run the risk of sounding disjointed in lesser hands. No songs qualify as filler, though "Precipice" does give in to some of the aforementioned theatrical excesses I bemoan. Here, Zmud's voice adjusts to take on a Feist-ian whine. She pulls it off with ease, but it falls flat in my books. "Pilot Light" revisits this concept, but proves to be a more satisfying fusion of piano-driven song fragments, mainly due to a killer chorus that sews the splinters together.

Does As We Quietly Drive By do enough to distinguish Jill Zmud from the fem-rock fray? She wonders aloud on "Precipice" -- "Will I always be on the edge of this/A cliff up high a precipice".

The album certainly lays the foundation for exciting prospects to come. The final track "By Your Side" possesses a melodic swagger and uncomplicated lyrical approach that is ideal for radio, only I doubt it will meet the play list formats of Live 88.5, 89.9, Virgin, or Chez. Maybe it will find a home on one of those hipster television soundtracks. Either way, Zmud doesn't sound too concerned, surmising at the end of her album that it's "funny how not getting what I want can be beautiful". No matter how the album performs commercially, she can be satisfied that on As We Quietly Drive By her reach and grasp have coincided beautifully.

- Culture Magazine (by Kris Millett)

"Jill's Got Game"

21 November 2009

Before Jill Zmud appeared at Westfest earlier this year, as a guest singer with producer Dave Draves's band, few people had heard of her. Within minutes, however, her rich, soulful voice imprinted itself on the crowd and she left everyone longing for another sample.

Well, here it is, proof that the Saskatchewan-born, Ottawa-based artist has much more going for her than a pretty voice. Her CD shows she is also a fine songwriter, gifted lyricist, strong guitarist and an inventive piano player. Plus, she knows how to pick a co-producer. Draves's stamp is evident in the intimate production, warm sound and mostly acoustic instrumentation.

Highlights of a wonderful album include the folk-pop lilt of Gold, the beat-plucking motif of Shark and the swelling Late to Bloom.

Other shining examples of her talent are the gospel-tinged Reconcile and the understated groove of East of the Line, a poignant song about her roots in Saskatchewan that features another Ottawa singer-songwriter, Jim Bryson, on electric guitar and back-up vocals.

Zmud is definitely one artist to keep an eye on in 2010. - The Ottawa Citizen (by Lynn Saxberg)


As We Quietly Drive By (debut album)

Check out Jill's MySpace to see her perform some of the songs from her debut album.



"It's not often I'm actually moved to tears at my desk upon the first listen to someone's MySpace page. That's the kind of reaction Jill Zmud evokes with her perfect voice." Amanda Putz, CBC Radio

Jill Zmud launched her debut album "as we quietly drive by" in November 2009 to a packed house at the legendary Black Sheep Inn. Prior to her launch, she was nominated as "Best New Musical Artist/Group" in the Ottawa Xpress Best of 2009, and the Black Sheep's Paul Symes recognized her as the Black Sheep Inn's “Favourite New Artist-Female".

Jill is a transplanted prairie lily from Saskatoon who now calls Ottawa home. A bit of a late bloomer, Jill's road to a musical career has been an unconventional one. She started out performing as a dancer and pursued her passion by studying at the National Ballet School in Toronto during high school. She then spent a year as an exchange student in South Africa before pursuing an undergrad degree at the University of Saskatchewan and a Master's degree in International Affairs in Ottawa. It was during that time in her early 20s (while also fitting in a short stint in the military) that she finally picked up a guitar.

In a short time, Jill has become a word-of-mouth sensation. She has been featured on CBC Radio 1, performed at Folk Alliance in Memphis, participated in a songwriter's retreat in New Mexico with major influence "Over the Rhine", received a creation grant from the City of Ottawa and capped a spectacular 2010 which saw her perform at Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest, Ottawa's TD International Jazz Festival and the Ottawa Folk Festival.

In 2008, a studio session with producer Dave Draves (production credits include Jim Bryson, Kathleen Edwards, Gentleman Reg) organically grew into a recording project that became Zmud's debut album. "As we quietly drive by" makes good on the critical praise and grass-roots fan support that's already been heaped upon this up-and-coming artist. The album offers a vibrant, soulful showcase for her talents as both an uncommonly insightful songwriter and a deeply expressive, charismatic vocalist. It's Zmud's lyrically incisive, melodically intoxicating compositions and bracing performances that make the album such a revelation. Such tunes as "Wish", "East of the Line", "Shark" and "Water in the Wine" boast a level of emotional insight that's rare for such a new artist.

Ottawa Citizen music critic Lynn Saxberg gave the roots-folk-tinged-with-gospel album 4 stars and wrote : "[Jill] has much more going for her than a pretty voice. Her CD shows she is also a fine songwriter, gifted lyricist, strong guitarist and an inventive piano player. Zmud is definitely one artist to keep an eye on in 2010."

In 2009 and 2010 alone, Jill was fortunate enough to share the stage with a number of notable artists, including Jim Cuddy, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Arrested Development, Danny Michel, The Wooden Sky, Jim Bryson, Frank Turner, The Hidden Cameras, Bruce Peninsula, Hoots & Hellmouth, Amelia Curran, Matthew Barber and Dan Mangan. Jill is also an avid supporter of numerous causes and has performed for the Babes for Breasts initiative for breast cancer research, Amnesty International's Small Places campaign and other groups doing important work to make the world a better place.

With "as we quietly drive by" establishing her as one of Canada's most exciting new creative forces, Jill is eager to share her songs with a rapidly expanding fan base. "Not all the songs on this album are about love and romance. But I'd like to think that when people listen to the songs, they might want to abandon the edges of their beds for a warmer place closer to the middle." says Jill.