Jann Arden is calling from a phone booth in an Edmonton, Alberta, parking lot. Her voice fades in and out as construction work goes on behind her.
It’s hardly the image one would imagine for a top-selling Canadian singer-songwriter. Up for five nominations in the Juno Awards (tied for the most with The Tragically Hip), the Calgary-based Arden said nothing has changed in her life, she’s still the “same ol’ goofy Jann.”
“Even being a huge success up here, it’s not the kind of star system that you’re used to dealing with in the United States,” Arden said. “It’s very passive. People will recognize you, but they probably won’t come up and talk to you, so it’s surprising when anybody does … and they’re usually the ones who go, ‘You’re that chick that sings ‘Insensitive.’ I hate that song, but the rest of the record is okay.’ That’s your typical Canadian fan.”
Canadians liked her enough to push her “Living Under June” album past double-platinum in sales, along the way garnering a pair of chart-toppers (“Could I Be Your Girl” and “Insensitive”). Among her Juno nominations, she’s a front-runner for Best Single, Female Vocalist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. (The awards will be handed out March 26 in Hamilton, Ontario.)
Now her attentions turn stateside, where “Living Under June” will be released Feb. 28. Like Sarah McLachlan before her, Arden is on the verge of something big.
This is all a long way from being a street musician in Vancouver and someone who didn’t dare daydream about a career in music.
“I drank a lot and sort of just lived from day to day, and I wrote the odd song and sang in the streets and I ended up singing in bar bands,” Arden said. “I really did not have any idea where I would end up – that’s literally how day to day my life was.
“Now I’m trying to get used to people actually showing up to see me. That is a concept that is very odd to me. To go on tour and have people pay to see you and they’re deathly quiet, it’s very strange … but very exciting.”
BWF (before we forget): “Insensitive,” which appeared on the “Bed of Roses” soundtrack, peaked at No. 12 and spent 40 weeks on Billboard’s pop chart in 1996. … Arden’s follow-up LP, “Happy?,” was released in late March 1998.