Mental health is something that is very important to me as I’ve personally dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember. As a creative, I’ve found it very difficult to deal with the repercussions of my anxiety and know so many other creatives that go through the same struggles. With that, I decided to create a platform to speak on these issues as I feel that they weren’t being talked about enough. The Green Room represents the element of a backstage or behind the scenes look into the individuals within the entertainment industries that deal with mental health issues on a daily basis and find solace in creating and sharing their stories. In addition, the color green is associated with mental health awareness and I felt that was very fitting when coming up with The Green Room as the title of my platform. Regardless of whether some of our listeners are musicians or not, I think these topics are relatable to people from all walks of life. It’s humans connecting with other humans on real and important topics during such a terrible time with the pandemic, etc. For those that are musicians or heavily involved in music, the platform can be a great way for our guests to connect with their fan bases in a light that they may have never seen before. Ultimately, we all go through our own struggles and sometimes those issues aren’t addressed publicly enough in order to spread awareness. Bringing important topics to our viewers with celebrity / influential guests that are dealing with such issues brings a very raw and genuine message to the forefront. It shows that you’re not alone, no matter what you’re going through or what your status may be; we all have demons and The Green Room is serving as a platform for safe and genuine conversations.
As a part of our series about music stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jenna Andrews.
Driven by an innate passion for music and her belief in the medium’s incredible universal capability to unite and inspire, creative powerhouse Jenna Andrews has spent the large part of her outstanding career bringing out the best in the most promising talent around the globe. The singer-songwriter-producer-A&R-publisher (TwentySeven Music) and podcast host (mental health series, The Green Room, in partnership with Jed Foundation & She Is The Music) has worked with some of the most renowned names in the market today, including heavy hitters such as Drake , Jennifer Lopez , Little Mix , Tori Kelly , Jessie J , Noah Cyrus , Lennon Stella and BENEE (“Supalonely” has over 10 million TikTok videos created), as well as producers Noah 40 Shebib , Diplo , DJ Mustard , Max Martin , and Stargate. As a female executive, Andrews is steadily driven to support aspiring female talent and become the pillar of guidance that she wished she had lighting the way for her when she began to pursue her own career.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I grew up in Calgary, a cosmopolitan city in Alberta, Canada. It’s a big city with small town vibes, I personally grew up in the suburbs surrounding the town. I started playing music at the young age of 6, where I began to teach myself the piano. My parents recognized my progress and connection with music so they began to put me in various lessons. I would take vocal, dancing, and acting lessons from then on. Eventually, I continued to progress and ended up performing in stage shows with the cast of Sesame Street and toured across the US in a performance arts group, all while continuing to develop as a musician and vocalist by receiving classical training. Looking back, my parents essentially devoted their entire lives to me and my music, they had little to no social life and would continue to drive me to all of my lessons and performances that ultimately got me to where I am today. For that I am forever grateful.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I wouldn’t say that there is an exact story that brought me directly to where I am now. However, similar to what I previously mentioned, the moment of my parents buying me my first little tiny keyboard was pivotal. Once I started teaching myself how to play, my parents’ appreciation and devotion to my growth as a musician/performer was somewhat of a key moment where it was like “yep, I’m going to do music for the rest of my life”. I didn’t exactly know what my career would turn into as it’s impossible to predict how things will turn out in life, but that moment was absolutely crucial for me as I never stopped pursuing a life in music from then on. I haven’t had any other full time job outside of music since that moment and I’m very fortunate to do what I love every day.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?
The most interesting moment of my career was probably during the time in my life when I moved out of Calgary and into Vancouver at the age of 18. I had no money and just wanted to prove that I could move out into the world on my own and make a name for myself. I never told my parents this, but during my time in Vancouver, I would actually sleep in my car on some nights, as my apartment was an hour outside of the city and I couldn’t always afford to pay for gas. I would park my car by the water, lock the doors, and practice guitar for hours on end in order to get better. Close to Christmas time one year, I wrote a song for my parents and ended up putting it on MySpace (which sounds weird to say now, haha). After posting the song, my first ever manager ended up discovering me and that’s how I got signed to Island Def Jam as a young artist. What I learned from that experience is that it’s important to continually be a hustler, always try and grow whenever you can, and stop at nothing to get there. Looking back, I think that I was always manifesting without even knowing that I was because I always imagined myself being successful with my music career. It kept me driven, regardless of the current situation that I was in at that age.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
I would advise that they stay driven, authentic, and always work towards their goals. They don’t say 10,000 hours for nothing! I didn’t have a social life when I first moved out of Calgary. I would lock myself in my room each and every weekend and continue to work, only leaving when I needed to get food. Whether it was practicing the guitar for 11 hours a day, or trying to get better at writing songs, I always wanted to challenge myself and it took true determination and a thick layer of skin to keep pushing towards my goals.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
I would say that my favorite life lesson quote is “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. It’s such an accurate and realistic quote in my eyes. There will be a million things in life that sting or hurt you and make you want to give up but at the end of the day, if you’re still alive, breathing, and able to pursue your dreams then you should stop at nothing to get there.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a handful of people that have helped me along the way, however, there are a few instrumental individuals who really changed my life. The first being Chris Smith, my first manager that found my song on MySpace and got me my first record deal with Island Def Jam. Getting my first deal was massive in its own right but he also taught me so much in order to develop as an artist and businesswoman. I remember that he would have me do 7 open mics a week for a year before doing my first show. He was that dedicated to my development as an artist and he is the best at true artist development. I owe a lot of what I know now in terms of my approach to artist development (with the artists I work with) to Chris and all that he prepared me for and helped me through. The other person I would like to highlight is Barry Weiss. As I became more passionate about developing my own artists, Barry was able to guide me through the necessary steps and coach me as an executive in the industry. Coming from an artist background, I am forever grateful to him for helping me understand another side of the business. I’ve now been able to mesh all that I know on the creative side with everything that he’s provided on the business front, helping me become a more well-rounded player in this industry.
Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?
In the last year or so, I started a podcast called The Green Room Talks. It’s a platform surrounding mental health in partnership with She Is The Music — a nonprofit working to increase the number of womxn in music — The JED Foundation, Hannah Babitt (Babz. Inc), Irene Richter (WideEyed Ent.), and now Taylor Guitars! Mental health is something that is very important to me as I’ve personally dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember. As a creative, I’ve found it very difficult to deal with the repercussions of my anxiety and know so many other creatives that go through the same struggles. With that, I decided to create a platform to speak on these issues as I feel that they weren’t being talked about enough. The Green Room represents the element of a backstage or behind the scenes look into the individuals within the entertainment industries that deal with mental health issues on a daily basis and find solace in creating and sharing their stories. In addition, the color green is associated with mental health awareness and I felt that was very fitting when coming up with The Green Room as the title of my platform. Regardless of whether some of our listeners are musicians or not, I think these topics are relatable to people from all walks of life. It’s humans connecting with other humans on real and important topics during such a terrible time with the pandemic, etc. For those that are musicians or heavily involved in music, the platform can be a great way for our guests to connect with their fan bases in a light that they may have never seen before. Ultimately, we all go through our own struggles and sometimes those issues aren’t addressed publicly enough in order to spread awareness. Bringing important topics to our viewers with celebrity / influential guests that are dealing with such issues brings a very raw and genuine message to the forefront. It shows that you’re not alone, no matter what you’re going through or what your status may be; we all have demons and The Green Room is serving as a platform for safe and genuine conversations.
On a personal level, speaking to such amazing guests and covering a wide range of topics such as cyber bullying, body image, addiction, and coming out to name a few, has been so eye opening. I’ve been able to hear about the struggles that my friends are going through while sharing my own experiences and have been lucky enough to make friends through the same platform. Being able to do all of this while giving back to amazing organizations such as The JED Foundation makes the project that much more worthwhile and I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve done so far.
Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?
Although it was touched on briefly in the previous section, I unfortunately dealt with an eating disorder, severe bullying, and anxiety & panic attacks from a young age. Through my experiences, I felt the need to connect with others and create a platform in which those issues and others like them could be addressed. Looking back, it really makes me appreciate my love and connection with music that much more. People always asked me how I broke away from my eating disorder and I can honestly say that music was the key. My passion for music diverted all of the negativity and led me to something more positive that I could focus on to better myself as a musician and a person. With that, I always encourage people around me to follow what they love or to take up a hobby in order to distract from any negative thoughts or habits. It also really helped to have supportive parents that were able to direct me down the right paths, my father working as a psychologist and my mother as a teacher. They worked with a lot of other kids my age and were able to help me find a passion such as music that could take me away from the negative that was going on at the time.
In terms of the creative community, I think it’s imperative to address issues surrounding mental health due to the public lives that a lot of our guests have. As a public figure, many people see what you’re going through but they only see it through the lens of the media and what they choose to portray. That’s why I love having our guests share their stories, it gives them an opportunity to address what they’re genuinely going through. Depending on how raw each guest wants to be, I think it’s amazing to be able to share such truth because it can help heal or connect with someone else (i.e our viewers). For me, I know how healing it is to talk about what I’m going through, even through songwriting on a base level. Having a platform like The Green Room elevates that healing process by allowing yourself to join a community that will listen and relate to your struggles.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?
There’s something really interesting about the word manifestation. When the book “The Secret” first came out, people got the notion that they would need to wish for something and that it would happen in time if they kept focusing on that goal. “Oh, I want to make a million dollars” or “I want to invent the next big thing”. When those dreams didn’t become a reality in the short term they rushed to say that it didn’t work and that it was a sham. That’s the thing about manifestation though, it goes two ways — both positive and negative. Any sort of thought that you’re constantly thinking about and focusing on is going to manifest in one way or another. I can admit that I’ve manifested for good and for bad, either a goal that was super high or super low, I always saw a result at the end. During this past year, with the pandemic and all, I’ve seen the power that we hold over our own lives and how real manifestation is. The problem is, when you’re conscious of your negative thoughts you end up still putting those thoughts out there, you’re still manifesting them in one way or another as long as you think about them. If you don’t actively do something to better yourself and change those negative thoughts then you’ll continue to see them play out. For me, I would imagine myself up on stage, getting my first #1 hit, developing my first successful artist, imagining my artist up on stage, picturing them getting their first #1 — every step that it would take to succeed. Looking back, I came to realize that a lot of those goals had manifested themselves throughout the years and that they came to be through my obsession with making them a reality. The more I realize that, the more I focus on what’s next and where I want to see myself. Once you learn how to handle your thoughts and manifest the right goals, you can achieve anything.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I recently had a girl reach out to me after my latest episode of The Green Room with Upsahl. She told me about how she was having intense writer’s block, was feeling down about her career as an artist, and was in a total rut. After watching the episode, she became so inspired that she went on to finish a song that she wasn’t able to finalize after months of trying and trying. She ended up sending the song to me and it was amazing. We continued to talk and are now in touch about her music and how we can keep it moving forward!
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
First off, I really want to encourage the music industry to hire on staff therapists for talent. There are a lot of artists out there that are struggling with mental health and fear that speaking about their issues will portray them as weak, or that they won’t be able succeed any further than they have. If they have someone to trust (similar to a guidance counselor in high school, for example) then a lot of artists will be able to not only heal themselves but continue to do what they love.
It’s a really tough question but in terms of society & government, I think the stigma around mental health needs to be dropped. It has to be accepted that people go through things and that they deserve to speak with people about their issues and find that help without any judgment or scrutiny.
Across the board, I think that companies need to respect what their employees are going through. It’s just like being sick with the flu or having some sort of ailment that prevents you from functioning properly. If your mental health is preventing you from doing your duties, then sick days should apply just like any other illness. It’s important for everyone to identify with that, although progress is being made slowly. Society as a whole needs to adapt to that thinking without any question.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
One thing I wish someone had told me is that you don’t always have to listen to those that you view as more successful, especially if it means sacrificing your integrity along the way. I do wish someone had sat me down and told me that sticking to my gut and being authentic is the best way forward. Those with the most success don’t always know what’s best; you have to learn to trust yourself.
I also wish someone had told me how much anxiety I would have through this journey, even though it’s been worth it at the end of the day. It’s a trade-off, but I do wish I knew that it never stops being challenging.
I’ve realized now as a songwriter, vocal producer, executive producer, podcaster, and everything in between that the more irons you have in the fire, the better. I wish someone had told me years ago that being skilled in multiple areas can be a powerful thing, and leads to a better chance at success.
I wish someone told me not to worry about what others are doing, and not to be so competitive. I’d rather be the one to set a trend than follow one, but it can be scary to see something working for someone else and feel like you have to replicate what they’re doing. I’ve realized how important it is to stay focused on myself.
Lastly, I wish someone had told me that there are no right answers in music. There’s no exact way to do it, and I think in the beginning I found myself thinking “If I don’t do it this way, it won’t be successful”. I’ve realized that there isn’t a specific path to success, you have to take things day-to-day. It’s important to just make great songs, and not be wrapped up in technicalities.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Honestly, I really want to help start a movement against bullying. I was so badly bullied throughout junior high and high school that it made me feel hopeless throughout my most formative years. There’s no amount of therapy or support that can get you through that and that trauma ultimately lives within you for the rest of your life. If there’s something that I could do to help kids in similar situations, it would be to let them know that there’s more to life than your life at school, and that the word of a bully means nothing in the long run. Even further, I’d like for bullies to understand what they’re doing to people’s lives by acting the way they do. The mental health movement as a whole is what I’m focusing on, but the sub sector of bullying strikes a sensitive chord due to its effect on people’s mental health from a young age. Bringing awareness and speaking out against bullying is extremely important to me.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I feel like Oprah would have to be my answer. She is so influential, has always been so smart and sensitive, and represents exactly what a female should represent in this country and in the world. I’ve always completely looked up to her and all that she says and does. It’s inspiring, especially as a female that has to work 100 times harder than a man just to get a foot in the door, and I think she portrays that to the fullest. She is a true hero.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!