Tolman putting humor back in country music

Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.
·4 min read

Apr. 9—Jenny Tolman, 25, has been compared to the late Roger Miller ("King of the Road," "Dang Me") for the humor that she injects into many of the songs she writes.

She could also be compared with Deana Carter ("Did I Shave My Legs For This") and Gretchen Wilson ("Redneck Woman").

But Tolman, who will be in Owensboro on Thursday performing in Woodward Theatre at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum during "The Nashville Songwriter" showcase, is her own person.

She'll be joined on the 7 p.m. show by Chris Beard and Joel Shewmake.

Tickets are $10 at BluegrassHall.org.

Even though she hasn't been signed to a major label yet, Tolman's first album, "There Goes The Neighborhood," debuted on the Billboard country charts at No. 25.

Tolman knows how to work the internet, especially YouTube, where she posts videos of her songs.

And when bookings died last year during the pandemic, she started her own YouTube cooking show, "Quarantine Kitchen," which has been renamed "Hey, Good Cookin'."

"I've always written," Tolman said. "But I guess when I was 16 and got my first guitar was when I started putting stories and music together."

She said, "Doing everything independently has been good during the past year. Labels have more restrictions on what you can do during times like last year. I've learned a lot about being an independent artist. I'm not stressed about not having a major label deal, but I wouldn't turn one down."

Tolman said, "I have a great team around me."

Her fiancé, Dave Brainard, is a Grammy-nominated producer.

On Friday, April 9, Tolman is releasing a deluxe version of "There Goes The Neighborhood" with three additional songs — Shel Silverstein's "Still Gonna Die"; "Who'll Be Your Fool," a duet with country legend Jeannie Seely; and "Tabitha," which is reminiscent of Dolly Parton's "Jolene."

"Doing it on my own can be a blessing and a curse," she said. "Last year was not what I hoped for. My first album came out in July 2019. I was touring and performed as an opening act before a crowd of 11,000. I thought 2020 was going to be the year. And then, COVID hit."

Tolman will be making her first trip to Owensboro for the performance.

Summer will be busy"I'm definitely looking forward to coming up there and performing for you all," she said. "I have a handful of shows lined up so far this spring. But summer is going to be busy."

Tolman said, "I'm pretty sure the first song I wrote was something about eating melted ice cream out of a carton. I was channeling Taylor Swift. But nobody's ever going to hear it."

Her favorite among the songs she's written is "So Pretty."

Tolman says, "It starts from a place where you truly want to hate this person. You don't want to like them. We've all felt that. And then the amazing thing is that, once you actually get to know somebody, it's like, 'Oh, you're a good person. You have a good soul, and I'm just being a brat because it's an ego thing."

She said, "It's so honest and so real. It's one that people react to."

"The Neighborhood" in the debut album is "Jennyville," a fictional town where the people are a bit eccentric.

It's filled with story songs, which Tolman admits aren't as popular in country music as they once were.

Nashville Scene named her debut album as "Best Country Debut Album," while The Tennessean named her an "Artist to Watch" and MusicRow Magazine included her in its "Next Big Thing" Class of 2020.

Rolling Stone said, "Debuting with a concept album is a bold move, but Jenny Tolman isn't your average debut artist."

The Boot, a country music website, said, "No rising artist today can outpace Tolman when it comes to enthusiasm and imagination."

And actor Jeff Bridges recorded her "My Welcome Mat."

Tolman said she launched her YouTube cooking show "because I was stuck at home and all my shows had been canceled. My job is to entertain, so I started 'Quarantine Kitchen.' Ten years ago, I was forced to go gluten-free before it became trendy. I love to bake and cook. The show is doing great. People send in requests and I get a lot of thank yous from parents whose kids have allergies."

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301

klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com