With the advent of the Internet and reality television there have been numerous music star wannabe’s lately finding fame by simply posting videos or songs online or lining up with other hopefuls in their bid to find the big time. While Canadian Idol, The Voice, Canada’s Got Talent, YouTube and Facebook have all worked for some aspiring musicians, that’s a road Jenie Thai won’t soon be travelling.
Thai’s a 23 year old Blues/Jazz singer/songwriter/pianist from Edmonton who’s doing things “her way.” A pianist since the age of five, Thai graduated from Grant MacEwan University in 2010 after studying jazz and contemporary music and is finding her “big time” in a unique way. Thai’s goal this summer is to travel coast to coast giving live performances in people’s living rooms, or as she calls them, “couch concerts.”
After applying to Home Routes (www.homeroutes.ca), a house concert non-profit organization, and being told they were full until 2014, Jenie embarked on a journey of her own. Inspired by a few friends who’ve travelled the world using the hugely successful travel website www.couchsurfing.org, she logged on to get some contacts and the rest, as they say, is history.
“I was actually accepted to the Paul McCartney International School of Music in Liverpool but turned it down,” said Thai with a giggle. “I felt that it was time for me to get out there and perform and if I needed I could always re-auditon. The thought of being $90,000 in debt with student loans didn’t help either. I love to perform and love sharing my music and this is a great way to do it.”
One of Thai’s first forays into the “couch concert” scene was actually in the Heffley Lake area near Sun Peaks at the home of Anne and George Terwiel. Thai contacted the Terwiel’s son Justin through a friend on couchsurfing.org and the show was on. Not knowing what to expect from Thai as a musician, you could sense the anticipation of the friends and family on hand while the wine flowed and dinner was served prior to the show.
Once Thai began singing her heartfelt songs about life, love and laughter the Terwiels’ living room erupted with applause.
“It was amazing and something totally unique,” said Justin. “I think the intimate setting really set the stage for both the crowd and Jenie, and you really feel connected to the people and of course the music was absolutely unreal. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Thai sells her debut EP Lady Flower at her couch concert shows (it’s also available on iTunes) and accepts donations from her enthusiastic audiences as a form of payment. While obviously the food, wine and a place to crash are great additional perks of the job, it’s the new fans she connects with that truly make her unique journey rewarding.
“The people have been amazingly generous and warm,” said Thai. “The home settings have been really concert-like with people really appreciating the music. The hosts of the seven home shows I’ve done so far have really done a great job in getting people out to watch and hopefully now that I’ve pushed the snowball down the hill this thing can grow. The goal is to take this nationally, so we’ll see where it goes.”
To say Thai is a groundbreaker in the troubled waters of the music world would be an understatement and once you hear her play and sing you soon realize even at the young age of 23 this girl is truly an old bluesy soul with a style all her own and a drive to succeed that will undoubtedly lead to a life of music, fame and fortune.
For more information visit www.jeniethai.ca