The Wailin’ Jennys
The Wailin Jennys are Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Heather Masse three distinct voices that together make an achingly perfect vocal sound.
Starting as a happy accident of solo singer/songwriters getting together for a one-time-only performance at a tiny guitar shop in Winnipeg, Manitoba, The Wailin’ Jennys have grown over the years into one of today’s most beloved international folk acts. Founding members Moody and Mehta along with New York-based Masse continue to create some of the most exciting music on the folk-roots scene, stepping up their musical game with each critically lauded recording and thrilling audiences with their renowned live performances.
In 2004, The Wailin’ Jennys released their first full-length album 40 Days to great critical acclaim, netting a 2005 Juno Award (Canadian Grammy) for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year. Bolstered by their frequent appearances on Garrison Keillor’s public radio show A Prairie Home Companion, The Jennys exploded onto the roots music scene, performing at packed venues across the Canada, the U.S. and throughout the world.
The Jennys’ sophomore album, 2006’s Firecracker, served as a powerful follow-up to their career-making debut. Artistically, the record found The Jennys stepping out of the folk realm and into the world of alt-country, pop and rock. Garnering much attention, it was nominated for a Juno Award and won a 2007 Folk Alliance Award for Contemporary Release of the Year. Firecracker had legs, spending over 56 weeks on the Billboard charts.
The trio’s 2009 release, Live at Mauch Chunk Opera House, also spent over a year on the Billboard bluegrass charts. That landmark live album bottled the lightning of The Jennys’ live performances with show-stopping harmonies, impressive instrumental prowess, breathtaking songs and, of course, witty stage banter.
For 2011’s Juno-winning Bright Morning Stars, The Wailin’ Jennys joined the ranks of Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris and recorded with award-winning producer Mark Howard. Co-produced by frequent Jennys collaborator and Juno Award-nominated David Travers-Smith, the album combines fresh and innovative sounds with the band’s signature harmonies — a perfect mix of Americana, pop and traditional folk that is destined to be a modern classic.
In 2017, the Jennys released their first new record in six years, Fifteen and the first to include cover songs from fan requests. From Tom Petty to Dolly Parton to Paul Simon, critics hailed the Jennys’ refreshed arrangements.
Although known primarily as an acoustic outfit, The Wailin’ Jennys have a diverse musical background that has shaped their musical sensibilities. Soprano Ruth Moody (vocals, guitar, accordion, banjo, bodhrán) is a classically trained vocalist and pianist with a burgeoning solo career. She made a splash in 2010 with the Juno-nominated The Garden which was followed up with 2013’s gorgeous These Wilder Things. She’s an accomplished, versatile singer of traditional and Celtic music and as the former lead singer of Juno-nominated roots band Scruj MacDuhk. Mezzo Nicky Mehta (vocals, guitar, harmonica, drums, ukulele), a classically trained dancer raised on ’70s a.m. radio and heavily influenced by alternative pop, was nominated for a Canadian Indie Music Award for her striking debut solo album, 2002’s Weather Vane. In July 2009 she became the proud mother to twin boys, Beck and Finn. Alto Heather Masse (vocals, upright bass) is a Jazz Voice graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, who has performed in Mark O’Connor’s Hot Swing, Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings and is a regular guest on A Prairie Home Companion. She has also toured with her own band, supporting her 2009 Red House release Bird Song. Her latest, 2013’s Lock My Heart, is is an inspired album of jazz standards and originals with legendary pianist Dick Hyman.
With their varying backgrounds, each of the Jennys is unique in their individual expression. Together they forge a unified folk-pop sound — all delivered with the irresistible vocal power of three.
Although best known for her work with The Wailin’ Jennys, soprano Ruth Moody is an artist of remarkable depth and grace in her own right. Critics have lauded her ethereal vocals, impressive multi-instrumentalism (she plays guitar, banjo, accordion, piano, and bodhrán), and her talent as a songwriter. Writing with a maturity and wisdom that belies her age, her songs are timeless, universal and exceptionally well-crafted, all sung with a unique intimacy and honesty that is unmistakably hers.
Ruth was a finalist in the USA Songwriting Competition and was recognized by the International Songwriting Competition for her song “One Voice,” which has gone on to be a signature song for The Wailin’ Jennys. It has been covered by countless artists and has been performed in concert halls, churches and schools throughout the world.
Ruth released her highly-anticipated full-length solo debut, The Garden, in 2010. Released via Red House Records, the album was produced by David Travers-Smith and features an all-star cast including neo-bluegrass band Crooked Still, Kevin Breit (Norah Jones, k.d. lang), Matt Peters of The Waking Eyes, Luke Doucet, Oh Susanna, and a guest appearance by The Wailin’ Jennys.
Ruth’s sophomore album, 2013’s These Wilder Things, sees her experiment with a more urgent sound, backed by another stellar cast including Crooked Still vocalist Aoife O’Donovan, American lap steel player Jerry Douglas and British guitar god Mark Knopfler. Raw and personal, These Wilder Things is a stunning triumph.
Mezzo Nicky Mehta has been called a poet and songwriter of exceptional depth and maturity whose ability to “walk with sorrow” has made her music vital and hopeful; Mehta’s songs reflect a wisdom sometimes hard-won but never uncelebrated. Her debut solo album Weather Vane was nominated for a 2002 Canadian Music Award for Outstanding Roots Recording and the venerable Sing Out! publication counted her among the most promising up and coming singer/songwriters in North America.
As a founding member of The Wailin’ Jennys, Nicky has continued to capture hearts and imaginations with her music. She was a finalist in the USA Songwriting Competition for her masterful “Arlington.” As well, her song “Begin”, a compassionate ode to mindfulness, was both featured in the film The Cake Eaters (directed by Mary Stuart Masterson and starring Kristin Stewart) and on the season finale of Lifetime’s Army Wives.
Nicky gave birth to twin boys, Beck and Finn, in July of 2009. Four years later, she is now hard at work on her newest ‘baby’ — a long awaited sophomore solo album to be released in 2014.
New York singer/songwriter Heather Masse grew up in rural Maine and began singing at an early age. Trained at the New England Conservatory of Music as a jazz singer, she is steeped in the jazz tradition, which informs her distinct approach to singing folk, pop and bluegrass.
As a member of the Billboard-charting folk group, The Wailin’ Jennys, Heather has performed at the top venues, sharing the stage with the world’s most acclaimed pop, classical and jazz acts, including Elvis Costello, Wynton Marsalis, Sheryl Crow and the Boston Pops Orchestra. She has been a frequent guest on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, both as a solo performer and as a member of The Jennys. Heather has performed with the contemporary bluegrass band The Wayfaring Strangers, fiddle virtuoso Mark O’Connor’s Hot Swing and, in 2006, recorded an album with Joy Kills Sorrow, a contemporary string band. That year, she also released Tell Me Tonight with the Brooklyn-based collaboration Heather & the Barbarians.
In 2008, Heather released Many Moons, an EP of jazz-inspired folk duets with pianist Jed Wilson. Her full-length debut for Red House Records, Bird Song, followed in 2009, Red House Records.
Heather’s newest release, Lock My Heart, is an inspired album of jazz standards and originals with legendary pianist Dick Hyman. It has been on the Billboard charts since its release in February 2013.