Jenny Mitchell has always felt a special connection to the Grainstore Gallery.
The 21-year-old Dunedin singer-songwriter has known owner Donna Demente for many years, and the gallery was one of her favourite venues on her 2019 national tour.
“I always thought that if the opportunity did come up, it would be such a cool place, a cool corner of New Zealand, to share,” Mitchell said.
That opportunity presented itself during lockdown. Without live music and events, Mitchell wanted to find a way to capture that live feeling everyone was missing.
“At a time when I was devastated to not be playing . I just really wanted to create something that was as close to live shows as possible,” she said.
And so The Grainstore Sessions, a new “live-visual EP”, was born.
The EP was recorded at the Grainstore Gallery in one take in July, with Mitchell’s younger twin sisters Nicola and Maegan (16) adding their voices to the five tracks – live acoustic versions of songs from her album Wildfires and a cover.
The one-take approach took its cue from Mitchell’s love of watching live concerts and recordings when she was younger.
“Again and again and again I used to watch The Chicks – formerly known as The Dixie Chicks. I just loved the kind of imperfectness of it and the way they would talk to the band and look at each other and things like that.”
Her idea for The Grainstore Sessions was to record something that was not “in-studio and cut to be the perfect take”.
“Whatever happened was the take.
“I’m really proud of how it’s all turned out.”
The first track, Travelling Bones, was released on August 28, and the following four – with audio and accompanying live video – are being released fortnightly.
Mitchell’s father, Ron, also features on one of the tracks.
The family involvement in the recordings would not surprise anyone in Gore, Mitchell’s hometown, but it would be her sisters’ introduction to the rest of New Zealand.
They were all looking forward to touring the South Island together and are scheduled to perform in Oamaru on October 16.
“It’ll definitely be different to solo touring,” Mitchell said.
“[Nicola and Maegan] don’t take anything too seriously, so I’m looking forward to having that kind of energy.”
For the past two years, most of Mitchell’s playing time has been in Australia. She had planned to travel to Canada and America this year, after graduating from the University of Otago with a bachelor of arts in communications and marketing in August.
“There’s a lot of my kind of folk and country music over there, so I really wanted to explore that,” she said.
But with international travel out of the picture, she has been forced to look for new opportunities in New Zealand.
“I think there’s lots of opportunities here and the folk and country scene is growing and people are more into it every day.
“So I’m excited to be a New Zealander in New Zealand for a while.”
Mitchell is also teaching songwriting in secondary schools for the New Zealand Music Commission.
“It’s super fun .. it’s something I’m really passionate about and definitely something I’d like to continue doing,” she said.
“I’ve been doing that with a whole range of ages of high school students at different schools around Dunedin.”
See it, hear it
The Grainstore Sessions tour, Oamaru, October 16, 7.30pm.