Acoustic Lounge recap: Jen McClung


Photo: Kelsey Kremer/Iowa State Daily

Musician, Jen McClung sings during the First Amendment Day poetry slam on Tuesday, April 5 at The Space for Ames (formerly the Ames Progressive). First Amendment Day was celebrated at Iowa State on April 7. Photo: Kelsey Kremer

Jill O'Brien

Jen McClung has been surrounded by music and lyrics her entire life. With her father’s musical background playing a huge role in her life, she had what she calls a “deeply rooted sense of melody. “I would go to sleep and hear him practicing,” McClung said of her father’s skill with a guitar.

But McClung’s start in the music world began with writing poetry around the age of 11.

“I’ve always been a writer, we always had guitars around the house because my dad was a musician — it made sense to merge poetry and music,” McClung said.

McClung’s first performance was with her father, around the age of 9 or 10. After picking up the guitar at the age of 13 and playing open mics starting at 14, she released her first cassette at 16 and first full length at 18. At 17, she was offered a record deal with Warner Bros. Records but ended up turning it down to keep her creative license.

Like her poetry, McClung’s music comes from life experiences that people everywhere share and can relate to.

“What I get is a sense of comfort. Music can put words or a name to something that you don’t have a name for,” McClung said.

Today, McClung is working on new music after the release of her album Wildfire in 2014. Wildfire, she said, “came from a really difficult period in my life. Things don’t turn out the way we want and it all burns down. But there’s beauty in things burning down, and there is growth that will come from this.”

Even while working on a new album and working at Iowa State as a lecturer in American Indian Studies, McClung’s poetry continues to thrive. In fact, one of her poems is written on the wall of the Christian Petersen Museum as part of the RED exhibition that opened Jan. 9. The project centers on what the word “red” means to professors in different disciplines, and Jen’s poem centers on sexual assault of Native American women. It can be viewed in the Christian Petersen museum on campus and is paired with a piece of visual art in the exhibit.

McClung played two of her new songs, “What If” and “Cheers to Someday,” during Monday’s show. Be on the lookout for new music, and maybe even some poetry, from her in the future.