How do you measure success in the music business today?
Unless your name is Adele or Justin Bieber, you can count out music sales.
For Los Angeles singer-songwriter Jenny O., who boasts some serious bragging rights worth a dream mansion or two, the only way to measure any level of success is by staying on the minds of listeners. Praised repeatedly in various music rags as the "next big thing," the soft-spoken multi-instrumentalist said it's a claim she's become accustomed to ignoring.
Rather than cast her faith into delusions of grandeur, Jenny O. promises nothing but the musical truth when she opens for fellow Angelenos He's My Brother, She's My Sister at Elements Venue on Friday.
"I have no idea what it means to 'blow up.' I've had songs in car commercials, but it doesn't mean anyone knows who you are. It's just background music. So while millions of people may hear your music, it doesn't necessarily mean anyone is going to know who you are. It's really relative."
Choosing the onstage moniker Jenny O. to avoid pronunciation problems with her very Italian surname, Ognibene, many listeners may also recognize her name from the 2011 Buddy Holly tribute album, "Rave On." The album, which also featured covers from ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, Fiona Apple, The Black Keys and Lou Reed, gave her a break most artists can only dream of.
"Randall Poster, the music supervisor who put that together, was a fan of my music and asked me to put a song on there. I didn't actually believe that they were going to put the song on there, because they had sent me the list of who was going to be on there and what songs were taken. So I had to find a song that wasn't taken and sent it in thinking, 'Yeah right, they're going to use it.'"
It was good news for the struggling artist, but that was nothing compared to her parents' reaction miles away in Long Island after seeing her cover of Holly's "I'm Gonna Love You Too," in the track listing.
"Finally, I was on something that was in Starbucks. That translated well because sometimes I'd call home and say, 'Hey, I just sang back-up for this person,' or 'I just did this cool thing,' and they would say, 'I don't know who any of those people are or what that is.' But, then when it's right in front of them in their local Starbucks, that's when it really hit home."
Despite that breakthrough, Jenny O.'s career rolled on with the occasional bonus round of gigs performing at SXSW showcases in Austin, Texas, opening for troubadour legend Rodriguez, a tour with Leon Russell, and all in the name of beloved exposure and expanded listenership.
"Maybe there are media experts out there who quantify how many people are talking or listening to you. It's not completely clear when something happens, how far it reaches or registers with people."
Online videos have also proved to be an invaluable resource. Check out the homemade video for the song "Well Ok Honey," found at YouTube. Financed and produced by the performer with money raised through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, the three-minute short was filmed on a Canon Digital Rebel Xti camera with help from some dancing friends and a lot of DIY grit. If critics were looking for an example of true, indie hipsterdom, this gem of a video takes the cake.
"My camera had died, so the new one I got had video capability on it. I decided to make it by myself, and that's what we came up with. Just me and my friends in Northern California being ourselves."
Jenny O.'s upcoming full-length release, "Automechanic," will be released on Feb. 5. The album's first single, "Dope Van Gogh," can be heard at her website, jennyo.com.
Doors open at 7 p.m. Friday. Admission is $11. The all-ages show will also feature The Bird Channel. Elements Venue is located at 3401 Chester Ave. For more information, visit timgardeapresents.com.
The Expendables at B Ryder's
Not to be confused with the big-budget action flicks, Santa Cruz quartet The Expendables continues its reign over the California reggae scene with a mix of tropical influences, metal, punk and ska. An odd combination, but those elements are what make this musical hybrid style such a hit with young and old audiences.
Sublime is long gone, but thanks to a new breed of acts filling the void, it now boasts its own festivals solely dedicated to the genre. The band's latest release, "Gone Soft," is an all-acoustic album of older material showing an even softer side to the foursome, sure to please new and longtime fans with its signature Expendables edge. Catch this show for a break from the local freeze.
Opening the show are Fortunate Youth and Dub Seeds. Sunday's showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and available at B Ryder's. B Ryder's is located at 7401 White Lane. For more information, call 397-7304 or visit numbskullshows.com.
26 Angels Benefit at Elements Venue, 3401 Chester Ave., 3 p.m. Saturday. $10. All-ages show.
The outpouring of sympathy continues for those affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, and now Bakersfield adds its support. Envisioning a show of music, love and goodwill, local veteran musician and tattoo artist Marc Deleon planned this all-ages show that kicks off at 3 p.m. Saturday. The gathering will feature a cross-section of bands from nearly every local genre, from pop and indie to metal, classic rock and more. Bands set to appear throughout the day include Lucky Stiff, The Easy-In, Lions Named Leo, Crooked Folk, The Cretins, Arizonity, Right Cross, Hossbruten, Mother Puncher and Secret VI.
The benefit will also feature a special appearance by Los Angeles electro rockers Otto's Daughter, whose music has been featured on The Discovery Channel and TV shows "The Vampire Diaries" and "Gossip Girl." Giveaways and raffles will be held throughout the day. All funds raised will benefit the United Way's Sandy Hook School Support Fund.
Relay For Life Benefit at Sandrini's, 1918 Eye St., 9 p.m. Saturday. $5. 322-8900.
It's been awhile since we've heard from Bakersfield singer-songwriter Landen Belardes. After his well-produced EP "Listen" in 2010, he's kept a lower profile making strides in the underground scene. Fans of his work can get good glimpse into what Belardes has been up to at this Relay for Life benefit.
Also on the bill is Bakersfield band The Nature, whose catchy tune "Oceans" could help propel them to another level -- if marketed properly. It's a little Death Cab For Cutie-ish, but definitely worth a repeat listen (check it out at facebook.com/thenaturemusic). You should hear more from The Nature throughout the year.
Opening the show is area mystery band Ebenezer State of Mind, whom I've never heard of before but deserves kudos for coolest band name of the year. Bakersfield artist and community activist Jorge Guillen will also be giving away a special new work of his just for the occasion. All funds from this show will go to benefit Bakersfield Relay For Life.