Jane Ellen Bryant, blessed with a soaring, ethereal voice and astonishing songwriting talent, is poised to launch the musical career she’s been working toward her whole life. The upcoming release of Hourglass, the highly anticipated follow-up to her eponymous 2012 debut, will, Jane hopes, “set my career aglow. I’ve finally found the sound I’m going for, so this really feels like the beginning.” That haunting sound fills the spaces between folk and rock, Southern grit and lilting Americana, effortlessness and drive, darkness and light. Every song hints at her Austin roots, Nashville training and love of Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Eagles.
Austin-born and raised, Jane recently graduated from Nashville’s renowned Belmont University, where she studied music – particularly voice – and got noticed for her unique arrangements. Her three-year tenure as member and arranger for Session, the university’s a cappella ensemble, included national exposure on PBS’ “Christmas at Belmont.” Another high point of her academic career came when the university’s president – a loyal fan of Jane’s music – quoted her song lyrics in two commencement addresses.
Texas recording engineer and producer Chet Himes is another devoted admirer of Jane’s music. The two have been working together since Chet took the beautiful young songstress under his wing a few years ago. She’s opened for Suzanna Choffel, Bob Schneider and Joe Ely, and played with guitarist Max Frost, drummer J.J. Johnson and guitarist and dobro player Jeff Plankenhorn. (The story about the time she played a parking lot SXSW gig in 2011 with an all-star lineup that included Frost on guitar and Johnson filling in for a missing drummer is a favorite.)
Jane makes feel-good music for good times and bad, for sure, but there’s more to her sound than dusty boots and cold Shiners at sunset or the delicious pain of lost love. She uses her many gifts to express her generation’s concerns, too. Jane says she is “inspired to write songs that make people feel good, but I also have something to say. I don’t want to ignore what’s happening around me.” The tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings shocked her into writing “Hourglass,” a wistful meditation on lives cut short; “Make Believe,” dedicated to her sister, is an homage to childhood invention. Jane wrote the album alone, thankful to have an outlet for her feelings and ideas. “I’m way too hardheaded to just throw something together. Every song comes from something real.”