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Jen Howard concludes her first national tour in Waynesville, Ohio, December 1st.

The California-based singer-songwriter concludes her first solo tour near her home town of Lebanon, Ohio.
The California-based singer-songwriter concludes her first solo tour near her hometown of Lebanon, Ohio.

This week, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Jen Howard joined Midday Music host Evan Miller for a live studio session and interview ahead of her December 1 performance in Waynesville, Ohio. The concert will mark the end of a 6-month tour that has taken Howard across the country. On the show, she performed songs from her forthcoming album, which is slated for release next year, and talked about life on the road. Howard said being a touring musician is the hardest job she’s ever had, but she also said the whirlwind experience has helped her understand herself.

Jen Howard’s December 1 performance in Waynesville represents a homecoming. The musician has spent the last 15 years in Los Angeles, California, but she grew up in Lebanon, Ohio, and still travels to Waynesville regularly to visit her father. On the show, Howard spoke with Evan Miller about her journey from Ohio to California. She began playing piano at age 9, when her mother enrolled her in a program for underprivileged children to learn music. In high school, she found her real musical passion: rock and roll. “I think once I got out of high school, I was like, ‘I'm going to be in a rock and roll band,’” she told Evan, “Forget college; I'm going straight into rock and roll.”

Howard played with Cincinnati band Moot in the early 2000s, before migrating to Houston, Texas, and finally to L.A., where she joined funk-rock outfit EchoVox. In L.A. she began to seriously pursue her career as a solo artist. She told Evan, “In 2018, a good friend of mine was like, ‘Hey, where are you going to put your old stuff out?’ And I was like, ‘My stuff? Who wants to see my son stuff I write in my bedroom?’” Despite her initial reservations, Howard released her debut solo EP, Motion, in 2019. She performed the song “Focus” from the EP live on Midday Music. She said she wrote the song as an exercise in staying mentally grounded.

“I was trying to remind myself to pay attention—the feeling that everything is connected and I don't have to worry that things won't fall into place. A lot of the stuff that I write, I'm kind of writing to myself as reminders and markers to slow down, that it's okay and everything's cool. I like to do intentional, positive, compassionate music.”

Since 2019, Howard has split her time between performing and earning her bachelor’s degree in music. When she realized she would have a 6-month gap in classes this year, she planned an ambitious tour: 140 shows in nearly as many cities across the country. She said the tour was exhausting at times, but has also proven to be a rewarding experience. “It has been just so beautiful and amazing,” She told Evan. “I can't remember everything that happened, but I definitely feel like I know myself better.” Howard said that on the tour, she stripped back her performance to fundamentals:

“It’s the first time where I decided to go solo with no pedals, no effects. Just one microphone and here I am on acoustic guitar… It's been like an incredible learning experience and so many different types of shows. No two shows are the same.”

Jen Howard will perform at Waynesville Music at 7:00pm on Friday, December 1st. More information is available on Waynesville Music’s Facebook. For more information about Howard’s music, including updates about the release of her next album are available at jenhowardlive.com, or on her Instagram or Facebook.

Text by Peter Day, adapted from an live interview by Evan Miller from November 29, 2023.

Evan Miller is a percussionist, lover of sound, and is probably buying too many cassette tapes online right now. Evan got his start in radio in 2012 at WWSU at Wright State University, where he was studying percussion performance. He followed through with both endeavors and eventually landed a lucrative dual career playing experimental music at home and abroad, and broadcasting those sounds to unsuspecting listeners Sunday nights on The Outside. Maintaining a connection to normal music, Evan also plays drums in bands around the area, and hosts WYSO's Midday Music show. When not doing something music-related, Evan is most likely listening to podcasts or watching food videos at home with his cat.
Peter Day writes and produces stories for WYSO’s music department. His works include a feature about Dayton's premiere Silent Disco and a profile of British rapper Little Simz. He also assists with station operations and serves as fill-in host for Behind the Groove. Peter began interning at WYSO in 2019 and, in his spare time while earning his anthropology degree, he served as program director for Yale University’s student radio station, WYBC.