Jenn Grinels grew up in Northern California, before landing at UC Irvine to study musical theater. After graduating, she moved to San Diego and began appearing in local stage productions, which she still does from time to time. One of her most challenging roles was in reverse-drag, playing bearded rock musician Yitzhak in the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, at the Cygnet Theatre. She also portrayed Janis Joplin in the 1960s musical Beehive, at the Theatre in Old Town,
She tours and plays as a solo singer/songwriter, having released her debut full-length Little Words in 2007. “Many of my songs are inspired by my boyfriend, Marine Captain David T. Russell, who was recently re-deployed overseas,” she said at the time. “I write about the pain of separation, and how difficult that can be. Before he left, quite a few of his coworkers and guys from his platoon came out to see me play. A lot of them brought their girlfriends and wives, or they bought one of my CDs to send home to their girlfriends and wives. It’s amazing to play for people who so strongly relate to the music. I just got an order from a friend serving in Iraq right now, who bought six CDs because she wants to give them to fellow marines for Christmas.”
“There are a couple of songs on the album that deal with [my boyfriend’s] past deployments. He happens to be highly decorated, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, which he doesn’t like to talk about, but I’m very proud of him.”
The story of how Captain Russell earned his Purple Heart and Silver Star awards was featured in a December 2006 GQ magazine article, “A Few Good Medals.”
“They ran a photo of him smiling and covered in blood,” says Grinels. “That picture was taken right after he was shot. One of his Marines joked with him, ‘Sir, can you try to look injured?’”
The couple met two years ago when a group of Marines caught Grinels performing at a pub. “I heckled the Marines from the stage,” says Grinels. “I made them put their arms around each other and do a kick line while I sang. When I got off stage, Dave approached me and said ‘You have characteristics I’d like to pass onto my children.’ It worked!”
Grinels says the captain helped get her album made. “He acted as executive producer and was involved every step of the way,” she says. “He gave feedback on the music, offered a few lyrics here and there, was present for the recording when he got back from his tour, enlisted graphic designers, and dealt with the duplication company. He also wrote some of the mass emails, and he’s always my roadie when he’s available.”
While touring, Grinels often performs at functions organized by KVN, the Key Volunteer Network (“Basically, the military wives club”), and she’s looking into a related charity in order to donate a portion of her CD sales (“Probably Operation Homefront”).
Grinels has won two HAT/Honoring Acoustic Talent Awards, for both Best Performer and Best Vocalist in 2007, and she also won the APCA 2010 Female Solo Artist of the Year award and the Best Female Solo Artist trophy at the 2011 APCA National Awards.
Her second full-length brokenHEARTbreaker was released in August 2011. The following year, she won awards for Music Performer of the Year (Campus Activities Magazine), and Song Of The Year (West Coast Songwriters, for “Can’t Stay Here”). In addition, her song “Little Words” was featured on MTV’s The Real World, and she was named among the 2012 Top Indie Acoustic Musicians You Don’t Want To Miss by Indie Music Reviewer Magazine.