Jenny Berkel (Danielle Berkel)
I think the prairie landscape and the feeling of Winnipeg has very much influenced my writing.
—Jenny Berkel, singer-songwriter
Her voice has been described as deep and smoky.
Even though she's not from Winnipeg, Jenny Berkel has a prairie sound. "I started writing when I moved to Winnipeg and later I returned to Winnipeg to work on music," she explains.
"I think the prairie landscape and the feeling of Winnipeg has very much influenced my writing - lyrically of course but also the sparseness of it."
She says the songwriting started with writing poetry when she was younger. "Since I was a little girl I loved writing poetry. And I also loved singing. So when I discovered that I could blend those two things it was very exciting for me."
Berkel grew up with music, and remembers church services filled with singing. Her mom strongly encouraged her to take piano lessons from the time she was six until she turned 13.
"I think my mom gave me a guitar when I was 16 or 17 but I could only play a few chords. After I moved to Winnipeg, I was living alone in an apartment so I started playing my guitar more."
Berkel says she had been travelling around for a few years, looking for a place to "nestle" as she describes it. "I really liked Winnipeg the first time I was here," she says. "I knew that the music community was a strong one especially for roots and folk so that's why I came back."
She eventually managed to hook up with Matt Peters (Royal Canoe) and he helped Berkel start recording. "I didn't really know what I was doing at all," she admits. "I was still a really new songwriter and so I found his input really helpful. He's been working with music for a really long time. His pop ear really was a really great complement to my music."
Peters even played on Berkel's debut album Here on a Wire, covering organ, slide guitar and lead electric guitars.
Now Berkel has decided to move back to Ontario, to be closer to family. "When you're away from your family it's hard sometimes," she says. "Winnipeg has been an amazing home but Ontario has started to draw me back. It's a 25 hour drive for me to get home to see my folks."
Berkel is moving to Toronto where she hopes to record a new album this winter but plans to return to Winnipeg to share some music in the spring.
Hear Jenny Berkel in conversation with host Ismaila Alfa on SCENE On Air on Saturday September 7. The show airs every Saturday from 5 - 6 p.m. on CBC Radio One, 89.3 FM/990 AM/97.9 FM in Brandon.