When Jann Arden hosts the Juno Awards, she knows everything about her will be viewed through a public magnifying glass.
“It’s really scary — especially with social media. You know people will be sitting there, going after what you look like, your make-up, your shoes… what you say and how you say it,” said Arden, who will also perform for Red Deer-area fans on Good Friday, March 25, at the Memorial Centre.
The last time she hosted the Junos, 19 years ago, the Twitter-verse didn’t exist and neither did Facebook. Most of the feedback Arden would have received would be in media reports the next day. Hurtful comments from home viewers would have stayed off her radar.
While this is too much to hope for today, Arden still looks forward to the “riskiness” of hosting a nationally broadcast music awards show on March 28 because she can stretch herself in a different direction.
Detractors on social media won’t dent her self confidence, she added, because “I simply don’t care about it.” Arden regularly blocks on-line bullies from her Facebook page. “I have zero tolerance and I report people who post things of a racist, sexist or derogatory nature.”
The candid Calgary-area resident, who’s known for singing about heartbreak and vulnerability, has a special affinity for people who have suffered and survived. This is reflected in several songs from her 2014 album Everything Almost, including, Hard to Be Alive, I Ain’t Sinkin’ Yet and You Were Never Broken.
The latter was inspired by the strength shown by former Red Deer-based journalist Amanda Lindhout who overcame torture and confinement in Somalia.
“I think everyone’s an underdog,” said Arden. “It isn’t easy being a young person, and it isn’t easy being an old person… It’s very easy to be marginalized…”
Arden has spoken out on issues such as bullying in schools and wishes more parents would question their children about the roles they play. “They (might be) the bullies!”
While she revealed being molested by a cousin at age 10, and growing up with an alcoholic father in her 2011 memoir, Falling Backwards, schoolyard bullying wasn’t part of her childhood. With only 40 students at her high school, “we were kind of forced to be friendly with each other,” recalled the 53-year-old, who was raised in the small centre of Springbank, west of Calgary.
She likes the foothills area so much she still lives there… “I’m so grateful my parents moved us out here…”
However, her family life has changed drastically over the last few years.
Arden’s dad, who worked in construction for four decades, passed away last August. Her mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, while one of her brothers continues to serve a life sentence in prison for first-degree murder of a woman in Creston, B.C. (Arden believes he’s innocent, dedicating the song Hangin’ By a Thread to him).
While coping with these personal ordeals, Arden still craves professional change. And 2016 is sure to provide it, with more tours, and recording plans for the singer who rose to fame with her breakthrough 1993 album Time for Mercy. Its single I Could Die For You was followed by a series of other hits: Could I Be Your Girl?, Will You Remember Me? Good Mother, Unloved, Wonderdrug, and and her biggest chart-topper (it went to No. 12 in the U.S.), Insensitive.
Arden hopes to have a new album out 2017.
Fans who have appreciated Arden’s quick wit on her TV appearances on Rick Mercer Report or The Social, will get a chance to experience it live, in concert. And Arden is glad to be making a personal connection with audiences at concert halls and arenas across the country.
“We’re not doing this to promote anything… I’ve put out 14 records over 25 years in music. This is going to be a retrospective,” said Arden, who particularly enjoys more intimate venues, like Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.
With eight Junos, a MuchMusic Video Award and other honours under her belt, including a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame, Arden believes real success still springs from treating people with decency. “There’s strength in kindness and tolerance,” she said. “Your character is your fate. It negotiates your path in life.”
Tickets to her 7:30 p.m. concert are $99.24 from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.