Mason Jennings returns to Englert


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When Mason Jennings was a kid, he used an old tape recorder to save the songs he wrote. He has since abandoned that practice and has released 11 professional studio albums since 1997 and toured the United States extensively.

Jennings will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St. Reserved seats are $22 in advance, $25 on the day of the show. Iowa-based band the Pines will open.

"I started playing drums [first], but when I started writing my own songs, that's when it made me feel like I wanted to do this for a living," the 37-year-old musician said.

Jennings' earlier albums were acoustic-based folk music. But lately, he has tweaked his sound. His eighth album, Blood Of Man, featured heavy use of electric guitar, and his latest album, Minnesota, showcases his talents on piano more than any release before.

"Since Blood of Man was all electric, the tour behind it was a really loud band," Jennings said. "When I came home, there was a natural gravitation towards a quieter, gentler instrument as variation of what I'd been doing for the past year."

When he's not touring, Jennings's day centers on writing new music. He practices yoga and meditates in the morning, but he treats writing music like a 9-to-5 job.

"If it was just the performing side, I wouldn't be doing it," he said. "The first thing that attracted me was the creative side, and that's what gives me the energy to get out on the road. I really do like performing; every time I step onstage, I am always so happy to be there."

Jennings describes himself as an avid reader — easy to figure out when listening to his songs, which are often packed with literary and historical themes.

"I like to get inside the heads of characters and see their thought processes and emotional worlds," he said. "All of my songs start with some sort of experience I've had in my life with some sort of truth or feeling, and the characters just fan out of that."

The Pines will join Jennings for a trip through Midwest this weekend, returning from three shows with him on the East Coast. They also toured together last fall, and the artists became fans of one another.

"Mason is one of our favorite songwriters; he's been a good friend, and he's an inspiration to us." said Pines guitarist Benson Ramsey.

University of Iowa junior Lindsay Burke, who has been a fan of Jennings since she was a junior in high school, has seen him perform a handful of times, and she has anticipated the upcoming show for weeks.

"It's an opportunity to hear his new music, how he's been changing his methods," she said. "I think he's getting more into environmentalism and our impact on the globe. He still has his folk songs, but he's been touching on bigger issues lately."

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