Jenny Lea of I M U R on How Cannabis Enhances Creativity
“Nothing is better than listening to music stoned”
Jenny Lea and I are sitting in her East Vancouver home, doing just that. Jazzy, downtempo hip-hop emanates from vintage floor speakers as we smoke a joint and chat about her music career, growing up surrounded by musicians, quitting drinking, and the benefits of cannabis in creative pursuits.
Jenny Lea is a vocalist, one-third of the Vancouver future-soul band I M U R (pronounced “I Am You Are”). They’ve had a busy year going on tour and playing a number of festivals, recording and releasing a ton of new music, and adding a third member to what was originally a duo. Their second studio album “Little Death” is slated to be released sometime in the spring of 2017.
Throughout all this focused hard work and growth, Jenny says cannabis has been a positive part of her daily life.
“I use it to elevate my body and my mind,” she says, “and it really helps with creativity as well.”
As a songwriter, she says that smoking cannabis allows her to access parts of her own mind that allow ideas to flow more freely and help her writing process: “It helps me break free of ordinary thinking and associations.”
Although she’s only been writing music for the last three years, she’s already a strong lyricist and has a succinct and poetic style that belies her modest experience. Cannabis, in her words, “helps me tap into exaggerated emotions and altered perspectives, which is helpful when I’m writing music”.
And while she uses cannabis often in her musical life, whether it’s writing, jamming or recording in the studio, Jenny Lea wants to be clear about its role in her creative process: “I don’t think it gives me creativity. Creativity takes work and practice, but it’s a catalyst.”
Growing up in Kelowna and Whistler, Jenny was constantly exposed to the world of music. All four of the people who raised her are musicians (her parents separated and remarried early in her life). Her mom is a singer, her stepdad a sound engineer who also owns a music studio, and her dad and his partner are both music teachers.
At one time, she says, both her parents and stepparents were actually in a rock band together, but have since gone on to pursue other projects; “It was like some Canadian Fleetwood Mac shit,” she jokes.
I asked her about what it was like growing up surrounded by role models that were musicians. She responded, “There was always music playing around me…there was a lot of Beatles, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Tom Petty, Bowie that kind of stuff.” Music still plays a large role in her relationship her family. “You can’t listen to music with my mom, because if she knows the song, she can’t help but sing it…we’ll be in the car, full on singing harmonies together…it must be so annoying,” she jokes.
Although she’s a very positive person, Jenny’s lyrics contain a good deal of melancholy, and she is no stranger to adversity. After an accident about two years ago in which she was hit by an SUV while walking in Vancouver, Jenny has found cannabis to be an effective aid in her recovery process. The accident resulted in a major concussion, lacerations to the head, and soft tissue damage throughout her body.
Since then, she’s suffered from chronic and often intense pain, and she says cannabis has helped her with pain management. It has also been very effective in easing the psychological impact of the accident. “Since then,” she says, “I’ve suffered from a lot of anxiety, and I feel like cannabis has really helped a lot with that.”
Smoking a joint, she says, tends to quiet and focus her mind, allowing her to devote her energy to the task at hand without being preoccupied; “Sometimes the mind just needs to be slowed down…you’re able to tune out all those distractions and just focus.”
She’s partial to sativa strains, and during our conversation, we smoked about a half-gram of Jack Herer together.
Although she is a regular cannabis user, Jenny doesn’t see smoking pot as a vice, and is very conscious of what she puts into her body. She quit drinking about thirteen months ago, and says she’s happier and more productive. We talked about her decision to stop drinking alcohol, and the reasons she sees cannabis in such a different light.
“I’m puzzled why weed is looped in with drugs and alcohol,” she says, “I don’t think it’s similar in any way, other than [creating] an altered mind state. But if anything, weed gives me a quantum leap in terms of connection with my own consciousness, whereas booze and other substances tend to create a really strong disconnect.”
She says that drinking allowed her to avoid things she should be addressing, whereas smoking pot is a catalyst for introspection and positive change. “Alcohol for me was an escape,” she says, “A little vacation. If you have a bad day, have a glass of wine and try and forget about it. I don’t get to have that anymore, so the route that I’m choosing instead is to reflect, and create a better situation for myself.”
Whether it’s on stage performing, in the studio, or writing new music, Jenny Lea and the rest of I M U R have been working their asses off perfecting their craft, and their hard work is reflected in the music.
Their newest song, the title track from their upcoming album, is their most polished, artfully produced work to date.
You can catch I M U R at the Imperial on the 27th of January 2017, performing for Shake Shake Shake, a fundraising event for Parkinson’s Disease research, and their music is available for free on their SoundCloud Page. We encourage you to turn up your speakers, roll up some of your favourite strain, and enjoy the fruits of their labour.