Jen Sygit grew up in a trailer park in the small riverside town of Marysville just south of Port Huron near the base of the “thumb’ region of Michigan. Though neither of her parents played musical instruments, the weekends were a time for music in the Sygit household and Jen credits her parents with fueling her love of music by introducing her to a variety of artists such as The Beatles, Sam Cooke, Led Zeppelin, James Taylor, Patsy Cline, Jim Croce, Bonnie Raitt, Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, Julie London, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Loretta Lynn. In her earliest years her parents say that she would gravitate toward whatever musical instruments were in a room and whether familiar or foreign, she would quickly be playing basic melodies on them. Recognizing her unique abilities, her parents enrolled her in voice lessons at the age of 7 and bought her a small keyboard upon which she would begin writing her first fledgling songs at the age of 10.
By Intermediate School, Jen was already starting to earn a reputation in the local community for her musical abilities and in the 6th grade she auditioned for and won a full ride a scholarship to attend the Interlochen Fine Arts Camp (which she would continue to attend through high school) studying voice, piano, trombone and visual art. It was during this time that Jen was gifted her first acoustic guitar upon which she is self-taught and which would become her primary instrument in her songwriting endeavors. During High School Jen was recruited to her school’s band program to fill the need for trombone players and the following year became the low brass section leader as a Sophomore. She joined the school’s jazz band as a trombone player, but would occasionally sing with the band as well. Throughout the remainder of her high school and early college years Jen was also heavily involved in musical theater and was cast in several lead roles in both high school and community theater productions. She was also getting more serious about songwriting and in her senior year she formed her first band “Omni” (named after a bandmate’s dilapidated vehicle) and was subsequently voted “Most Talented” by her graduating class.
In 1999 Jen moved to East Lansing to attend Michigan State University, transferring in as a Junior to complete a Bachelors degree in English. She quickly infiltrated the open mic/jam scene in the area ultimately landing her first job in a ‘working band’ called Murdawg and the Strays. A Blues/Rock outfit composed of veteran performers, Jen assumed the role of frontwoman and singer for Murdawg and learned the ropes of the working musician from her seasoned bandmates. Around this time, Jen graduated from MSU and was hired at world renowned music store Elderly Instruments where she began discovering new genres of music such as bluegrass, western swing, oldtyme, zydeco and also began learning new instruments such as banjo, dobro and ukulele. She credits her time working at Elderly Instruments as the catalyst for her jump from hobbyist to professional musician and she released her first album “Here to There” while still under their employment. Released in 2003 “Here to There’ caught the attention of radio stations around the state giving Jen her first chart appearance for the song “Everybody Get The Blues” and helping her build a following in the Michigan music scene. That same year Jen was tapped to host an open mic at historic Lansing watering hole Dagwood Tavern where she has maintained her Tuesday Night residency for over a decade. Amid her growing success, Jen began filling her calendar with gigs while simultaneously decreasing hours at work until she eventually made the leap to full time musician in 2006. By 2007 Jen was touring regionally in support of her sophomore release “Leaving Marshall St” and had joined the Earthwork Music Collective forging relationships and collaborating with fellow songwriters around the state on her album “Marshall St” as well as her 2009 release “So Long Pollyanna”. Around 2009, together with fellow Earthwork artist and songwriter Sam Corbin, Jen formed a band called Lincoln County Process (named for a whiskey distillation process) featuring Jen on banjo, acoustic and electric guitar and featuring the singing/songwriting of both Sygit and Corbin. The band is still active today and though they never released a formal studio recording as LCP, Jen and Sam have 5 albums between them and continue to be a sought after roots rock band in and around the Great Lakes Region.
In 2010 Jen was invited by Detroit songstress and former Uncle Earl bandmember Jo Serrapere to join her latest all-female project “Stella!” and in 2011 under the esteemed patronage of American music critic Dave Marsh (author, editor, radio talk show host, co-founder of Creem magazine, contributor to Newsday, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, curator at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) Stella! recorded their freshman release “Sorry Stella” at ValveTone Studios in NYC. The cd was officially released in 2013 and features songs from both Sygit and Serrapere. In addition to her songwriting and vocals, Jen also supplied banjo, ukulele, acoustic and electric guitar to the album showcasing her ability as a multi-instrumentalist.
In recent years Jen has added the title ‘disc jockey’ to her job description and in 2011 she created and began hosting the Eclecticana Radio Show on 89.7fm WLNZ/ Lansing Public Radio. The weekly program features up and coming artists, while continuing to pay homage to the founders of the roots music genre.
- Silva Screen Records: Session Vocalist (2009-present) Credited as “Michigan Music Works” or “Jen Sygit”
- Rebel Pictures: Provided scoring for the film “Fairview Street” (2010), Appeared in and provided scoring for the film “Buffalo” (2014)
- WKAR-TV: Narrator for the documentary “A Community Sings” (2011)
- WKAR-TV: QuizBusters Taped Video Clues for Broadcast (2012), QuizBusters 25th Anniversary Celebrity Guest Contestant (2013)
- PBS Backstage Pass: Season 1 episode #106 Jen Sygit & Spare Change (2010)
- PBS All Things Strings: Inside Elderly Instruments- a documentary film by Bob Albers and Brad Corlett: Live performance and interview footage of Jen Sygit and Sam Corbin (2012)
- LCC Summer Stage Under the Stars Production of Keep on the Sunny Side- a play by Douglas Pote: Jen played the role of Maybelle Carter and was also the acting Music Director for the production (2011)
Jen’s most recent release “So Long Pollyanna” was named as album of the year by both John Bommarito (107.1 fm Ann Arbor, MI) and The Progressive Torch & Twang (88.9 fm East Lansing, MI). “So Long Pollyanna” was also nominated for two Jammie Awards (WYCE Grand Rapids, MI) including Best Female Folk Album as well as Best Song for the tune “Sugar High”. “Sugar High” also won Best Country Song at the 2013 Garden State Film Festival in New Jersey for it’s inclusion in the Rebel Pictures film “Buffalo”.
Jen’s sophomore release “Leaving Marshall St.” was nominated for a Detroit Music Award for BEST ACOUSTIC/FOLK ALBUM in 2007 and made it to # 9 on the Independent Roots Music Charts the year it was released. The song “Pay for What You Get” (co-written by songwriter Rachael Davis) was given honorable mention at the International Folk Alliance in 2006, before the album was officially released.
In 2010, Jen was awarded the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Broadcast Excellence Award for her episode of the PBS show Backstage Pass. (Season 1, episode #106 featuring Jen Sygit & Spare Change) Jen was also nominated for a Pulsar Award for Musical Direction in 2012 for her work with LCC Summer Stage Under the Stars’ production of Keep on the Sunny Side.