Interview: Tonight Alive’s Jenna McDougall

Following the success of their 2013 album, The Other Side, Tonight Alive have exposed themselves to the world with songs that have touched the hearts of many people. As Soundwave quickly approaches, it’s clear that the band are ready to take on board these festival shows and to show Australia what they’re really made of.

Lead vocalist, Jenna McDougall shares her insights on her health, the band’s upcoming record and her experience with the making of the “The Edge” music video to promote The Amazing Spider-Man 2 film release. It’s clear that the band will be busy throughout the year, ensuring that they maintain both their vision of creating empowering music as well as their longevity as a band.

SR. Since the success of The Other Side, the fanbase have expanded so much in the last few years. Looking back at the band’s journey, do you often go “Shit, this is real”?

JM. Yeah. We make jokes sometimes. Cameron has said that sometimes it feels like we’re living somebody else’s life and somebody else’s story and we’re just going along for the ride but actually this is our story and we’ve been there every step of the way. On Jake’s birthday last December, we were laughing and looking back at our Youtube kind of episodes and where we came from, even what we used to look like and the things we used to laugh about. We’re about to turn seven this year as a band and it just feels like time is so incomplete. I can’t believe how much every year changes our life. Definitely have to check in sometimes and step back and take a look at it.

SR. Of course. It’s obvious that music is your passion and having such personal songs on the record helped you understand yourself and what you’re about in the band. So in comparison to your early days with “Wasting Away”, would you say that having a meaningful approach towards creating music is a cause many musicians often seek?

JM.  Yeah. It’s always been important to us but I think just with age and experience you sort of start to write about different things and even the events in your life and the feelings that you go through from becoming a teenager to becoming an adult; just massive transitional phases in your life and all kinds of things happen in those times like heartbreak, loss and just general kind of transformation. So I think as we got older, we were able to tap into things that meant more to us as they were happening. The only way that I was able to get through them was by using songwriting as the therapy and that’s always been important to us and we’ve channeled that energy through our music and that’s what helped us connect to our fans a lot more.

SR. Following up on that, we saw that recently on Twitter you also shared an article by Mark Manson called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck.” Would you say that reading inspirational pieces like that one enabled you to stay on track with who you are as a person and what you value in life?

JM. Yeah. I mean, that was a really funny article but it was serious in a lot of ways as well. I guess it was about priorities and what really matters to you and what you are going to spend your energy, your time and all your emotions towards. I like the approach that he took in that and that’s why I shared it because I think it was an acceptable way of talking about your attention and what matters. I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the small details and I just think that we need more people making empowering statements like that.

“I’ve never seen a band put on a show like Slipknot and I really, really respect Corey Taylor and his dynamics in his voice and his presence as a frontman”

SR. Absolutely. Last time Tonight Alive toured Australia was last year with You Me At Six and it was such an incredible show. So, now that Soundwave is around the corner, you must be ready for these shows. What do you love most about music festivals?

JM. Man, I love music festivals because every band in a way is either showcasing to new people or kind of presenting something that they haven’t before to their already existing fanbase. So for example, the fans that came to see us in September with You Me At Six would’ve seen a different show in a more intimate environment than what they’re gonna see at Soundwave and it’s exciting for us because even the environment is open air. There’s nothing restricting about the physical kind of physics of playing at a festival. The emotion it creates kind of shows freedom in complete openness and how far that sound is going to travel, things like that. It appeals to me because I subconsciously and subliminally think to myself that there are no boundaries and I truly believe that, and that’s the way we’re gonna perform at Soundwave.

SR. From the lineup, which band are you excited to see?

JM. I’m a fan of Slipknot but I’m not an avid listener. My first experience with Slipknot was when I was 15 years old and I actually was given their greatest hits or ‘best of’. So that was a really, really long time ago and obviously true Slipknot fans would probably be pissed off by the fact that that’s one of the only CDs I own of theirs. Although, I’ve seen them play live before and it’s nothing like it. I’ve never seen a band put on a show like Slipknot and I really, really respect  Corey Taylor and his dynamics in his voice and his presence as a frontman. The whole thing is so entertaining and I don’t think you need to even be a number one fan or know all their songs to enjoy their show, so I’m really looking forward to it.

“When we got the email and we were confirmed for main stage, it was like, wow, people are starting to recognise what we’ve achieved overseas and what potential we have to achieve in Australia.”

SR. Also, last time when we were at the Sony Music headquarters you mentioned that one of your dreams would be to finally play at Soundwave and this is now happening after the Warped Tour. Was it life-changing for you guys when you were confirmed for the lineup?

JM. Well I guess for us coming up in Australia is quite a competitive industry and it’s really difficult to find even some sort of small success here because it’s such massive jumps between the local scene and then kind of supporting international bands and then becoming an international band or being played on the radio. Like there’s massive jumps between those steps as a band. So for us, it was important that we got out of Australia and went and learned as much as we could and build a fanbase around the world. To be playing on Soundwav this year is an honour for us and it means so much. When we got the email and we were confirmed for main stage, it was like, wow, people are starting to recognise what we’ve achieved overseas and what potential we have to achieve in Australia. I feel like this is kind of a statement for Tonight Alive but it’s also a real, massive opportunity to grow here. I mean, we already have an awesome fanbase but I guess it’s time for us to take the next step and I hope that playing Soundwave this year is a part of that.

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SR. I think it’s exciting that the band will be releasing a new album this year. How do you feel knowing that thousands of people around the world are already anticipating its release?

JM. It’s amazing. It’s the first time that we’ve had that kind of attention so early towards a release. The Other Side kind of changed everything for us. Even though in the grand scheme of things, it’s not just part of the timeline. It’s seriously a massive turning point for Tonight Alive so this record not only has to be a follow-up but it kinda has to outdo it and sort of ensure the longevity of Tonight Alive – we believe that and we have that to make this last forever. I guess we’re just putting in so much time and energy into this album and these songs to make sure that they are everything that we want them to be and everything our fans want them to be. I think that we feel that we have a duty to do something as special as The Other Side, if not more special. I mean, finding that ingredient has been a long process but we’re only two months away now from going into the studio. Maybe even one month, so yeah, this is kind of a crazy time for us but I am mentally ready and it’s been quite a challenging process for me.

SR. I have no doubt that it’s gonna be a hit, so looking forward to it. 

JM. thank you.

SR. It’s also pretty cool that last year the band released “The Edge” to support the Spiderman movie. What was it like being the damsel in distress in that music video for that song?

JM. It was really, really cool. It was unlike anything we’ve done before so everything kind of felt like new ground a lot of the time. When we were asked to write that song, we were super excited and we wrote about three different options to the song and anyway, “The Edge” was the best version of the storyline we were trying to capture and we had to make no changes to the song. Once we recorded it, everyone signed off on it straight away. No one had any complaints and it felt like we were really being appreciated for our creativity and our direction because we weren’t given too many guidelines. So anyway, putting out that video, I guess more than anything it got a lot of eyes towards the band and it did introduce a lot of people to Tonight Alive. I’m not sure of this but I hope that it crossed into the movie where people who might not have necessarily come across Tonight Alive, sort of appreciated, one of the only rock tracks. If not, the only rock track on the Soundtrack [The Amazing-Spiderman Compilation].

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SR. Well, I can share with you that the media screening for Spider-Man 2, they had some technical issues so the clip was playing on loop for half an hour so everyone in Australia got exposed to that.

JM. Wow.

SR. So you were in charge of entertaining the people while we were waiting for the movie.

JM. [laughs] That’s very cool. When we made the video, it was actually at the time the movie wasn’t out yet and there was only one trailer online. It was all exclusive footage and it was like another preview into the movie and more song exposure to the storyline at the time, which was really cool for us.

SR. Also, on another topic, you constantly promote Organic Burst and it’s clear that promoting a healthy lifestyle to others is important to you. Do you believe that happiness is found when it comes to taking care of yourself?

JM. Yeah. I went through a lot of issues with my health. It must’ve been three years ago now. I just remember when my health was quite low and it was in a bad place, I was mentally in a bad place and I was quite depressed and not motivated and really unsure of myself and very self-conscious. What kind of made it worse for me at the time was when we were on tour and it was just kinda like a massive spiral of negativity and each was feeding each other but they say that the mind is a mirror of the body and the body is the mirror of the mind. So naturally if you’re cultivating positive thoughts and putting out positive energy, your body is gonna mirror that and vice versa. If you’re putting in processed foods and a lot of acidity and a lot of toxicity and alcohol and all these kinds of things into your body, the mind is gonna reflect what your organs are gonna try and deal with.

“… I just remember when my health was quite low and it was in a bad place…”

Our modern lifestyle is so chemically influenced that it get’s behind on its work. It wasn’t built to deal with those kinds of things. I find it difficult to share things about health sometimes because I don’t want it to seem preachy but it really does come from a good place and Organic Burst is a brand that has helped me a lot. Just using their products from day to day makes a massive difference. One of my biggest tell tale signs of what’s going on inside my body is on my skin and for other people, it may be different. It might be headaches or body joint pain or they might sleep really badly or they’re just generally irritable but for me my skin is the sign that I’m not well and so using Organic Burst kind of keeps that under control and I can monitor where I’m at inside by what is reflected outside.

Tonight Alive Performing at Soundwave 2015

SATURDAY 21 FEBRUARY & SUNDAY 22 FEBRUARY, 2015

 BONYTHON PARK, ADELAIDE

 SATURDAY 21 FEBRUARY & SUNDAY 22 FEBRUARY, 2015

 FLEMINGTON RACECOURSE, MELBOURNE

 SATURDAY 28 FEBRUARY & SUNDAY 1 MARCH, 2015

 OLYMPIC PARK, SYDNEY

 SATURDAY 28 FEBRUARY & SUNDAY 1 MARCH, 2015

 BRISBANE SHOWGROUNDS, BRISBANE

 For tickets and more information head to:

  soundwavefestival.com / facebook.com/soundwavefestival / twitter.com/soundwavefest