Jann Arden Anne Richards, singer, songwriter, actor, broadcaster (born 27 March 1962 in Calgary, AB). Jann Arden is a multiple Juno Award-winning singer and songwriter. Her melancholy yet hopeful adult contemporary pop songs, distinguished by her expressive vocal delivery and introspective lyrics, earned Arden an international following in the 1990s and 2000s. Candid and down-to-earth, she has parlayed her salty sense of humour and affably self-deprecating persona into a successful second career as a host and broadcaster. She is a member of Canada’s Walk of Fame and a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Early Years and Career
Jann Arden grew up near Calgary in the rural community of Springbank and split her childhood pursuits between ice hockey and music; she played right wing, guitar and trumpet, and her musical influences included The Carpenters, John Denver and ABBA. After cutting her debut single, “Never Love a Sailor,” under the name Jann Richards at age 17, she spent her 20s fronting various bands, singing torch songs in piano bars and busking on the streets of Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. During this early period, she also worked with various bands in BC logging towns and performed with the Larry Michaels Country Show Band at the Calgary Stampede.
Ian Tyson’s former manager, Neil MacGonigill, signed Arden in 1987, elevating her to the folk festival circuit and leading to a prestigious concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. She signed with A&M/Island/Motown Records of Canada in 1991. Arden’s debut album, the relationship-centricTime for Mercy(1993), established her thematic template of overcoming the past and emerging through darkness. It yielded the Top 20 singles "I Would Die for You" and “Will You Remember Me,” and was certified platinum for sales over 100,000 in Canada. It also earned Arden a 1994 Juno Award for Best New Solo Artist
Her follow-up album, Living Under June(1994), established Arden as a major star in Canada, selling more than 500,000 copies and earning her three Juno Awards, including Songwriter and Entertainer of the Year. The album spawned six Top 10 Canadian singles, including “Could I Be Your Girl,” “Good Mother,” “Wonderdrug” and “Unloved” (a duet with Jackson Browne). "Insensitive" (written by Calgary’s Anne Loree) was a No. 1 hit in Canada and Australia, and a top-five single in Italy. It charted for 40 weeks in the US, peaking at No. 12, when it was released there in 1996.
In November 1994 Arden embarked on her first cross-Canada concert tour. Her international prospects grew exponentially when Timothy White, editor-in-chief of Billboard magazine, wrote a glowing review of Living Under June in his “Music to My Ears” column, which directly led to a US distribution deal for the album. Arden’s third LP, the ironically titledHappy? (1997), yielded the hit Canadian single “The Sound Of” and sold 300,000 copies in Canada, but failed to make an impact internationally.
Arden did, however, manage to infiltrate the US market in other ways. Her heartfelt recording of the standard "You Don't Know Me" appeared in the Julia Roberts movie My Best Friend's Wedding (1997). Her “Run Like Mad” (co-written with Linda Elder and Robert Foster) was the theme song for the pilot of the WB television show Dawson’s Creek, which also featured several other Arden songs throughout its run.
Around this time Arden also launched her own short-lived label, Big Hip Records.
Continuing to tour in front of large crowds in Canada, she released Blood Red Cherry (2000), which included the single "Sleepless" and the ballad "Mend" (a duet with Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy). It achieved gold status in Canada for sales of 50,000 copies and earned Arden a 2001 Juno for Best Female Artist.
The anthology Greatest Hurts: The Best of Jann Arden(2001) went platinum in Canada and was followed in 2002 by a live album with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. She continued to earn solid Canadian airplay and sales for her albumsLove Is the Only Soldier(2003) andJann Arden(2005), which were both certified gold in Canada. The latter debuted at number three on the SoundScan Canada album charts and featured a remake of "I Would Die for You" featuring Sarah McLachlan. It also yielded the Top 10 singles "Where No One Knows Me" and “Willing to Fall Down.”
Around this time, Arden began experiencing significant anxiety while performing, which she candidly discussed in interviews, but continued to give concerts. In 2006 she was honoured with a star on Canada's Walk of Fame and six SOCAN Classic Awards for her songs that reached 100,000 radio airplays.Her next album, Uncover Me (2007), featured her interpretations of hits by Dusty Springfield, Carly Simon, Cat Stevens, and the Mamas and Papas. Uncover Me peaked at number three on the Canadian sales chart and was certified platinum in Canada.
In 2007, Arden also toured the US, Europe and Australia as an opening act for Michael Bublé and appeared on Anne Murray'sDuets: Friends and Legends. Arden was also inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Hall of Fame. Her collaboration with Olivia Newton-John, "Angel in the Wings," was featured on the Australian performer's duets album, A Celebration in Song (2008), and was a minor hit in Canada.
Free (2009) marked the beginning of Arden’s association with influential manager Bruce Allen. The album combined organic instrumentation — including dobro, banjo, mandolin, pedal steel and acoustic guitars — with electronic programming. Free was certified gold for selling 40,000 copies in Canada and helped earn Arden a 2010 Juno Award nomination (her 22nd) for Artist of the Year. Also that year, she helped carry the Olympic torch for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Arden released a live album and DVD titled Spotlight (2010) and the gold-selling album Uncover Me 2 (2011), which featured her interpretations of other songwriters’ compositions. The Universal Music Canada release Icon, a greatest hits compilation, followed in 2013. She also embarked on a Canadian concert tour that year and made more appearances with Bublé.
Arden’s soul-bearing honesty has extended from her songwriting to her personal life. She has spoken openly about many of the issues she has dealt with. She struggled with alcoholism in her teens and 20s, and stopped drinking in 1989 (“January 20, 1989. You don’t forget the date,” she told Chatelaine magazine). She has described the experience of watching her older brother “slowly die” in prison as he serves a life sentence for a 1992 murder. A self-described champion of women’s body issues, Arden made headlines in 2012 when, at age 50, she was photographed nude by Bryan Adams for Zoomer magazine.
Acting and Broadcasting
Arden's personable, outgoing personality and expert comic timing were displayed when she hosted the 1997 Juno Awards in Hamilton, ON. The engagement marked the beginning of a second career for Arden as a host, actor and broadcaster. In 2003, she earned a Gemini nomination for Best Performance or Host in a Variety Program or Series for The True Meaning of Christmas Specials.
As an actor, Arden voiced a character on the Teletoon cartoon series Eddy the Eco Dog (1998–2002), appeared in the Canadian feature filmWhite Lies(2001), shot a television pilot based on her Calgary restaurant The Arden, co-starred in the Canadian touring production of The Vagina Monologues in 2000 and narrated the TV series ER Vets (2010–11). She appeared in such TV series as Big Sound, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Royal Canadian Air Farce, Corner Gas and The Rick Mercer Report (see Rick Mercer). She has also been a judge on the TV shows Top Chef Canada and Canada Sings!
She was featured in the TV documentaries Jann Takes Manhattan (2004) and Free (2011). She has also hosted her own CBC Radio show, Being Jann, served as a guest host on Definitely Not the Opera and hosted a number of CBC Radio specials, such as the 2013 Canada Day Special.
A collection of entries from Arden’s journals, originally available on her website, was published by Insomniac Press in 2002 under the titleif I knew, don't you think I'd tell you?The book was followed two years later by another entitled i'll tell you one damn thing, and that's all i know! She also authored an advice column for Elle magazine in 2009. Her memoir, Falling Backwards, was published by Random House in 2011.
In a 2000 interview with the Ottawa Sun, Arden said, "If I'm going to be an icon or role model of any sort, I'd like to be one that helps people see a part of themselves that's capable of doing anything and being anything, and not being suppressed by what society thinks they should be." In that vein, she has devoted much time and energy over the years to charity organizations such as Children’s Wish Foundation, World Vision and the East Africa Maternal Newborn Aid Society.
Her 1999 recording of “Stand by Me” was a fundraising single in support of Toronto’s North York General Hospital. Her song “Another Human Being,” from Blood Red Cherry, was based on her experiences in Ethiopia with World Vision. Following the Alberta floods in 2013, which destroyed her former home, she performed in Calgary at the Alberta Flood Aid concert on 15 August 2013 and recorded a song to aid the Calgary Zoo’s rebuilding effort.
Best Director, MuchMusic Video Awards (1993 and 1995)
Album of the Year, Alberta Recording Industry Awards (1994 and 1995)
Best Video (“I Would Die for You”), Juno Awards (1994)
Best New Solo Artist, Juno Awards (1994)
Songwriter of the Year, Juno Awards (1995)
Single of the Year (“Could I Be Your Girl”), Juno Awards (1995)
Entertainer of the Year, Juno Awards (1995)
Best Video, (“Wishing That”), Juno Awards (1996)
Award of Excellence, Alberta Recording Industry Awards (1997)
Vantage Women of Originality Award, RJR Macdonald (1998)
Best Female Artist, Juno Awards (2001)
Best Songwriter, Juno Awards (2002)
Outstanding Songwriter, Western Canadian Music Awards (2003)
Outstanding Producer of the Year, Western Canadian Music Awards (2004)
Classic Award (“Insensitive”), SOCAN (2005)
Inductee, Canada’s Walk of Fame (2006)
National Achievement Award, SOCAN (2006)
Pop Music Award (“Where No One Knows Me”), SOCAN (2006)
Six Classic Awards (“Sound Of,” “Sleepless,” “Wonderdrug,” “Good Mother,” “Could I Be Your Girl,” “Will You Remember Me?”), SOCAN (2006)
Outstanding Pop Recording, Outstanding Producer of the Year, Western Canadian Music Awards (2006)
Inductee, Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Hall of Fame (2007)
International Achievement Award, Western Canadian Music Awards (2007)
Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012)
Inductee, Western Canadian Music Alliance Hall of Fame (2013)
if I knew, don't you think I'd tell you? (Insomniac Press: 2002)
i'll tell you one damn thing, and that's all i know!(Insomniac Press: 2004)
Falling Backwards: A Memoir (Vintage Canada: 2012).
A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.