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 her an international following in the 1990s and 2000s. Candid and down-to-earth, she has parlayed her salty sense of humour and affable, self-deprecating persona into a successful second career as a host, broadcaster and sitcom star. She is a member of the Order of Canada and Canada’s Walk of Fame. She was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2020.
Early Years and Career
Jann Arden grew up near Calgary in the rural community of Springbank. She split her childhood pursuits between ice hockey and music. She played right wing, guitar and trumpet. Her musical influences included The Carpenters, John Denver and ABBA. She cut her debut single, “Never Love a Sailor,” under the name Jann Richards at the age of 17. She then 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 performed with various bands in BC logging towns and played with the Larry Michaels Country Show Band at the Calgary Stampede.
Ian Tyson’s former manager, Neil MacGonigill, signed Arden in 1987. He elevated her to the folk festival circuit, which led to a prestigious concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Arden signed with A&M/Island/Motown Records of Canada in 1991. Her debut album, the relationship-centric Time 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.” It was certified platinum in Canada for sales over 100,000. It also earned Arden a 1994 Juno Award for Best New Solo Artist.
Arden’s follow-up album, Living Under June (1994), established her as a major star in Canada. The album sold more than 500,000 copies and earned Arden three Juno Awards, including Songwriter and Entertainer of the Year. The album yielded 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 5 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 led to a US distribution deal for the album. Arden’s third LP, the ironically titled Happy? (1997), yielded the hit Canadian single “The Sound Of” and sold 300,000 copies in Canada. However, it 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. The series also featured several other Arden songs throughout its run.
Around this time, Arden 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 Award for Best Female Artist.
The anthology Greatest Hurts: The Best of Jann Arden (2001) was certified platinum in Canada. It was followed in 2002 by a live album with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Arden continued to earn solid Canadian airplay and sales for her albums Love Is the Only Soldier (2003) and Jann 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. She candidly discussed this in interviews and 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 the Papas. Uncover Me peaked at No. 3 on the Canadian sales chart and was certified platinum in Canada.
In 2007, Arden toured the US, Europe and Australia as an opening act for Michael Bublé. She also appeared on Anne Murray's Duets: Friends and Legends. Arden was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Hall of Fame in 2007. Her collaboration with Olivia Newton-John, "Angel in the Wings," was a minor hit in Canada. It was featured on Newton-John's duets album, A Celebration in Song (2008).
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. It also brought 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. Arden also embarked on a Canadian concert tour that year and made more appearances with Bublé.
Jann Arden performs at Voices in the Park in Stanley Park in Vancouver, 15 September 2012.
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. The engagement marked the beginning of a second career for Arden as a host, actor and broadcaster. In 2003, she earned a Gemini Award 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). She appeared in the Canadian feature film White 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 has appeared in such TV series as Big Sound, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Royal Canadian Air Farce, Corner Gas, Hell on Wheels, Workin’ Moms, Private Eyes and The Rick Mercer Report. (See Rick Mercer). She has also been a judge on the TV shows Top Chef Canada and Canada Sings! In 2019, she starred in the first season of the CTV sitcom Jann, in which she plays a fictionalized version of herself.
Arden 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 title if I knew, don't you think I'd tell you? The book was followed two years later by another called 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. She also recorded a song to aid the Calgary Zoo’s rebuilding effort.
A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.
- Best Video (“I Would Die for You”) (1994)
- Best New Solo Artist (1994)
- Songwriter of the Year (1995)
- Single of the Year (“Could I Be Your Girl”) (1995)
- Entertainer of the Year (1995)
- Best Video, (“Good Mother”) (1996)
- Best Female Artist (2001)
- Best Songwriter (“Never Mind,” “Thing for You”) (2002)
- Inductee, Canadian Music Hall of Fame (2020)
Western Canadian Music Awards
- Outstanding Songwriter, Western Canadian Music Awards (2003)
- Outstanding Producer of the Year, Western Canadian Music Awards (2004)
- Outstanding Pop Recording, Outstanding Producer of the Year, Western Canadian Music Awards (2006)
- International Achievement Award, Western Canadian Music Awards (2007)
- Classic Award (“Insensitive”), SOCAN (2005)
- 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)
- Best Director, MuchMusic Video Awards (1993 and 1995)
- Album of the Year, Alberta Recording Industry Awards (1994 and 1995)
- Award of Excellence, Alberta Recording Industry Awards (1997)
- Vantage Women of Originality Award, RJR Macdonald (1998)
- Inductee, Canada’s Walk of Fame (2006)
- Inductee, Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Hall of Fame (2007)
- Achievement Award, Western Canadian Music Awards (2007)
- Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012)
- Inductee, Western Canadian Music Alliance Hall of Fame (2013)
- Member, Order of Canada (2017)
- if I knew, don't you think I'd tell you? (2002)
- i'll tell you one damn thing, and that's all i know! (2004)
- Falling Backwards: A Memoir (2012).