Ears Wide Open: Jenna Putnam

Jenna Putnam (Photo by Cameron Holland)

Jenna Putnam is a widely respected photographer, writer and poet, who only last month made her debut as a musical artist. And quite a formidable debut it was.

Behind the camera, Putnam has orbited the art, music and fashion worlds; last year, her book of photographs, “Untitled,” was published. Today, the second edition of her book of poetry, “Hold Still,” was published, featuring a foreword by the Kills’ Alison Mosshart.

That volume of verse shares a title with Putnam’s second single, “Hold Still,” also released today. The song is a collaboration with Samuel Shea and Julien O’neill of the L.A. rock band Warbly Jets. As with the first single, the smoldering “Make War,” they bring a throw-water-on-a-hot-frying-pan sizzle to Putnam’s recitations, which are raw, vulnerable and urgent, as if they’d been bottled up waiting to be uncorked. One of the artist’s heroes, Patti Smith, comes to mind, as does PJ Harvey and Kim Gordon.

“I’ve been writing songs/lyrics/poems my whole life and for the past couple years I’ve felt this demanding need to get something out of me. And photography and writing alone didn’t feel like enough of an outlet,” Putnam says of her new journey. “I think music is the most powerful form of expression and there’s something about being able to feel something and put it into melody, to just fucking sing, that’s so invigorating.”

“Hold Still” is the second of several songs recorded at Ultrasound Studios with singer-songwriter Calvin Love and the Warbly Jets duo. “I was in this on again-off again relationship with someone that really messed with my head,” Putnam says of the song. “We had been together in a lot of different places, so the lyrics refer to this sort of ‘under the influence’ blurring together of different cities and moments. I realized the passion I felt was circumstantial and ultimately an illusion. So the song is about letting all of that go and feeling empowered.”

||| Stream: “Hold Still”

||| Also: Watch the Putnam-directed video for “Make War”