Jann Arden is a best-selling author and a multi-platinum, award-winning singer/songwriter.
She has released 15 albums with 19 Top 10 singles. Arden has also been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and has been awarded the Order of Canada.
It's a very impressive resume. And on top of all of those accomplishments, Arden is now a TV star. Arden plays herself in the very funny sitcom, "Jann," which is free on The Roku Channel with ads.
Arden joined Wisconsin Public Radio's "BETA" from her home in southern Alberta. We started by asking her the obvious question: "How much does the TV version of Jann have in common with the real-life Jann Arden?"
"It really is fictitious," Arden said. "I think the only thing that we have in common is that we have musical careers."
"It's kind of weird because the show has sort of leaned into my actual music catalog," she said. "So, I think sometimes it's very confusing for people. It is my real catalog that we use sometimes. I've had people come up to me thinking that it's a reality show which always blows my mind. I'm like, 'Oh my God, no, no, there's nothing real there.'"
Arden said she thought TV Jann would be different from real-life Jann when she created the show, and said when show co-creator Leah Gauthier began hammering out ideas, the character had a different name.
"That was kind of an 11th hour decision by the network (CTV/Canadian Television Network)," she said.
It probably wouldn't have been a deal breaker to change the character's name to something different, but Arden said that's where she thinks the line started to blur for fans.
Perhaps another similarity real Jann has with her TV counterpart is that they're both late bloomers.
"I think most people are late bloomers, too," Arden said. "To be honest, I've always said that you really don't even start becoming a person until you're 50 years old. And I believe that wholeheartedly. I think it takes a long, long time to curate who you are. We make a lot of mistakes as we sort of clamber up the mountain to figure out what we even like."
"I have friends in their 40s, and I'm like, 'What do you like to do?' And I get the answer, 'I don't really know.' So sometimes that doesn't really hit you till you're 55, 60 years old. So it's a long process. I always feel for young people going to university that feel the pressure of having to pick something that they're supposed to be."
In addition to her TV work, Arden is also a best-selling author. Her most recent book is, "If I Knew Then: Finding wisdom in failure and power in aging."
In it, Arden describes herself as a "crone," which she said is somebody who owns herself and has dug deep into her heart and soul to figure out what makes her tick.
"A crone is somebody who takes no prisoners," Arden said. "If you think about a crone in antiquity, it's like the woman that lived in the woods with a staff and surrounded by birds and chickens and milking her goat. Or making potions and having these magical, whimsical qualities and not apologizing to everybody."
Arden never had much of a relationship with her dad, Derrel Richards, who died in 2015.
"It was very contentious," she said. "He was an alcoholic. Most of my formative years, he was very difficult to be around."
Arden said she doesn't remember having a conversation with her father about anything.
"It wasn't until I got successful that I think he really saw me, that he took notice of me and would tell people, 'That's my daughter,'" she said. "And I don't doubt for a second that he wasn't proud of me. But it took a lot for me to somehow earn his respect."
But Arden also believes that if her father wasn't an alcoholic, she may not have spent thousands of hours listening to records and learning how to play her mother's old guitar.
Arden recently released her 15th album, "Descendent" which is filled with great songs. One of the standout tracks is a song called "Steady On," which was inspired by the pandemic.
"I think three or four or five months had kind of blown by and things were still very uncertain, kind of scary," she said. "There were no vaccines or anything yet. The world was making major adjustments, let's put it that way. But I just sat at my kitchen table and I kind of wrote it as an anthem for my friends."
One of Arden's most poignant songs is "Good Mother," from her second album, "Living Under June," which was released in 1995. Her mother, Joan Richards, passed away in December 2018.
Arden said when she sings this song now, she's reminded of her mom's legacy as a steadfast woman who was practical and no-nonsense.
"When I played her the song, she said, 'Well, I think it's got a really good beat,'" Arden said. "I didn't have those kinds of parents that were overly demonstrative. They'd come and see me when I came through town. And she always enjoyed the shows."
But Arden said this song has taken on its own life. She said she's received thousands of letters about it, with fans telling her it was played at a wedding, or at a funeral.
"It's just one of those songs," she said. "I never thought people could personalize it just because I thought it was so just my point of view. But people have certainly made it their own."