The Cambridge Drive Community Church in Goleta is now back in the swing of its concert series featuring acoustic performances on the first Fridays of September through June, and up next is folk singer Jen Hajj. Though she was present for the church’s Christmas show last year along with a group of other performers, the singer-songwriter’s Oct. 4 gig will mark her first full show at the church for five years, last performing for its concert series in April 2014. The performance will consist of songs from her back catalogue as well as cuts from her upcoming album “Pale Blue Dot.”
Named after astronomer Carl Sagan’s book of the same name, “Pale Blue Dot” in Ms. Hajj’s opinion is further evidence of her growing into a more assured songwriter and more comfortable expressing the things she feels.
“Now I feel more confident saying what I wanted to say. I feel I can be more straight with people,” she said.
Many of Ms. Hajj’s lyrics are centered around the theme of nature, which she said falls more broadly under the umbrella theme of “things that I find beautiful.” A fan of collaborating, her favorite songs to perform are actually those she co-wrote with other artists. Those songs she said carry special meaning because they have shared significance.
“Performing those songs is really special to me because I know they’re important to me and I know they’re important to someone else who’s special to me,” she said.
One she is particularly fond of performing live is “Relic of a Rose,” a collaboration between her and Santa Barbara singer Laura Hemingway.
Ms. Hajj described the song, “It’s about a rose that someone has kept and the relationship is long over. They look at that desiccated rose and they have mixed feelings about it.”
Though she sang, played piano, and wrote from the time she was a young girl, Ms. Hajj spent a great deal of her professional life away from music. Trained in the sciences, she worked in a variety of fields such as high technology ceramics, analytical chemistry, and zookeeping, according to her website. Her zookeeping gig was specifically presenting birds to the public at Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City, UT, which she said prepared her for performing in front of audiences.
“Working with the birds taught me how to be onstage and go from a shy scientist who didn’t want to talk to anybody to a passionate performer,” he said.
Having worked with birds for 12 years, Ms. Hajj remains fascinated by them and often references them in her music. With one look through her album track listings on her website, one notices song titles like “The Eagles of the Old Iron Mine,” “Ave the Bird,” “Raven,” and “The Hawks of Winter.” During her previous career Ms. Hajj learned that each bird is a unique individual with certain likes and dislikes, and that their unique characters make for great song subjects.
“They’re beautiful creatures and they’ve all got stories to tell,” she said.
Outside of music, Ms. Hajj manages the San Diego Bird Festival, described on her website as “Comic Con for bird watchers.”
Jen Hajj’s October 4 performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 with a reservation and $18 without, and reservations are made by calling the church at (805) 964-0436. Tickets are paid for at the door and only cash will be accepted. The Cambridge Drive Community Church is located at 550 Cambridge Dr. in Goleta.