Jane Carrey, who opened last night for acoustic star Mat Kearney at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, has a story that isn’t exactly standard for an up-and-coming singer-songwriter. Sure, it has elements you’ve heard before: She just got her first big break (last night’s performance was part of her first national tour), and she’s getting a taste of life on the road. So far, Carrey has fanned herself in fetid, un-airconditioned dressing rooms, endured 12-hour bus rides, and boozed in grimy dive bars. Pretty normal for someone at the start of a musical career—except that Jane happens to be the daughter of Hollywood megastar Jim Carrey.
Sitting down to talk in a Chinatown coffee shop, Carrey seems bubbly but reserved. Although she bears a striking resemblance to her famous father, Carrey isn’t exactly bouncing off the walls or hamming it up. Despite her comedic genes, she’s focused on songwriting—and being recognized on her own merit. After picking up the guitar at age 14, Carrey found release through music.
Songs on the Jane Carrey Band’s eponymous debut album are soulful and boast a noticeable jazz influence. She cites artists Fiona Apple and Sheryl Crow as inspiration—influences that are clear in songs such as “City Lights” and “Breathing Without You.” Carrey’s strong vocals reveal remarkable control and contain striking emotional depth.
Comedy, she says, was never in the cards for her. “When I’m on stage, I tell really stupid jokes. I am not a comedian.” She formed the Jane Carrey Band in 2008 and has spent the better part of the last two years playing in small clubs across California. Future albums, Carrey says, may be more family-inspired—she and husband Alex Santana recently became parents to a son, Jackson.
Likewise, she isn’t thrilled by the suggestion that she’s riding on her father’s coattails. She’s gone through pains to prove it, too. Up until the tour, Carrey had been earning a living waitressing at a Los Angeles seafood restaurant. “I like to be independent and self-sufficient,” she says. “It’s hard work. People assume that I don’t have to work for it, but I booked all my own shows for two years.” Getting frustrated, she reveals, is tempting. “I try really hard not to get defensive,” she says. “People don’t know, though, so I can’t fault them. So I just have to smile. I pay my own rent!”
Though she’s glad to be striking out on her own, her family remains a primary influence. Explaining her desire to perform, Carrey points to her heritage. “I come from a family of carnies,” she says. “We’re circus folk at heart.”