Stories in the Sky: Transitions

by Shannon Bowman
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In the song “Garden State Girl,” singer-songwriter Lena Klett sings about her conflicting feelings of longing to return to her home state of New Jersey and pushing herself to move forward with her new life in Virginia.  It reflects a significant period in her life, as her move to Virginia required a lot of readjustments.

Born and raised in Hopewell, New Jersey, by parents who worked as part-time musicians on the nights and weekends, Klett grew up watching her parents regularly practice with their zydeco band in the family’s basement.  She herself picked up the guitar around the age of 11, and after winning her high school’s talent show as a freshman with her first original composition, Klett began to establish herself as a musician in her hometown.

But in 2008, Klett graduated from high school and moved 300 miles south to Norfolk, Virginia, to attend Old Dominion University for a degree in dental hygiene.  Of course, she had no qualms about attending college in Virginia, but this was her first experience living outside of her hometown.  “It was scary,” recalls Klett to Victor Russo.  “I didn’t like it.  I wanted to move back, you know.  I mean, with any college freshman, you know, you have fun, and you start to make friends.  But before that, it’s kind of like this is completely new and kind of scary.”

Moreover, she had to rebuild her presence as a musician, which proved to be tough in her situation.  “I was busy with school, but I was also busy trying to make friends and have a social life.  And I don’t think I knew enough people, and I didn’t have any connections [to be booked for live performances].  You know, I could play here or there at open mics or things like that, but I didn’t really know who to talk to.  I didn’t even know where there was to play, you know.  I was kind of like in that ODU bubble for a while . . . I didn’t know who to talk to [or] what to do.  So it took a while to kind of build up some connections and meet some people and find out where there’s live music.”

But after graduating from ODU and settling into her job as a hygienist, Klett slowly but surely found her audience in Norfolk, and the audience came through to support her in WHRO’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest, which ran through winter 2014-2015, as Klett took home the People’s Choice Award.  In recognition of her win, Victor Russo sat down with Klett to discuss her journey so far.

In this episode of Stories in the Sky, Klett talks to Russo about the preparation that went into her Tiny Desk Concert Contest video submission, her childhood in Hopewell, and her love for her sister.

Lena Klett is a singer-songwriter who recently won the People’s Choice Award in WHRO’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest.  You can find more information on Klett at the website lenaklettmusic.com.

Note:  The songs played in this episode—listed in chronological order—are “Tie It Up,” “Dizzy Tricks,” “Hand Me Down,” “The Heart Wants,” “No Good for Me,” and “Garden State Girl.”