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any peo­ple will ar­gue that you must learn to love your­self be­fore any­one else can love you. And as the most ro­man­tic day of the year ap­proaches, it’s a les­son that res­onates strongly with Jenna Mcdougall.

While the Tonight Alive vo­cal­ist po­litely de­clines to dis­cuss if any­one would be show­ing her love this Valen­tine’s Day – “There are just some things I like to keep pri­vate,” she says – one fact is etched across her ev­ery word, laugh and smile. “I do think I’ve had to learn to love my­self, and it’s the best gift I’ve ever given my­self,” she ad­mits.

“Be­fore, I was al­ways try­ing to change my­self,” Jenna re­veals. “Ques­tion­ing Ques­tion­ing why I wasn’t as opin­ion­ated as other peo­ple, and did that mean I’m not ed­u­cated enough? I con­stantly had this mind that was com­par­ing it­self to other peo­ple and the way they dressed. I al­ways wanted to be­long.wher­ever I went, I treated my­self as a bit of a chameleon and I was never just proud of who I was. Even down to body im­age – I al­ways wanted some­thing else. I would work out and wish for change in cer­tain places.”

She turned it around, though, af­ter re­al­is­ing that by con­stantly try­ing to change, she still wasn’t happy, and that she’d have to try some­thing new al­to­gether.

That con­fi­dence-boost­ing ‘some­thing new’ was at Read­ing & Leeds Fes­ti­val in 2014. While in the past Jenna felt she had to craft an in­of­fen­sive stage out­fiout­fi­fit from ripped jeans and an old T-shirt, this time she de­cided to walk out on that main stage wear­ing the colour­ful, eclec­tic clothes she usu­ally re­serves for back­stage.

“Peo­ple said, ‘Why are you wear­ing that stupid black flop­pyflfl hat?’ ‘Why are you wear­ing those ridicu­lous yel­low pants?’ And that made me even hap­pier,” smiles the singer.

Er, be­cause peo­ple thought you looked silly?

“Yeah, to­tally! For the first time my feel­ings weren’t hurt by some­body else’s opin­ion.”

Other things Jenna says helped were tak­ing care of her body, through healthy eat­ing (“re­mov­ing pro­cessed foods and tak­ing meat out of my diet, I feel, tell my body that I love it more and that I care about what it’s run­ning on”), Ep­som salt baths, glug­ging green juice, and tak­ing up yoga and Muay Thai box­ing.

An­other big part of learn­ing to love her­self was ac­cept­ing her pre­vi­ously de­bil­i­tat­ing eczema.

“Yes­ter­day we did a sign­ing and I was like, ‘You know what? My skin’s not per­fect to­day, so I’m go­ing to wear a hal­ter neck top and I’m not go­ing to get self-con­scious about the fact that the skin on my shoul­ders and arms is red and itchy. I can’t con­stantly hide my­self from the world.”

MWhile Jenna says she’s at the height of her self­love now, it’s been a two-year jour­ney to get here, one re­in­forced when she started writ­ing new al­bum Lim­it­less, which is re­leased next month.

“Writ­ing the record kind of so­lid­i­fi­fied all of the things I was feel­ing,” Jenna smiles. “It’s al­most like when you’re not sure about some­thing un­til you say it out loud. And the record coun­selled me through that.”

he mak­ing of Tonight Alive’s third al­bum be­gan in May 2014.With 14 songs on pa­per, Jenna and gui­tarist Whakaio Taahi holed them­selves up in a cabin in Smiths Lake, a coastal la­goon in New South Wales, Aus­tralia, to record. Hav­ing de­moed said 14 songs, they came home im­pressed with their ef­forts, and pre­sented them to their la­bel.

The la­bel, how­ever, were less im­pressed, say­ing the pair had failed to progress from the sound on 2013’s The Other Side.

“If The Other Side was a dou­ble-disc al­bum, this would have been the se­cond half,” says Jenna, who also de­scribes those tracks as her liv­ing out her “teenage mu­si­cal fan­tasies”, draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from Senses Fail,yel­low­card and blink-182.

T“For some rea­son, th­ese 14 songs re­sem­bled those bands a lot more than any­thing we ever did be­fore,” Jenna says. “Which is why they were ex­cit­ing for me, be­cause that was my teenage self fi­fi­nally writ­ing songs like the bands I loved when I was a kid.”

But, as Jenna jokes to­day, those songs sounded like they be­longed in 2004, and there­fore were more or less scrapped, with only To Be Free and The Great­est sur­viv­ing the cull.

“It was re­ally dis­heart­en­ing, be­cause there are songs that meant so much to me in those ‘Orig­i­nal 14’, which is what we call it. And I re­ally would like to de­velop and re-record them one day. But it was a very pos­i­tive turn­ing point for the band.those songs had to be writ­ten for Lim­it­less to have been writ­ten.”

The la­bel’s so­lu­tion to pro­cure a ‘New 14’ was to send Jenna and Whak out to meet song­writ­ers and pro­duc­ers, all the way from Eng­land to LA, to get them in a new cre­ative en­vi­ron­ment.

“Whakaio and I have a very for­mu­laic way of work­ing to­gether, just be­cause we’ve been do­ing it since we were so young,” ex­plains Jenna.

They wrote with David Hodges (for­mer Evanes­cence mem­ber, and the man be­hind Kelly Clark­son’s Be­cause Of You) and de­cided that David Ben­deth (Paramore, Papa Roach, All Time Low) was to pro­duce the record.

“David was a big part of help­ing us dis­cover our di­rec­tion and our vi­sion for the record, be­cause when he goes into mak­ing a record, it’s more of a holis­tic ap­proach,” ex­plains Jenna.“he’s not just there to record your mu­sic. “Mak­ing Lim­it­less was more than just mak­ing a record – it was us fifind­ing our life pur­pose as in­di­vid­u­als. It wasn’t just,‘let’s make a good al­bum that peo­ple are gonna like.’ That was al­most the last pri­or­ity. It was more about our per­sonal dis­cov­ery.” David put them through what Jenna de­scribes as a nine-day “boot camp for mu­si­cians”, where he would be highly crit­i­cal, with­out any fear of hurt­ing their feel­ings. “You can’t blame the guy, be­cause it’s not per­sonal, it’s mu­si­cal,” laughs Jenna. “But it does hit you per­son­ally – you are your in­stru­ment, and you are your ca­reer.

“I think that’s some­thing that would tear a lot of bands apart, what we went through in that time.”

hile pen­ning the lyrics for Lim­it­less, Jenna was in the midst of a spir­i­tual “awak­en­ing”. It be­gan in the of­fi­fice of an os­teopath of sorts. There, af­ter years of suf­fer­ing pain in her hips and shoul­ders, she’d lie on his ta­ble while he would prod and poke at her mus­cles, stim­u­lat­ing her ner­vous sys­tem. “He said, ‘I just want to warn you, you’re go­ing to be­come a lot more aware of things than you used to be, and you’re go­ing to see things com­ing that



you would never have pre­dicted or pre-empted be­fore,’” re­calls Jenna. “And I didn’t un­der­stand it un­til it hap­pened.”

‘It’ was the day af­ter treat­ment, when Jenna would phys­i­cally “hit rock bot­tom”, which the prac­ti­tioner put down to her body deal­ing with past pain. “Your body is lit­er­ally pro­cess­ing some­thing that could be from two days ago, could be from two years ago or two life­times ago,” laughs Jenna. “Your body holds onto all kinds of mem­o­ries of pain.”

Pain fi­fi­nally dis­solved, Jenna found her­self with spir­i­tual su­per­hero-type pow­ers. “I could see sit­u­a­tions com­ing, I could re­spond bet­ter to dif­fer­ent be­hav­iours and I could pro­tect my­self. I started de­vel­op­ing skills and I started de­vel­op­ing my in­tu­ition.”

From there, Jenna be­gan her spir­i­tual jour­ney, ex­pand­ing her knowl­edge and aware­ness of spirituality, and hu­man na­ture, which, hav­ing af­fected the way she looked at the world, also changed her song­writ­ing.

“There are songs on this al­bum that talk about un­der­stand­ing the needs of our Earth and the way that we’re dam­ag­ing it,” she ex­plains. “Which might sound pre­ten­tious – and I don’t have that in­ten­tion at all, be­cause I don’t think that I’m bet­ter than any­body – but I’m start­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence th­ese feel­ings and I want to do some­thing about them. And, at this point, song­writ­ing is the only thing I know.”

While Jenna was writ­ing songs about the Earth (such as on We Are – the cho­rus of which sees Mother Earth ad­dress­ing the hu­man race), other songs lit­er­ally came from the Earth. Jenna got the idea for Waves (a song about the highs and lows of be­ing in a re­la­tion­ship) when swim­ming in the ocean on a stormy day, be­fore get­ting back to her car and record­ing a voice clip of what the song be­came. The Great­est was also writ­ten in the sea, but this time in Maré Is­land, France, where Jenna walked out into the ocean and looked down to see trop­i­cal fi­fish swim­ming around her feet.

“It was like a dream,” she re­calls, “and I just got this idea: ‘’ Cause here I am fear­less,here I am weight­less, here I am un­break­able, here I am the great­est’. I’ve never made such cer­tain state­ments in my life as I have in that song.”

That cer­tainty is all thanks to her spir­i­tual awak­en­ing, which put Jenna at one with the world, and at one with her­self. And the re­sult is an over­rid­ing theme of em­pow­er­ment that runs through­out al­most ev­ery track on Lim­it­less.

To Be Free is Jenna re­quest­ing the uni­verse get off her back, re­al­is­ing things she’s done in the past didn’t work, and that she has to fifind a new for­mula for hap­pi­ness. Power Of One, mean­while, is a song full of af­fi­fi­fir­ma­tions, that preaches be­ing true to your­self and not con­stantly ask­ing for for­give­ness. Else­where, I Defy talks about es­cap­ing ma­nip­u­la­tive re­la­tion­ships, while the lyrics of Drive de­clares that it’s okay to look like the bad guy if that means stand­ing up for your­self.

Lim­it­less, then, is eas­ily Tonight Alive’s most con­fi­fi­dent work to date.

“It kind of bor­ders on that line be­tween ego and just be­ing self-as­sured,” ex­plains Jenna. “I think I’m al­ways on the good side of that fence and it feels good to stand up for your­self and not be afraid to sound like you’ve got a big head.”

If the front­lady has de­vel­oped a big head, it might just be be­cause it’s fi­fit to burst with all her new­found hap­pi­ness.

“I think I’m ap­proach­ing the hap­pi­est I’ve ever been in my life…” she re­flflects. “For the fi­first time since mak­ing the record, I feel like I’m ex­actly where I’m meant to be in life at this point in time. Like, this is part of the plan and I’m liv­ing it and I’m en­joy­ing it. I’m not re­sist­ing any­thing right now. It feels re­ally good.”




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