Growing up with a famous musician as a father has an undeniable impact on an artist.

Jen Chapin developed a sound, style and passion for music partially from her folk singer dad, Harry Chapin, who wrote such famous tunes as “Cat in the Cradle” and “Taxi.” Though she created her own sound, her father taught her how to master her craft and connect to an audience on stage.

At the same time, she learned to use her talents in the musical sphere to make a difference in the world around her.

Story continues below gallery

“My dad, I feel like he’s influenced as much or maybe more as an activist and a citizen. His political passion and belief in humanity to solve problems, and being engaged in solving problems and looking out for your neighbor, is something that’s personally rewarding,” she said. “Everything he said in that regard relates to me.”

Blending folk, rock, jazz and other musical genres, Chapin has carved out a respected career of her own. She has appeared on national shows such as “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” NPR’s Mountain Stage and WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.

She has shared the stage with Bruce Springsteen and has been featured on bills with artists such as Aimee Mann, Bruce Hornsby and the Neville Brothers.

Chapin will bring her captivating show to the Pixy Theatre in Edinburgh at 7 p.m. Saturday. Those in the audience can expect an all-encompassing look at the beauty and power of music.

“All the clichés are true, that music is the universal language. It’s something that speaks to the body. Just a groove, a beautiful sound,” she said.

Chapin has built a career out of crafting a sound that blends the eye-opening lyrics of folk music with the body-moving elements of soul. While growing up in New York City, surrounded by the creativity of a family full of musicians, artists and writers, she honed her own skills.

Influences ranged from Otis Redding and the Stax Records sound of Memphis to Bob Marley and songwriters such as David Bowie and Prince.

Music has a primal quality that calls to her, she said. Much of the work that has inspired her own songs have been instrumental, so her focus has been to balance the spiritual quality of the music with the personal revelation in the lyrics.

“I’m definitely a reader and a word person and an idea person. As a songwriter, the lyric part of it, I’m always more confident in my ability there,” she said. “That said, the actual visceral feeling of music and rhythm and sound, the trueness of it, throughout my life, I’ve come back and realized, wow, this is real to me.”

Chapin has released a number of diverse albums, from the original jazzy folk of her early work on “Open Wide” and “Linger” to 2008’s “Light of Mine,” which featured songs from Van Morrison, Radiohead and Joni Mitchell.

She approached the songs of a musical legend on “ReVisions: Songs of Stevie Wonder,” and her most recent collection, “Reckoning,” weaves in stories of triumph and struggle with elements of rock, jazz and folk.

When crafting a song, Chapin tries multiple approaches to ensure that the final result is unique and different than what she’s done before.

“I want my music to all sound like me, but I don’t want them to all sound similar,” she said. “Sometimes, I might have a concept or an idea that I want to articulate. Sometimes, I just have a line that sticks in my head, or a melody that comes to me, or I’m building off a bass line or a chord progression. Different songs have different journeys.”

Those songs give Chapin a wide-ranging repertoire when she takes the stage. She tries to make her concerts as intimate as possible. Her demeanor has a conversational, easygoing quality, making the show seem casual even in a large theater or amphitheater.

But that’s not to say that she keeps things static for the entirety of the performance.

“Being dynamic is important. We get really quiet, we get really spacious, and then sometimes it’s dense and intense and exciting. I really love to take the audience on that journey,” she said.

If you go

Jen Chapin

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Pixy Theatre, 111 S. Walnut St., Edinburgh

Cost: $10

Information: theedinburghpixy.com

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.