Mother knew best. “First they don’t love you, now they do love you. What if tomorrow they don’t love you again?” Mother’s daughter, Jen Trynin, a Boston-based singer/songwriter/guitarist, was well loved at that moment. David Geffen was telephoning her at home, Warner Bros. chairman/CEO Danny Goldberg was telling her he hoped he could have the same sort of relationship with her that he had with Kurt Cobain. Music-business muckety-mucks were trekking up to the Plough and Stars and T.T. the Bear’s to weasel into her good graces. She was being photographed for Rolling Stone, chatting up Conan O’Brien, getting on the cover of Billboard and even on Beavis and Butt-head.
Then tomorrow came and they didn’t love her again. Trynin chronicles that cold-hot-cold cycle in Everything I’m Cracked Up To Be, her new book about the mid-’90s major-label bidding war she inspired. A lot of musicians could tell similar tales of life as The Next Big Thing That Never Was. But Trynin actually put the tale to print, and she nails what it feels like to have her sense of self rattled to the core by an industry in which timing can hold more weight than talent.
Trynin is sarcastic and cynical, but if she were just a sour crab-ass, her book would be one 354-page migraine. She’s also honest and self-mocking, however, and it’s a kick to read about her efforts to embody “cool,” since most rock-and-rollers are too “cool” to admit to making such an effort. As an escapee of the “acoustic-chick-band-wasteland” who’s never heard of Nirvana or X, she thinks that a new get-up — old cords, ugly shirts, white leather jacket, big black shoes — will make her look and feel like the rock star people said she’d be after her CD Cockamamie got the hype hurricane blowing.
Trynin never gets sold on the idea of her own brilliance. She’s too busy watching herself from a distance, searching for images to help her figure out who the hell she is or wants to be. Before a show at the Middle East, she’s sitting at a table. “So this is what it’s like to be me now, I keep thinking as the same cooler-than-thou music types who’ve been completely ignoring me for years are now waving to me, rapping their knuckles on my table. . . . ” On stage she’s painfully aware of her physical self, worrying that she’s glaring or making faces or has a sweaty ass; touring is tiring and lonely and makes her think of her boyfriend and cat snuggled in bed at home.
From the get-go she has premonitions of doom. At a T.T.’s show packed with friends, family, and music-biz somebodies, she looks out into the crowd to see “Everyone lined up in rows. Like a class picture. Like it’s the last day of school. Like it’s good-bye.”
When the goodbye finally does come, “There’s no bang. No definitive moment. Just a slow petering out.” In a lot of ways she did sabotage herself, as one honcho suggests, by being “difficult,” pulling stuff like writing on a DJ’s face with a Sharpie (he did ask for her autograph), yelling at a whiny-but-connected video guy for ruining the music business, seeing herself as part of a band while everyone else saw her as a solo artist. (It didn’t help that Warner Bros. started pumping up its support for Alanis Morissette, and God knows you can only promote one chick artist at a time.)
Trynin gets in more than a few lyrical interludes. Especially in her “Coda”: “It’s true that my life is much quieter now, without the music, the bars, the boys. But the loudest silence of all is the absence of my old daydream, the one where I used to picture myself in the future, sauntering through the streets of some city, freewheeling, beautiful, unafraid. . . . Because the truth is, once my future finally arrived, I was still just me — a little nervous, kind of plain, always preparing for the worst.”