Jen Trynin | Everything I’m Cracked Up To Be: A Rock & Roll Fairytale

As record label interest in Trynin begins to grow, she smartly hires a high profile, New York–based entertainment lawyer, Neil, who begins to shop around her self-released disc, Cockamamie. Attorney in place, Trynin is poised for the bidding war soon to erupt. With her conversational tone and realistic delivery, Trynin perfectly sets the scene and lets the events unfold.

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(Harcourt; 372 pgs; $23)

Show of hands: Who among us hasn’t wanted to be a rock star? Who hasn’t dreamt about the colored lights, the adoring fans, the adrenaline rush of performance, the glamorous lifestyle, the big bucks? Jen Trynin has not only dreamt it, she’s lived it—all the way to the edge and off the cliff. And in Everything I’m Cracked Up to Be, she lays it all bare for the telling: the initial buzz, the label war, her personality change, and her quiet dismissal.

Everything I’m Cracked Up to Be is an engrossing and highly entertaining read. It’s also an enlightening book with regard to the inner workings of the music industry, and the resultant mind-warp that comes from lavish attention and adulation.

In the mid-’90s, Jen Trynin is a Boston singer-songwriter desperate to break from the solo acoustic chick mold. She hires a drummer and bass player and pursues her dream of rock stardom, when a funny thing happens—the dream starts coming true. And, as one has come to expect, it turns out the dream isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

As record label interest in Trynin begins to grow, she smartly hires a high profile, New York–based entertainment lawyer, Neil, who begins to shop around her self-released disc, Cockamamie. Attorney in place, Trynin is poised for the bidding war soon to erupt. With her conversational tone and realistic delivery, Trynin perfectly sets the scene and lets the events unfold.

Near-daily reports from her lawyer are coming in, with increasingly greater dollar figures and major label names. After a series of cross-continental flights—first class, with expensive restaurants and five-star hotels—the final offers are on the table: Three albums at $350,000 each, plus an option for two more at $450,000. Trynin is hesitant to choose: “The truth is, I don’t want to decide. Because as long as I stay here in The Before, I can continue to be as great as everyone imagines.”

She signs with Warner (calling them, awkwardly, “Warners”), which quickly leads to two more necessary decisions: manager and booking agent. Then, little by little, despite the giant steps forward, the cracks begin to show. The first-class flights have been replaced with cramped coach; gone are the five-star hotels, with dirty roadside motels in their stead. Her outspokenness repeatedly garners the ire of the label head (“Head Honcho,” as she calls him).

Personally, Trynin’s life is growing more confusing by the day. Despite a solid relationship with her producer/live-in boyfriend Guy, she’s begun fooling around on the road with her bass player, Buck, causing plenty of mood swings and guilt. Too many days on the road and too many alcohol-fueled late nights take their toll on Trynin. She’s on an emotional roller coaster, she’s difficult, and she’s insecure.

By the time Trynin sits down to record her follow-up album, tensions are running high. Label interest has noticeably waned. Her bass player quits. She weakly attempts a tour (opening slot this time, not headlining) but the magic’s gone. As Trynin says, “Every time I sit down to try to work on a new song, the mere sound of my pick hitting the strings makes me feel sad. And spooky. Like my hands belong to someone else.” In an off-the-record conversation, her Warner rep tells her she wouldn’t blame her if she “wanted out.” Although it’s the inevitable conclusion to this spoiled fairy tale, when the end comes, it’s all too swift, too final. By the end of the page, she’s out. Two pages later, we have the epilogue.

This rushed resolution is the most nagging complaint with Everything I’m Cracked Up to Be. On the whole, it’s a highly recommended read, whether you want to rock or just tag along for the ride. harcourtbooks.com

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