Jennifer Hartswick first met Trey Anastasio when she was a 17-year-old senior at Lyndonville Institute in the rural Northeast Kingdom, Vt. The Phish guitarist was working on his first solo album, “One Man’s Trash,” and needed a trumpet player. She had impressed Phish collaborator Giant Country Horns’ saxophonist Dave Grippo at the International Association of Jazz Educators conference earlier that year with her carefree, fun-loving demeanor.
May 19 | 9 p.m.
Crystal Bay Casino | Crystal Bay, Nev.
“You’re gonna love Jen,” Grippo told Anastasio.
So Hartswick went in and did a session with them. She recorded on the solo album, as well as doing some work on Phish’s seminal 1998 and 2000 albums “The Story of the Ghost” and “Farmhouse.”
“I think the more authentically you can live your life, the more things aligned with your vibration will find you. … Every day I sort of just try to bring the most joy into the situation I find myself in.”
“I’ve always had this outlook with myself and I had it with him from the first time we met: he wanted me in the band because he liked me,” says Hartswick. “He created a role for me because he wanted me to be around. Oftentimes, someone is hiring you to do a specific job. But [Trey Anastasio Band] was so new at that time and he wanted me to be a part of it. I’m very appreciative to him of that; for showing me so early on that whatever I came with is enough. I’ve really carried that with me throughout my career and my life.”
“I think that the main thing I will always take away from Trey in particular is that who you uniquely are at the core is so special that you should never do anything else than what your gut is telling you to do,” she says. “Everyone having to be this vision of perfection — it’s so false. Come as you are. Make mistakes together and we’ll be better for it. There’s a lot of real life stuff like that we appreciate that I learned with him.”
Hartswick will be releasing her own first solo album called “Nexus” in September. It was recorded at The Barn Studio, Phish’s round-room recording space hidden deep in the backwoods of Vermont, by Ben Collette who worked with producer Steve Lillywhite on the iconic jam band’s 2009 comeback album “Joy” and subsequent bonus LP “Party Time.”
This acoustic soul record will feature a mix of Hartswick originals and “a few interesting arrangements of covers that you might recognize — or not,” says the trumpeter and singer.
It costars Nick Cassarino of The Nth Power with whom she’s been friends since middle school along with Grammy-winner Christian McBride on bass. Hartswick will be playing a free concert in the Red Room at Crystal Bay Club with Cassarino on May 19.
“We’ve been friends forever, so the experience of the show is just like being in our living room,” she says.
Hartswick grew up in a musical family in Lyndonville, Vt., in Caledonia County 40 miles from the Canadian border.
“I think there’s such a communal vibe about Vermont in general,” she says. “There’s a lot of artistic people who live there and moved there because they are sick of that grind. People like simple, artistic lifestyles. I got to jam at somebody’s house when I was 15. It’s sort of a way of life. I think there’s a real encouragement of the arts all around, not necessarily in terms of professional training, but in a normal, human way.”
This homegrown Vermont philosophy she shared with Anastasio has stayed with Hartswick as she toured the country for the last 20 years with the Trey Anastasio Band and in countless performances with jam mainstays from Snarky Puppy to Soulive.
“I think having the confidence to be who you are is really important,” she says. “I think the more authentically you can live your life, the more things aligned with your vibration will find you. There’s really no need to put out something you’re not. Every day I sort of just try to bring the most joy into the situation I find myself in.”
Hartswick feels lucky to be doing what makes other people happy and says, “It’s such a win-win for everybody. What gives me the most joy is to make someone’s night. Music is such a way of connecting with people and strangers. My job is to have a positive experience with somebody. That’s not something I take for granted. It’s a matter of being authentic to who you are and the best version of yourself every day. I love what I do.”