Jen Ledger Takes a ‘Bold’ Step Forward With Self-Titled Debut Solo EP – Album Review
It's been a long time coming. For the past decade, Jen Ledger has been holding down the beat for Skillet and she's seen her vocal presence continue to grow within the band. Gaining confidence along the way, Ledger started approaching songwriting with some mentorship from her Skillet cohorts and began thinking about putting out her own music. Now, Ledger is ready to take her turn in the spotlight with a self-titled band and EP that is a bold step forward.
Ledger recently premiered her new song "Not Dead Yet" here at Loudwire and the track should've tipped off listeners that she was not just serving up a Skillet rehash. Yes, there are bits of Skillet influence felt throughout her EP, but you're just as likely to find Jen's other influences mixed into the fold. Being a drummer, just about every track hits its mark with distinctive percussive elements, but the other primary instrument leaving its footprints all over this album are the keys. The synth work on Ledger's EP plays its role of adding extra grit when she wants to rock, but also allowing her to dip into a poppier side when need be.
"Not Dead Yet" leads off the EP, an empowering cut that bounces around the verses with Ledger's vocal breaks perfectly adding personality to the track, setting the table for her to power through the chorus. As Ledger told us in a chat accompanying the premiere, the song was borne out of a battle with panic attacks in recent years and learning to cope with it. While the song holds deep meaning for Ledger, it's also broad enough to serve as inspiration for her listeners to apply to any battles they too are trying to overcome.
"Truthfully, the only reason I’d ever want to do music is if it brings people hope," Ledger told us. And that approach to the music is felt throughout this six-track offering, with many of the tracks being motivational and uplifting.
The EP's second song, "Warrior," shows that determination as Ledger sings about the "sound of the warrior," with an assist from Skillet's John Cooper. Ledger's cleaner vocals help set the tone, but the rougher sounding Cooper comes in at the perfect time to add a solid contrast.
"BOLD" comes off as a mission statement for the EP, with Ledger offering, "Spirit in every step, I'm made for this," at one point, declaring her intent to be bold over a fat sounding synth and drum beat.
"Foreigner" also speaks to the musician's drive, starting with a more robotic delivery in the verses to accentuate the outside nature of her feeling, before the more dynamic and triumphant chorus, embracing her place. "I, I am a foreigner / I’ve got a fire in my soul / Never giving up / I know I don’t belong right here / I know I don’t belong right here,” sings Ledger defiantly.
Though coming late in this shortened collection, "Ruins" is the perfect change of pace. Having leaned heavy on percussion and synths, "Ruins" is perhaps Jen at her most vulnerable vocally. By stripping away most of the backing and letting a solemn piano serve as accompaniment, "Ruins" offers the best chance to hear Ledger's voice in its rawest form. The song with the longest history on this EP, "Ruins" shows Ledger's ability to connect with heartache at a fairly early start in her writing career. "I just don't know what I'm doin' / You have left me in ruins / Won't you ruin me again," offers Ledger with heart clearly pinned to her sleeve, revealing the girl who's not ready yet to move on.
Finishing out the set is "Iconic," which is arguably the catchiest track on the disc. It's more upbeat and poppy, though still with a driving rock feel and electronic touches.
Though her first outing, it's one that has clearly been approached with great measure. Ledger differentiates herself enough from Skillet to provide something fresh but remains close enough to the rock side that even longtime panheads should still be able to relate. And they'll get the chance to relate as Ledger will be pulling double duty on Skillet's upcoming dates. She'll open shows with her solo band, then take her place behind the kit during Skillet's headlining sets. Judging by this first EP, odds are pretty good you may see more of that double duty action for Ledger in the future as well as the groundwork is being laid to give her a solid shot at solo success as well.