Tonight Alive’s Jenna McDougall may only be in her early 20s but she is already a roaring voice in the hard rock scene. Since joining the band in 2008 when she was only in high school, we explore what makes her such an amazing tomboy musician and a great role model for other young women of her generation in this edition of our Tomboy Musicians Series.
You’re not a contemporary rocker tomboy until you’ve had at least one Tonight Alive album on your Spotify playlist. This Australian rock band from Sydney, was conceived in 2008. Jenna McDougall leads the charge with her flag raised high along with lead guitarist Whakaio Taahi, rhythm guitarist Jake Hardy, bassist Cam Adler and drummer Matt Best.
Tonight Alive’s record label history has been tumultuous but they look like they’ve settled down nicely with Fearless Records and Sony Music Entertainment Australia since 2011. After releasing numerous indie EPs, their ultra-rocking debut album was released that same year, entitled ‘What Are You So Scared Of?‘ .
It’s been a long time since we heard great female-led hard rock bands. The last time we had a band like this was er…Skunk Anansie back from the mid 90s? That’s too long ago and while rock has suddenly gone into hiding (hear us talk about it here on our rock-themed episode of Tomboy Tirade) we’re hoping that groups like Tonight Alive will once again help resuscitate the genre back to life. Their popular 2013 release, ‘The Other Side’, seems to prove that there is still an audience for this kind of music.
Jenna’s strong vocals on every song she sings reflects the inspiring and empowering lyrics contained within each of them. Her tomboy style and ‘un-skanked’ persona has made her a great female role model for teen girls who may not be into Selena Gomez or Rihanna.
Her confidence shows as she slays other rock band peers by being her most confident self as a woman and a lead singer. She even jumped off stage at the band’s Soundwave set to rescue a mobbed fan. She is a Brienne of Tarth of the rock world and probably even the fashion world.
Her pop-punk style influences screams Taylor Jardine and Avril Lavigne, what everyone’s calling ‘Normcore’ now – a unisex style of fashion that is blazing the fashion world where men and women are stealing from each other’s closets and democratizing gender fashion.
Jenna is a layering ninja with her shirt/skinnies/bucket hat combo, which is usually topped off with a pair of skate shoes and a fresh mix of rad chokers and pendants.
This year, they’ve just released their newly anticipated album ‘Limitless’ with the catchy first single, “Drive”. In an interview with mtv.com, Jenna talks about how this new album is pushing back hard on negative influences.
“My whole life I’ve been hypersensitive to judgement and other people’s perception of me. That judgement was something I was really conscious of all the way through high school. It stuck with me and the position I’m in now means being constantly open to people scrutinising me. But I think we are born to overcome what we are afraid of and realising that really helped me to become a woman. More than just ‘growing up’, it helped me embrace myself.”
Jenna is also very big on positivity. An important aspect of herself she has been able to incorporate into her songs and she has Cameron Adler, bassist for Tonight Alive, to thank, for helping her to grow in that direction.
“I totally believe in vibes, haha! When I met Cameron, he became my best friend in two weeks. The best thing about our friendship is that he never felt sorry for me – that sounds weird, but as a 14-year-old I was highly emotional. Every time I came to him with a ‘problem’ he would always just say ‘Ok, so what are you going to do about it?’ He real-talked me. That’s the way I learned to handle things: ‘what am I going to do to change this situation?’ You can’t change the things that happen to you, but you can change how you react to them. Positivity is a choice – you can be a naturally positive person, which I might be, although I can just as easily go into a dark place. But positivity is within our control.”
For Jenna, ‘Limitless’ is just that. In an interview where she talks about the album, their boldest yet, she says, “‘Limitless’ is a goal for us as people,” says Jenna. “It’s a state of mind that I wanted to put our band in so that we could experiment and dive into places that we would have been too afraid to before. And a lot of my growth during the record was learning how to practice what I preach – constantly asking, ‘What are you afraid of?’ and never be fearful of someone else’s judgement.”
That fearlessness helped her through a difficult time in her life when she suffered from eczema. “Between July 2011 and March 2012 I had health issues that were escalating beyond my control. My body was overloaded with toxins and my eczema had reached a point of paralysis. Willing to try anything, I saw doctor after doctor and tried countless forms of treatment but gained no relief and found no answers. It was by far the most challenging time of my life and throughout that period of time Tonight Alive did 9 tours.”
The tough life doesn’t scare Jenna or the band off with such a rigorous touring schedule and it looks like that hard work is paying off. With each album, Tonight Alive are moving from strength to strength garnering respect from their peers and fans alike.
We hope this new album and their current tour helps keep that rock flame burning bright, especially for younger women. After all, Jenna’s only in her early 20s and already, it just looks like she’s done everything! Rock on Jenna!