Chapin, Jen

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Jen Chapin

Singer, songwriter

Singer and songwriter Jen Chapin is the daughter of the late Harry Chapin, a singer and songwriter who was perhaps best known for his folk-rock tunes such as "Taxi" and "Cat's in the Cradle," penned during the 1970s. Although she is often mentioned in the same breath as her famous father and has been favorably compared to fellow New Yorker Norah Jones, Chapin has firmly established herself as a unique talent. She claims a wide range of influences, from world music and reggae to jazz, blues, and hard rock. Hailed by National Public Radio as "brilliant," and by People magazine as "worth savoring," Chapin's national album debut, Linger, was released in early 2004.

Jen Chapin grew up in a family of five children in the Long Island community of Huntington, New York. Hers was a musical family; in addition to her famous father, Chapin was influenced by her uncle Tom, a well-regarded performer of music for children. Although she did not immediately choose music as a career path, she later acknowledged she was greatly influenced by growing up in a family where making music was part of everyday life. This eventually provided the impetus for her to make music her main focus.

Harry Chapin died in an auto accident on the Long Island Expressway in 1981, when Chapin was ten years old. Harry Chapin, 38 years old at the time of his death, had never been at home much; his touring schedule had him on the road most of the year. "He left a lot of ragged edges in his personal relationships," Chapin admitted to Steve Morse in the Toronto Star.

Music was not Chapin's first career choice. When she entered Brown University in Rhode Island in 1989 she studied international relations, and as part of her academic program she studied abroad in Zimbabwe and Mexico. But music seemed to be in her blood, and instead of accepting an offer to enter the graduate program at Brown after her graduation in the mid-1990s, she entered the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. While studying at Berklee, Chapin played gigs in local venues around campus, and played in ensembles put together by her fellow students. A contributing factor in her decision to devote more time to music was, ironically, being let go from one of the ensembles in which she had been playing. The rejection stung more than she thought it would, and she realized how important music had become in her life. She later described this wake-up call as one of the best things that could have happened to her.

After leaving Berklee in 1995, Chapin moved to New York City to develop her music career, picking up more gigs of the type she had played in Boston at small downtown venues, and developing a course in black music and black music history that she taught in a Brooklyn high school.

Although Chapin eventually followed in her father's footsteps to pursue a career in music, her music diverged from the folk influences of her father's work, taking in genres as diverse as funk, world music, reggae, and soul. "The groove is crucial to me," she explained to Sunny Elle Lee in the New York Daily News, adding that folk music doesn't "do it for me." Some critics have compared Chapin's music to that of another singer/songwriter, Grammy Award winner Norah Jones. It's a comparison Chapin does not resist, admitting that the two came from similar backgrounds, worked with some of the same musicians, and shared similar tastes in music. They also, according to Chapin, shared the same work ethic, one that emphasized playing good music over making a lot of money or becoming a pop star.

Although Linger was her first national release, Chapin also recorded two earlier CDs. The first was a live recording titled Live at the Bitter End, released in 2000. Next came a collaboration in 2002 with her husband, Stephan Crump. Titled Open Wide, this album was composed of duets featuring her vocals, with Crump on bass. Both were released on her own Purple Chair Music label.

In 2003, at the age of 32, Chapin signed with nationally distributed Hybrid Recordings, which released Linger. A long time in the making, the album included music Chapin had written over a span of ten years, and includes Crump on bass and other instruments, along with other musicians. All of the songs were written by Chapin, and she co-produced the album along with Crump and Rod Sherwood.

One standout track is titled "Little Hours," a song that celebrates living life in the slow lane, in decided contrast to the life her father led. Another cut, "Passive People," urges listeners to take more of an interest in national issues. "Hurry Up Sky" mourns the loss of a friend in the World Trade Center attack of September 11, 2001. The album also includes love songs and three pieces from her earlier Open Wide album. Linger was well received by critics. National Public Radio's Thom Terrell described it as "brilliant," and Chuck Arnold, writing in People, proclaimed it "worth savoring."

Even after the national release of her own album, much of Chapin's fan base was made up of people who were drawn to her because they enjoyed listening to her father's music. Although she is determined to make her own way in the world of music, Chapin does not actively try to distance herself from her father's work. "I really can't complain," she told David Bauder in the Bergen County, New Jersey, Record, adding that "it's part of who I am." Chapin is proud of earning an Ivy League degree, of being happily married, and of living a full life before starting her career in music.

Married to bassist Stephan Crump, Chapin makes her home in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to her recording and performing efforts, she chairs the board of directors of a nonprofit organization called World Hunger Year (WHY) that was started by her father, and teaches workshops on music and social activism.

Selected discography

Live at the Bitter End, Purple Chair, 2000.

Open Wide, Purple Chair, 2002.

For the Record …

Born in 1971, in Long Island, NY; daughter of Harry Chapin (a singer and songwriter); married Stephan Crump (a bassist). Education: Brown University, bachelor's degree in international relations, 1993; attended Berklee School of Music, 1990s.

Played club gigs in New York City, 1990s; released self-produced Live at the Bottom Line, 2000; released Open Wide, 2002; released major label debut, Linger, on Hybrid, 2004.

Addresses: Record company—Hybrid Recordings, 1515 Broadway, 36th Fl., New York, NY 10036. Man agement—Metropolitan Talent, 1515 Broadway, 36th Fl., New York, NY 10036. Website—Jen Chapin Official Website:

Linger, Hybrid, 2004.



Hartford Courant, June 5, 2003, p. 28.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 22, 2004, p. 1E.

New York Daily News, March 9, 2004, p. 36.

People, April 12, 2004, p. 59.

Record (Bergen County, NJ), March 2, 2004, p. F8.

Toronto Star, February 22, 2004, p. D11.


"Jen Chapin," All Music Guide, (April 22, 2004).

Jen Chapin Official Website, (April 22, 2004).

Additional information was obtained from an interview with Jen Chapin on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, April 7, 2004.

—Michael Belfiore