Biography from Archived Pages
Jenni (Jennifer) Mansfield Peal
Jennifer Mansfield Peal is an award-winning songwriter whose elegant and quirky style has entertained audiences around the United States and on two international tours, and radio listeners around the world. Performing her own songs, American and Celtic traditional music, original and traditional children's music, recording, and supporting other artists as a back-up vocalist and accordionist, Jenni's had a rich musical journey.
"So many musicians and music lovers have helped me keep singing," Jenni says of her twenty years playing and singing professionally.
Developing her early interest in traditional music ("I loved Childe Ballads when I was twelve- especially when damsels lost their maidenhead and family members killed each other…"), Jenni joined the Scarborough Faire Performers Guild in 1982. She was an award-winning member of that renaissance faire performing company for three years, singing and playing mountain dulcimer with guitarist and vocalist Ed Macke, currently of Dallas' Irish Rogues.
"Love for traditional music led to my involvement in the Celtic music
scene in Dallas, led by bands like Tinkers Dam and The Irish Rogues. I helped form the Southwest Celtic Music Association to bring
in the finest international Celtic performers, and then we produced
the first North Texas Irish Festival in the mid-eighties.
I was already performing children's traditional music shows, so I developed
the Urchin Street Faire family area for the festival. It's still going
strong today." Jenni began performing in Celtic bands in the late eighties
as a vocalist and accordionist, first with Whiskey Before Breakfast,
then Pegasus Project and finally Moveable Feast. Then, "I came to the
end of what I had to say in the Celtic genre. I needed to sing my own
songs." That was 1993.
Jenni had already made some progress with her own writing by that time. She taped eight original and traditional songs for WFAA Dallas' syndicated show Peppermint Place. Winning the B.W. Stevenson Songwriter's Competition in Dallas in 1990, sponsored by Poor David's Pub, led to a feature performance at the Kerrville Folk Festival and her first album, Big Wind.
It also brought her to the attention of Tommy Sands, Irish folksinger and
international star. Tommy invited her to perform in his country and
helped produce her first tour, also sponsored by BBC Ulster. Radio interviews
as well as live and recorded BBC coverage of her concerts introduced
her to a world-wide audience. "The 1991 tour was very influenced by
my association with the actress Jayne
Mansfield. Even when I told people I wasn't her daughter, that she
was my father's first wife, I was still a celebrity. The success of
the1992 tour was much more about me and my work, especially with children.
I was brought over by members of The Armagh Rhymers (traditional Irish
mummers) and the Southern Board of Education of Northern Ireland. I
performed Texas pioneer music on guitar and dulcimer and taught play
party dances in thirty schools; city, country and town, Protestant and
Catholic". Highlights of the tours include performances at the Lyric Theater in Belfast and the Queen's
University Festival at Belfast.
For the next five years, Jenni says, she lurched along, trying to balance
her special education teaching career with an unsteady desire to perform.
What happens to artists when they lose confidence? They go into a kind
of sleep mode, on input rather than output. "I did mostly back-up work
during that period, as an accordionist with Colin
Boyd and the Backseat Drivers." Then Jenni moved to Austin.
to an introduction to Hill Country songwriting favorite Al Barlow by
friend and songwriter Lisa Miles, she became involved in HumbleTime!
Radio, broadcast on radio stations across Texas and the world wide
web. In Austin, Ken Schaffer and the community of songwriters called
Safety in Numbers welcomed her into
its fold; two of her songs will appear on the Ken Shaffer's Safety in
Numbers Number Five CD. Austin-based songwriter Steve Brooks featured Jenni in his "Hyde
Park Unplugged" and "South by So What" series. Developing a friendship
with Aaron Allan, she's recorded with
this Texas songwriter and broadcasting legend and appeared frequently
on his daily radio show at KCTI in Gonzales. As an accordionist, she
worked with central Texas bands Turtle Creek, The Tolers, and The Spooky
Janes. Seeking interesting and inspiring spaces in which to bring the
mountain dulcimer forward, she produced a series of concerts at Laughing
At The Sun Fine Art Gallery in south Austin.
"I have so many music friends up in Dallas-Fort Worth, and I
was very frightened to leave them…"- notably, the Charli's Jam family,
with far-flung members including Slaid
Cleaves and Adam Carroll.
"But I met new friends in Austin and through HumbleTime! " Traveling
the state for her work in education, Jenni met players everywhere. She
became part of a community of songwriters all over Texas, those brilliant
ones who understand music as a shared art, an abundant well with a never-ending
divine spring to feed it.
Where does the inspiration for her songs come from? "I write for the
same reasons people have always written what become folk songs. I write
about people and situations that amuse me, confuse me, or piss me off.
Sometimes I make up people so that I can sing about humanity and the
times we live in. My songs are provoked by those moments of awareness
when I want to say to everybody I know 'Hey! Did you see that?' And
I'm a listener first, so I'm continuously inspired by the music happening
around me. I try to honor it by developing my own gifts and encouraging
ASCAP writer and publisher, and
now back in Dallas, Jenni no longer doubts her music. Now she relishes
each day with joy, thankful for every opportunity to write and play.
Her favorite venues are those which provide homes for the strong Dallas
jam players scene: The Sons of Herrmann Hall, Adairs, and Lakewood Bar and Grill.
Jennifer Mansfield Peal is presently living in Dallas with her husband, photographer Tom Peal. Together as Scatterbranch Music Publishing, Jenni and Tom are busy producing more and more of their art. The year 2004 sees the release of Jenni's first album of original songs in fourteen years: Flood.
The Scatterbranch catalogue also offers:
Albums: Big Wind, 1990; Pegasus Project Ascension, 1992. Both of these items are currently out of print.
Literature: Floodsongs, 2004
Other productions: Miss Jenni's Pioneer Play Party; Irish Song Lineage
in the American South. Also: "The Civil War Letters of the Brothers
Love" East Texas Historical Journal, Vol.38, No.1 (spring 2000).