A day spent digging through vintage treasures and gearing up to celebrate country music at the CCMAs.
by Emily Rosati Publishing date: Sep, 11, 2023
Stepping into the vibrant world of Jenna Walker, one half of the country sibling duo, The Reklaws, where vintage fashion takes center stage, I come to realize that her love affair with all things vintage is not just a style statement, but a window into her creative essence. It’s clear the moment that Jenna steps into the Public Butter vintage shop in Toronto that she was meant to perform and entertain. If there is one thing about her: she is wholly herself, in all her Jenna-isms—like wearing a dress right out of House of Vintage and proceeding to strut down the street—that makes her infectiously lovable. It’s this same influence that has landed The Reklaws a dedicated country fan base, sold-out shows, several JUNO nominations, and now, the honor of hosting this year’s Canadian Country Music Awards. In preparation for the event, we went along for the ride into Jenna’s world of vintage fashion in hopes of finding the perfect hosting outfit, of course. We spent the day vintage store hopping discussing her obsession with band tees and dreams of raiding Willie Nelson’s wardrobe, before sitting down over a coffee at Sam James, as she candidly shared insights on her career milestones, aspirations in the ever-evolving landscape of country music, and her excitement for the CCMAs.
What initially drew you to vintage shopping and how do you think it’s reflected in your personal style?
Jenna: What drew me in was the fact that you can’t find a second of anything. I’m always searching for something that stands out, that’s cool, that someone doesn’t have. We go through so many clothes and it’s important to give to secondhand stores too.
What’s your favorite vintage piece that you own?
Jenna: I have this Rolling Stones shirt that I paid $80 for, which is pretty high-end vintage but, I didn’t know how cool it was until I wore it to band practice and all of my bandmates were offering to pay anything for the shirt.
Are there any specific styles that you’re most drawn to?
Jenna: Band tees. For a long time, it almost bugged me how often I was wearing them. I’d get ready for a show and be like, “Band tee it is!” It was hard to get off of that. But now, I just look for cool logos that were maybe handmade or embroidered. Or like a softball team that someone’s created—that sort of thing is so cool to me.
What are your criteria for a good vintage find?
Jenna: The fit and the feel. If it feels like an old man has worn it for so long—that’s what I want.
What’s your unicorn vintage piece you’ve been searching for but haven’t found yet?
Jenna: I’ve been looking for chaps. Leather. Would love them to be white.
If you could raid the wardrobe of any historical country icon, who would it be and what vintage treasures would you be looking for?
Jenna: Woah, woah, woah. Willie Nelson. I think his t-shirt collection would be insane and his jeans would probably fit me and—actually, I’m not sure they would, let’s be real—they’d be so worn in and smell like weed.
Do you have a family heirloom or special piece that you found in a family member’s closet that means something to you?
Jenna: My mom had so many things. She would search for cashmere. She’d never buy it off the shelves and knew you could find it in a thrift store. Go look for cashmere.
Is there a fashion trend that you secretly, or not-so-secretly hope would make a comeback?
Jenna: I just hope high-waisted jeans never go out of fashion. You can wear the low-waisted jeans but when you bend over—you can only stand up straight! The ratio from crotch to button is impractical. It also depends on how long your asscrack is.
If you had to sum up your personal style in a few words, what would it be?
Jenna: You know the show Call Her Daddy? I’m Call Her Cowboy. That’s what I go for.
You’re hosting the CCMAs—a significant honor—How did you react when you found out and what does this mean to you?
Jenna: I was shocked by it. I mean, we’ve been going to the CCMAs as fans and then as artists, for my whole life. So, to be asked to host it is huge. I’ve always kind of known—I saw us as hosts. We love getting on stage in general. To be able to do it with my brother is even better. It’s going to be a lot of pressure but I think it’ll be fun.
You manifested it.
Jenna: I think I did.
The CCMAs bring together a very diverse group of artists and industry professionals. What are you most looking to when connecting with fellow musicians and celebrating Canadian country music?
Jenna: We didn’t end up going to the CCMAs last year and we missed it so much. We don’t get a moment to celebrate the people we work with, say congratulations, and hang out that often. I think Country music in general is a very big family. It’s so nice to see everyone. And see other industry professionals, like videographers and directors, get rewarded for their work.
Your music has amassed over 300M global streams and The Reklaws have multiple CCMA awards. What milestone stands out to you as particularly meaningful to you in your career?
Jenna: Being nominated for a JUNO is huge. I also remember getting The Rising Star Award at the CCMAs [in 2018]. That still sticks out in my head because the CCMAs were giving us a handshake. We felt like we were being recognized and it opened the floodgates to feeling like we could do it. And feeling like what we are doing is good and making sense. That one was huge. Every nomination, every award has been crazy… I don’t want to get used to it because I know how important it is and how honored we are. We especially saw that through COVID, there were no shows for so long and we realized we had taken it for granted. These moments are big and it’s the time to take it in.
Your recent single “Honky Tonkin’ About” featured Drake Milligan. Can you share the story of this collaboration and how it came about?
Jenna: Our management is so good at what they do. They hear songs and can see potential in them. We’d always been fans of Drake Milligan, never knowing if that could ever be a possibility. And then, it worked out. He was totally on board, he loved the song. He came in and we watched him record. The day we met him, he recorded it in the studio, sang it twice, and crushed it. We spent the whole day together. It was really organic and felt so right. We ended up shooting this crazy music video which is coming out soon in Romania.
Are there any artists within or out of the country genre that you dream of collaborating with?
Jenna: Stu and I always say this—we think doing a country collab with Post Malone would be amazing. We keep trying to manifest it. He’s country! He wears cowboy boots, he said he wants to do a country album, and he’s got barbed wire tattooed on his head. And he’s so nice and cool!
How do you balance staying true to traditional country roots while incorporating more modern elements into the music?
Jenna: Growing up in the country helps cement the fact that we love country music and are country. I don’t think a lot of people know that because we seem like city folk. We grew up right outside of Cambridge, Ontario. I think it’s what you wear too and how you carry yourself. Both Stu and I love to cross over country with an urbanized flair. We’ll put out a pop-leaning song and then a crazy country-leaning song. And our fans embrace all of it. As long as we stay true to our country roots, we can add in those pop elements.
The release of your live album ‘The Reklaws: Live At History’ really captured the energy of your show in Toronto. What was the most memorable moment of that show and how does it feel to share that with fans through an album?
Jenna: Ah, it was amazing. That show was terrifying because I thought we wouldn’t sell it and that nobody cared. I was panicked for months leading up to that. Our management assured us that it’s going and happening. To sell that out and see that room full of people singing our songs was absolutely mindblowing and something we didn’t expect. It got so quiet after the pandemic we thought nobody was there. But they were all there and all still listening. It was such a reminder of how amazing our fans are. I’m so proud of it because I can show my grandkids that one day. You know when your mom or dad tell you things and you’re like, “Yeah right, you didn’t do that.” I know my kids will say the same but I have something to show them.
Between releasing new music, sharing a live album, and hosting the CCMAs, it’s quite a busy time for you, I imagine. What’s the key to maintaining a balance between creative endeavors and the demands of the music industry?
Jenna: It’s crazy. It’s very difficult. You get into it and wonder when the tour bus is pulling up and thinking you’re going to be writing songs and have this dream life, but it is a business. You realize you need to know kind of everything to have control of what’s happening. At first, it was overwhelming. But it’s exciting! You own your own business and you’re also the product. Which can be hard at times, wearing so many hats. In the summer, when we play festivals, I’m this singer and traveler. The fall comes, and I’m this songwriter who stays inside.
Do you need downtime to live a little after the summer?
Jenna: I definitely need to live a little, I can’t rush into the writing process. I think Stuart can, more than I can. A huge influence for us is our fans and live shows. You get to see what they like and react to. At the end of the day, that’s who you’re writing for, and want people in the crowd to have a good time.
Reflecting on your own musical journey and accomplishments, how do you hope to inspire the next generation of country artists?
Jenna: I’ve always related my success in music to being with my brother. I’m slowly starting to see our own paths and how we’re our own people. That’s more important to me now. I’ve written a bunch of girl-songs. I want to do a lot with them. I’d go to a song write [session] and be so nervous but know I have to do this for women. That’s why I want to do it. Because I know how hard it is in this industry. I feel like as soon as you have a baby in this industry, you’re looked at differently, and that’s my greatest fear, but I know I want to be a mom. I want my music to be heard and that’s who I want to be as an artist. That’s the example I want to set. Now so, it’s less about me and more about showing people they can do it.
What do you hope for the future of country music?
Jenna: I hope to hear more women in general. I know a lot of people say that but it’s true. I want to hear songs that are powerful and less heartbreaky. Fun, powerful songs. The more inclusive, the better. Country music needs to sit down and shut up and also stand up, it’s a mix of both. We’re all learning but music is becoming so one-thing which is amazing. It’s hard to put a genre or label on things and I think that’s good. Country music is country music but we see cross-over in the collaborations and I want to see more of that.