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Jennifer Grimm: Juggling Nightclub Singing, Booking, and Motherhood

Don’t contact Jennifer Grimm, a talented vocalist from the Twin Cities, who serves as the music director for Crooners nightclub and is a mother of four, via phone. It’s more efficient to reach out through text or email as she is often pressed for time and unable to engage in lengthy phone conversations.

Since the beginning of January 2023, Grimm has been in charge of booking musical acts for the four stages at Crooners in Fridley. Apart from her responsibilities at the nightclub, she is a versatile performer, actor, and voice-over artist who began her musical journey at a young age performing with her family’s band. Grimm, who frequently shares the stage with her husband, guitarist Joe Cruz, juggles her performances (averaging three nights per week) with managing her household and looking after her three children, ranging from 5 to 17 years old. Additionally, she chauffeurs out-of-town performers such as Linda Purl and Bobby Lyle to their accommodations after their shows at Crooners.

The day following her impressive performances in a Judy Garland tribute and a homage to a theater director, Grimm graciously spared time for a rare hour-long telephone interview. Here are some highlights from the conversation:

Q: In what ways has your role at Crooners differed from your initial expectations?

A: Managing the venue has provided me with a fresh perspective, allowing me to empathize with both the artists’ and the venue’s needs. Acting as a mediator and advocate simultaneously has been enlightening. Unexpectedly, some individuals prefer phone calls or face-to-face meetings, which can strain my voice. Hence, digital communication is my preferred mode, especially when preparing for my own performances.

Q: Were you prepared for the late-night drives to drop off artists at their hotels?

A: While I didn’t anticipate this aspect, I find it rewarding as it fosters a more relaxed connection with the artists. It’s a delightful perk of the job.

Q: Could you elaborate on your experience in the business aspects of the music industry?

A: My background primarily revolves around being an artist. I’ve independently managed my music career, handling tasks such as album production, financial matters, contract negotiations, and tour planning. This experience has equipped me with insights into artist management. Although I lacked knowledge in running a club, the presence of an operations director at Crooners has allowed me to focus on the artistic and musical aspects, rather than administrative details.

Q: What do you find most challenging about your role at Crooners?

A: With four stages and over 700 acts to book annually, the most challenging aspect is managing artist expectations and ensuring timely responses to inquiries.

Q: How has the booking strategy evolved under your leadership?

A: With a background in mathematics, I strive to communicate numerical data effectively. As we navigate post-pandemic recovery and the recent closure of KJ’s Hideaway, I prioritize the venue’s sustainability. Our booking approach is an ever-evolving mathematical equation aimed at revitalizing the music scene.

Q: Can you discuss some of the new programs you’ve introduced?

A: Thanks to the owner’s support, I’ve had the freedom to innovate and curate new shows and partnerships. Initiatives like the Minneapolis JCC collaboration featuring Jewish artists and the Crooners Classics series cater to diverse audiences. Additionally, the Up Front Series showcases talented sidemen in solo performances, providing a platform for their artistry. Future plans include the Crooners Studio, a professional development series focusing on various aspects of the music industry.

Q: You’re known for your versatility as a singer. How extensive is your repertoire?

A: Laughs It’s hard to quantify, given my diverse musical background. From performing with my family in various genres to collaborations in soul, jazz, and gospel music, my repertoire is vast. However, I do have a blind spot when it comes to songs played on KQ92.

Q: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from your extensive touring experience?

A: Traveling extensively from a young age has taught me that despite our differences, we all share common emotions and desires. This realization has shaped my approach to life, leading with love, curiosity, and a sense of acceptance towards others.

Q: How do you manage the multitude of responsibilities in your life?

A: Balancing various roles is indeed a daunting task. Domestic chores are either outsourced or shared with my supportive husband, Joe Cruz. My days are a blend of structure and spontaneity, given the round-the-clock nature of managing Crooners. Despite the challenges, I find joy in the journey, embracing each moment to the fullest.