As a young girl, Jen Sygit often found it difficult to fall asleep. “Jennifer, why are you not going to sleep?’ her dad would ask. “I couldn’t sleep because of the songs in my head,” Sygit said.
Decades later, some of those songs trapped in her head have been recorded on her fourth album, “It’s About Time.” She has a Ten Pound Fiddle concert Friday, which will feature the album in its entirety with the same musicians from the recording.
“I wrote my first songs in elementary school when I was as young as maybe 4 or 5,” Sygit said. Growing up in Maryville, Michigan, near Port Huron, she used a cheap, unwieldy organ in the basement to “write really bad songs.”
While acoustic guitar is her primary instrument, Sygit plays keyboards, banjo, a dobro and — sometimes — electric guitar. “I’m self-taught on everything.”
“I can do a lot of genres,” she said. “I’ve been called a vocal chameleon. I have the ability to sound like a lot of different things, depending on what hat I’m wearing.”
Sygit has performed in 16 states and done extensive studio work and back-up singing. The completion of her new album has already spawned upcoming gigs in New Orleans, Arizona, and a tour from Ohio to New York. “Maybe in Europe in April,” Sygit said.
Her many Greater Lansing fans know her for appearances at local bars. “It’s easier to name places I haven’t played,” Sygit said. The Green Door, Lansing Brewing Co., Mac’s, The Avenue Café, Crunchie’s, Zoobies and Waterfront are some of the joints she has performed at.
Every Wednesday night, Sygit hosts Moriarty’s open mic night. The first Thursday of every month, she performs there with the Lincoln County Process. For over five years, the trio of Sygit, Sam Corbin and Geoff Ian Lewis have had that slot at Moriarty’s. “I live really close to Mort’s,” Sygit confessed. “They are like family to me.”
Lewis is also the percussionist for “It’s About Time.” She calls him “my sweetheart.”
“We started dating eight years ago, “ she said. “He’s a talented fella and I’m not being partial. It’s pretty generally recognized he’s a talented drummer.”
For the seventh year, she hosts the “Eclecticana” music program on WLNZ 89.7 FM. Sygit calls its pop, soul, and Americana mix, “kind of a variety pack.” It airs on Fridays from 1-3 pm and repeats on Saturdays from 3-5 pm. The program has been offered syndication at a Chicago station.
After two years at St. Clair Community College, she transferred as a junior to Michigan State University in 1999. Sygit graduated with an English major in 2002. “I like to think it helped with my songwriting, not just with my ‘Jeopardy’ skills,” she said.
Recording songs and playing music is Sygit’s sole occupation. Her last regular job was at Elderly Instruments over a decade ago. “I’ve been living off my music for 11 years,” the 39 year-old said. Her parents have mixed feelings about her choice of careers.
“They’re very, very proud, but I think they also wish I had more stability, “ Sygit said. “They waffle back and forth between being super proud and being like, ‘I wish you had a more stable career and a 401 K,’ ” she said. “They’re conservative and I’m the farthest thing from it.”
Her first album, “Here to There,” sold its entire 1,000-unit printing. “Marshall Street” followed and sold out after two 1,000-unit printings. “Pollyanna” sold about 1,500 copies. It won several radio awards and won “Best Country Song” for “Sugar High” at the Garden State Film Festival in 2014.
“My last record did really well and put the fear in me that I might not be able to surpass it,” Sygit said. “I was releasing an album every three years, and now it’s been nine years since my last solo record.”
“It’s About Time” producer, Dominic John Davis — a Detroit native who is a sought-after Nashville session player and current bassist for Jack White — offered support. “He gave me room to grow,” Sygit said, The concert at the MSU Community Music School will be the first chance to get physical copies of the new album. All its songs will be played, “from beginning to end,” Sygit promised. “It might be your only chance to hear some of them live.”
Jen Sygit Album
Release $20 Public, $18 Fiddle Members, $5 Students Friday, Oct. 12, 7:30 p.m. MSU Community Music School 4930 S. Hagadorn, East Lansing www.jensygit.com