Jenny Vaughn: Finding Rhythm and Balance in Life

“Music is a distraction for me. It’s like a therapy session. It’s my time to express my art and my emotions and what I am feeling, to connect to the community, but it’s not my calling!”

For nearly a decade and a half, Jenny Vaughn has been a staple on the Wilmington music scene. At her peak, she was performing up to 40 gigs a month. Things have drastically slowed down since those hectic days, but armed with her acoustic guitar and a catalog of several hundred cover songs, you can still find her regularly performing around the Cape Fear region. She likes to play background – not back up – but background, where her voice becomes just part of the scenery of some local restaurant.

Diners know, of course, that someone is in the corner performing, but for the most part, they’re not paying much attention to Jenny – choosing instead to focus on their friends and their own conversations. Until they hear it, a unique style or technique that the 29-year-old uses to punch one of the lyrics – it’s almost like a growl where the words are sung from the back of her throat – and for a second, the heads turn, the talking stops, and folks search in amazement for what just produced that sound.


That exact scene just played out the very first time I saw Jenny perform several months ago at Henry’s Restaurant in Wilmington’s midtown area. When I walked in the door, Jenny was covering Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Heads, mine included, snapped when she growled the word “begging.”

“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene

   I’m BEGGGINGGGGG of you please don’t take my man”

“I think I stole that from Jason Mraz. He is one of my biggest inspirations. I remember hearing him growl in his songs when I was much younger, and I was like ‘What was that?’ So, you start picking that up. And then I heard it in other artists, like Janis Joplin, she growls, too. So, you start by mimicking the greats, but in time it has to become your own.”

Once the patrons discover that the grunt, the rumbling howl they just heard was produced by the petite blonde sitting on a stool in a corner, they look startled and impressed for a moment, but only for a moment. In a split second, they turn their heads back to their table and conversations, and Jenny – once again – exists only in the background. But that’s exactly how she wants it.


The Pursuit of Balance

The Wilmington music scene is filled with dreamers. Whether performing solo or with a group of friends, whether singing original tunes or covering well-known hits, most of the local artists believe, or at least hope, that what they are doing today, the venues they are playing, are just the beginning of something that will become so much bigger.

Jenny is one of the few exceptions.

“I never wanted to pursue music as a career because when you do, it starts to feel like a job with all the stresses and concerns of any profession, and then it’s no longer freeing. It’s no longer a release.”

The folks at Henry’s, or anyone who has seen her perform at other venues around the area, probably don’t realize that the gig is just the ending of what has already been a very long day.  Every morning Jenny forces herself out of bed at 5:30am – when the world is still dark, the house is still quiet, and the husband and 21-month-old son are still asleep.

This is her time to get centered, to replenish herself and fill up the tank before the rest of the world starts tapping into her resources. A typical day will start off with prayer and meditating on scripture. She believes that starting her day off with a reminder that she’s loved, loved by something far bigger than herself, allows her to spend the rest of the day as a prism – where God’s love simply bounces off her and reflects onto her husband, her son, and anyone she should come into connect with that day – including her patients.

“I am very strict on routine. I have to get myself in a place where I feel good about myself, so I can turn around and help other people. If I don’t stick to the routine, then everything gets out of control.”

After everyone’s lunch is packed, after she kisses the family goodbye, she sets off for her office. Jenny works as a trauma psychotherapist specializing in treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder. She is certified as an EMDR therapist – a method of treatment that involves a patient moving their eyes a specific way while they process traumatic memories. EMDR’s goal is to help you heal from trauma or other distressing life experiences. It’s a relatively newer approach, but clinical trials show this technique is effective and can help a person faster than many other methods.

“I always knew I wanted to be a therapist. I did seven and a half years of college getting my undergrad and then my master’s. This is where I am really making a difference.”

To the outside world, it would appear that Jenny has it all; the family, the career, the passion project of music. Doesn’t it  seem like she’s checked all the major boxes. But she’d be the first to tell you that it’s not about having it all… it’s about finding the perfect rythm.

“I don’t want it all because when you have it all, you don’t need to lean on faith. Even those people who think they have it all don’t have it all because they always need more to keep them satisfied. I think the key to my life is being very minimal – I am a minimalist. I feel like I need to be capped and restricted. If I can focus on being a wife and being a mother, that’s where I want to have it all. I love being a therapist. I love singing, but I could give all of that up tomorrow.”

The Future

And sometime soon, she will be giving it up.

“I am not good at being pregnant. I am not good at being sick. Pregnant women on television always have some glow. I don’t have the glow. I’d really like the glow because this has been a really hard pregnancy.”

Jenny and her husband Billy are expecting their second child — another little boy who is scheduled to enter the world sometime in May. Around that same time, she will be closing down her practice in the midtown area, and treating patients from her house under a new business name Vaughn Acres Counseling

She’ll tell you the first half of the pregnancy has been downright ugly – with a lot of morning sickness. But these days, she is now finally feeling like herself – feeling good enough to take her spot in the corner of Henry’s, where she still growls out a lyric or two, where the heads still turn and look in amazement and then snap back to their own conversations.

She knows that with the arrival of another child, gigs like this one will soon become fewer and farther between. Yes, music and performing will always be a part of her life; it is her outlet and way to express herself, but sometimes priorities change.

“Right now, I am supposed to focus on being a mom. So music will be cut back a lot, maybe two gigs a month, but you know what? I am okay with that.”

Jenny’s okay with it because in her role of motherhood, she gets to step out from the background and take the center spot on the stage she was always meant to occupy. Tonight, instead of performing to crowds of people who aren’t completely listening, she will get to sing her toddler to sleep. He really is a fan of the standards; “Mary had a Little Lamb,” “You are my Sunshine,” “The Hokey Pokey.”

Jenny Vaughn, by her own accords, does not have it all. She doesn’t want it all either. For now, she has balance and rhythm in life and for her- for anyone really- that’s more than enough.

Fun Facts

  • Jenny is native to the region, graduating from North Brunswick High in 2012
  • She was once made it to the regional finals in Kansas City for American Idol, where she performed in front of judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick JR and Keith Urban.
  • Jenny has written and recorded six original songs. She hopes one day to finish the post production and realease them locally as a gift to Wilmington


Scroll to Top