She was born in Poitiers, Vienne, France to Catholic theater-director parents. Describing them, she said they, “were keen to impress the importance of academic study on her and her sister[…]”. She had her first music instructors, a pair of jazz musicians, to learn piano and sing at the age of around 8, Chet Baker‘s songs in English. Her theatrical and musical career started in an early age by playing the title role in Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt and performing her first piano recital at 10. She was trained in dramatic arts at the conservatoire de Poitiers.
In late 2006, she moved to London with fellow John & Jehn member, Nicolas Congé (aka Johnny Hostile) to pursue their career as a duo.
John and Jehn
Main article: John & Jehn
Beth met fellow musician Nicolas Congé and formed John & Jehn in France in 2006. They released two albums including their self-titled debut album which received favorable reviews. The band also includes Savages’ founding member Gemma Thompson on keyboards and guitar.
Main article: Savages (band)
Originally formed in 2011 by Thompson and bassist Ayse Hassan, Beth becoming the vocalist of the band after Hostile turned down Thompson’s request to front the band. The band gained commercial success when their debut album, Silence Yourself, which peaked at number 19 on the UK albums chart. Adore Life was released in 2016. Both albums were nominated for the Mercury Prize, in 2013 and 2016 respectively.
In 2015, Beth took part of the “David Bowie Is …” exhibition by performing live some of Bowie’s hits, including “Space Oddity” and “The Man Who Sold the World“. On 27 June 2016, Beth performed live solo to open for PJ Harvey at the Eden Project in Cornwall, England.
In June 2020, Beth released To Love Is to Live, her first solo album – or “personal” album as she refers to it. It featured collaborations with singer Joe Talbot of Idles, arranger and producer Atticus Ross (a frequent collaborator of Trent Reznor), and singer Romy Croft of the xx. Croft recorded backing vocals on the song “We Will Sin Together” which was promoted as a single. The album was widely acclaimed by critics. Videos were shot to promote the singles “I’m the Man”, “Flower”, “Heroine”, and “We Will Sin Together”. Beth’s YouTube channel also includes a concert performed at the BBC Radio 6 Music Festival in London, at the Roundhouse prior to the release of the album.
In 2015, Danish electronic music producer and multi-instrumentalist Trentemøller released the album Fixion, including “River in Me” and “Complicated” with Beth on vocals. Trentemøller has described Beth’s voice as “intense and unique”. In 2015, Beth and the Strokes front man Julian Casablancas recorded a duet and released the single “Boy/Girl” (which was a cover version of Sort Sol and Lydia Lunch). In 2016, she duetted with Primal Scream for a live performance of “Some Velvet Morning” at the Bristol’s Downs festival. That year, she recorded vocals for “We Are Dreamers” on Tindersticks‘s album The Waiting Room. On 13 March, Beth joined the xx onstage to perform “Infinity” together at O2 Academy Brixton, London. On 23 March, Beth was announced to be the featured artist for “We Got the Power“, Gorillaz‘s second single from album Humanz. The song also included former Oasis member Noel Gallagher in backing vocals. On 5 May 2017, they performed the song live on The Graham Norton Show.
Beth and Hostile wrote the score for the documentary film XY Chelsea in 2019. The 23 songs were released under the banner of “XY Chelsea -original soundtrack composed and performed by Johnny Hostile and Jehnny Beth”, on double LP vinyl on the website of their label Pop Noire. “Let it Out” was the single featuring Beth on vocals released ahead of the album. In 2020, Beth recorded vocals on the song “Ne Touche pas Moi” for Idles on their album Ultra Mono.
Beth played the lead role in the 2005 French mystery film Through the Forest directed by Jean-Paul Civeyrac. She also played a role as Mary–Jane in a 2009 horror French film Sodium Babies. In 2018 she played a role in the film An Impossible Love by director Catherine Corsini: Beth then received a nomination for the “Best Female Newcomer” at the 2019 Cesar Awards which is the national film award of France.
She published a book titled C.A.L.M: 12 erotic short stories with Johnny Hostile in June 2000. The book included film noir stories written by Beth with photographies taken by Hostile. It was presented as a “manifesto in the form of erotic photography, monologues and dialogues, Johnny Hostile’s stimulating photography punctuates Jehnny Beth’s seductive prose”. The full collection of Hostile’s photography is featured in a limited-edition hard cover art book title C.A.L.M: Crimes Against Love Memories. A fanzine with a different content, also titled Calm, was also issued.
Radio host and TV host
She ran her own Beats 1 radio programme, Start Making Sense, which premiered on 12 April 2016. In 2020, Beth also started to present a 60 minute TV show on European channel Arte, titled Echoes with Jehnny Beth, featuring discussions with musicians and live performances of bands: all the episodes of Echoes with Jehnny Beth are available on YouTube worldwide.
In 2011, she founded the record label “Pop Noire” with Johnny Hostile and artist director Antoine Carlier. Their label, based in Paris, features several French and International acts on their roster.
Beth has been in a relationship with Johnny Hostile since 2006. She is bisexual, stating that “I’ve been a bisexual since a very young age.”
John & Jehn
- John & Jehn (2008)
- Time for the Devil (2010)
- To Love Is to Live (2020)
- Through the Forest (2005)
- Sodium Babies (2009)
- An Impossible Love (2018)
- Kaamelott – Premier Volet (2020)
- Paris, 13th District (2021)