Interview: Jesca Hoop
You won’t find a better or more elegiac description of Jesca Hoop’s music than the one given by the legendary Tom Waits: “She is an old soul, like a black pearl, a good witch or a red moon,” he remarked, in a single sentence evocatively summing Jesca’s achingly sensual brand of bewitching folk, which strikes a perfect balance between the tattered, age-old pulpit blues of her childhood, and the contemporary pop of her present, interwoven with the kind of dream-like, lush imagery that’d have Joanna Newsom quaking in her fringed moccasins.
Fresh from a UK Tour with Andrew Bird, Jesca Hoop is promoting her debut proper ‘Hunting My Dress’ in the UK now – check out her myspace HERE
Hello Jesca! How are you today?
I’m alright, thanks!
You’ve been touring around the UK this December– how have they been treating you so far? What’s been your favourite venue?
It’s all good for me on this side of the pond. Gosh, the venues really blur together… I’m really fond of the union chapel in London.
You’ve also been doing the European support slot for the fantastic Andrew Bird – your version of ‘Oh Sister’ is really lovely. How has touring with Andrew been for you? Have you a particular favourite touring moment?
My favourite Andrew Bird tour moment was spending hours in a Belgian spa in Gent
Do you find that your songs make the translation to live versions well?
Yes in fact I am very excited about playing these shows with my UK band.
I’ve seen a couple of pictures of you using some unusual instruments live –including this really interesting-looking box with bellows. I’ve looked it up, and I think it’s called a Sruti Box. How did you begin playing the Sruti Box?
I learned about the sruti box from a Buddhist friend of mine. It’s the easiest instrument on earth to play!
Your fantastic debut ‘Hunting My Dress’ is out now. How do you feel it differs from your 2007 release ‘Kismet’? Do you feel your musical style has developed since ‘Kismet’?
Kismet was produced by three producers – there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen! Hunting my dress while – still produced by Tony Berg and I – is more of a singular vision. I had gained experience from making kismet and I applied what I had learned to hunting my dress. ‘Less is more’ was my motto and I put the vocal and its story first.
Do you have a favourite from ‘Hunting My Dress’, or a track that you’re particularly proud of?
I really enjoy them all naturally but I am most proud of ‘Whispering light’, ‘Tulip’ and ‘The Kingdom’.
I love the imagery in your lyrics – especially in ‘Intelligentactile 101’ –the bit where you sing about borrowing someone’s bones and skin is so beautiful. How do you go about writing your lyrics? What comes first for you – the music or the lyrics?
They often times come together – words shape melodies and vice versa.
You’ve also done a version of your track ‘Murder of Birds’ with Guy Garvey of Elbow – how did you meet Guy and how did the collaboration come about?
I met Guy over the phone when he called me to do a phone interview for his Radio 6. I had missed his call twice. When he reached me finally on the third try I was in the bath. I did the interview whilst bathing!
You’ve had such an unusual upbringing – you were brought up Mormon and were pretty much cut off from most popular culture from a young age. What effect do you think that’s had on your music – do you think it’s made it purer in a way, more like traditional folk music?
I am still discovering music today….stuff that was wildly popular when I was growing up (unbeknownst to me). This element is enjoyable…I still have fresh ears. I’m not sure how it has affected my writing to be honest.
I try my best to sing from my original voice, the one that is uniquely mine.
How did you get into music when you were growing up – was there a particular experience or influence which kick-started your musical development?
My family. We sang together. We were our own choir – five kids and two parents singing in four-part harmonies – charming! Meeting my first true friend, Julie, at the age of 15, who introduced me to all sorts of music I had never heard of and blew my mind open!
You’ve had some unusual experiences in your life – you’ve been Tom Wait’s babysitter, you’ve volunteered at a rehabilitation centre for troubled kids (very nice of you!) and you’ve worked as a farmer and a surveyor. How did you finally settle on music as what you wanted to do with your life?
After months of being up in the mountains I realised that I was missing the stage. I had to find my way back to it. I was quite the rambler but I wanted to travel with a more substantial purpose….music is that purpose for me now.
Hard question: What are your top three albums of the decade and why?
Bon Iver – ‘For Emma’ because he came out with something gorgeous and truly genuine.
Elbow – ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ because I had life changing experiences touring with them on that record and that record for me holds memories of some of the best moments of my life.
M.I.A – ‘Kala’ – She is the most original female I have heard since Bjork
What are you planning to do over the festive season?
Any exciting things planned for 2010?
Tours, writing. A trip to India. Releasing ‘Hunting My Dress’ in the states, Europe etc…lots of travel…buying a water treatment plant…