Learning New Things with Jessica Hernandez
North Avenue’s bus number seventy-two bumps along through the raging blizzard of 2010. The grateful faces of the patrons seem to glow with preternatural energy as they collapse onto fiberglass seats to escape the icy wind. I clutch a steaming cup of coffee and shiver. I cannot believe that I have left the house to see a rock show. I must be insane.
Across from me sits a very old man with a Borders Bookstore shopping bag. He has also chosen to brave the cold in search of entertainment. I squint through the plastic to see his selection. Books tell a lot about a person. Where are they going? Where have they been? Not to mention the fact that this particular book was important enough to coax him out of his cozy apartment in a snowstorm much the same as the pursuit of music has done for me.
Jessica Hernandez plays the Double Door tonight and I am going there even if it’s terribly difficult and terribly cold and I am wearing canvas shoes.
Hailing from Detroit, Hernandez took her own time finding a musical niche. “I had never even picked up an instrument until two years ago, which is really crazy,” she says from the comfort of the club’s balcony stairs. “I’ve always sang and I tried singing for bands for a long time and I got really frustrated with not being able to write the actual music to it and only being able to write the vocal melodies and lyrics.”
The songs she has posted on MySpace are quirky numbers that show off a vocal maturity well beyond her years. Unique, yet familiar, the tracks are “singer-songwritery” with a torchy twang reminiscent of Neko Case at her best, though, Hernandez has a difficult time articulating her own music and its place in the genre-phobic wasteland of post-rock. “It has a lot of folk influence and there’s also some…” she trails off, unsure as to just the right word to describe that thing she does when she picks up a guitar or pounds out songs on a keyboard. “Vocally it’s very bluesy. Soul. Random bits of reggae sounds. Very acoustic.”
Setting out as a solo artist after performing in other successful bands has been a bit of a challenge but one she has met with enthusiasm. “This is the first time I’ve done everything completely on my own,” she explains. “So it’s a different experience when you’re writing the songs and you have other people coming into it. I have musicians that I’m teaching the songs to and they’re learning the parts.”
Learning is good.
I consider the old man from the bus and the book that he purchased tonight. How to Draw. The beauty of creation is something that we all have inside our hearts and it’s never to late to learn new ways to express it. Listen. Watch. Create. Share.
Wishing you and yours a creative and wonderful 2010.