Although she may be a Seattle girl, Tess Henley she has quite a fondness for the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.
“I love Philly. I really mean that. I really do love it and just the whole vibe. It has a cool vibe. It has its own vibe… It has it’s grit and grime to it, but I love that, and it has the culture and the history, too… and the food…”
The reason R&B/soul “diva” (You know what? I’m not sure I like that word. She is actually far too warm and friendly for such a characterization.) has so much to say about the 215 is that she recorded her upcoming LP, High Heels & Sneakers (which drops next Tuesday, May 7th), right in Northern Liberties, with producer Dice Raw of The Roots. Although she’s currently back in Seattle, she tells me her goal is to spend the majority of the year on the road, supporting the release, so there’s a good chance she’ll be back here in the near future, performing her latest sounds.
Tess Henley grew up in a very musical family (a professional singer for a mother and record nerd for a father) and was encouraged to explore her knack for singing and melodies from a very young age. Her first few releases, which Henley handled more-or-less all on her lonesome, have received quite a bit of critical praise, but it is her collaboration with Dice Raw which pushed her to her current musicality and mindset. Of how her sounds have changed, she explains to me, “It’s definitely a different sound this time around. It’s pretty organic, all live instrumentation, right down to the percussion. It’s more raw than my first two albums.” She also tells me that the songs are largely inspired by her fondest youthful memories: “Musically, it’s a mix of the old soul and Motown I grew up listening to and the neo-soul and R&B I grew up listening to.” However, in terms of content, Henley tells me it reflects her more recent personal life: “It has a mix of fun, upbeat songs and spotlight, emotional songs. It’s a very personal album. A lot of songs are about my experiences.”
The album’s title (and much of its sentiments) was inspired by (and analogous to) Henley’s own, personal fashion sense. As High Heels & Sneakers would seem to imply, she likes to blend the elegantly chic with a fashionably fun, “street” sensibility. However, despite having such a notable sense of style, Henley tells me that she doesn’t have any formal background (or even understanding of “fashion”): “I’ve always liked fashion and design. I like color and I like shoes and I like jewelry, but I’m not really into fashion. I don’t really read about fashion or anything, I just wear what I like.”