Hoop learned to sing at an early age, harmonising with her musical Mormon family in northern California. She began writing highly idiosyncratic songs at the age of 14 to keep her company on her long walks to school. At 16, Hoop broke away from her strict upbringing and began what she calls her 'life as a racoon', off the grid and close to nature. Rambling through the high mountain deserts of the Southwest and along the coastlines of the Northwest, she worked as a wilderness survival guide and chalked up skills in farming, surveying, and carpentry. Her songwriting continued throughout, shared on porches, in deep river canyons and around campfires.
In 2004 the desire to share these songs on a broader scale set in. She settled in Los Angeles, where she honed her songwriting craft and developed a reputation as a unique and beguiling live performer of real substance. Though she now resides in Manchester, England, Hoop returned to Los Angeles to record her third album, The House That Jack Built.
Jesca has quite the growing collection of fans in high places: Tom Waits described her music as being "like a four sided coin. She is an old soul, like a black pearl, a good witch or red moon. Her music is like going swimming in a lake at night". Peter Gabriel took her to South America to sing with him, and in recent years she has been hand picked to play as support on tour for Eels, Andrew Bird, Punch Brothers and Elbow: Elbow's Guy Garvey even had her do a stint as guest presenter on his BBC radio show in early 2012, to great reception.
The follow up to 2009's critically acclaimed Hunting My Dress, this new record displays a striking duality: light and dark, head and heart, it juxtaposes the macabre and visceral with a disarmingly candid intimacy. The resulting combination is powerfully evocative, with overarching themes of biology, nature and humanity - Hoop's stone-turning observations are mired in the equal beauty and violence of a nature that, for her, is clearly red in tooth and claw.
The House That Jack Built was an effort on my part to grow, expand, and reach new depths in my craft. It is a reflection of my ability to do that at the time. This is an ongoing process, of course. With "Jack" I had the help of three obscenely talented friends - Tony Berg, Shawn Everett and Blake Mills - who all shared the role of "Producer".
As a writer I tend from time to time to write quite personal songs. The House That Jack Built brings my courage in that arena to deeper breath. ‘DNR’ for instance... I had to contend with: "Is this too personal?" "No." I concluded that although coloured by the details of my personal experience, the messages at the core of the songs are shared universally. I felt it empowering to speak candidly and with compassion about my experience. "Tell it like it is".
It is hardly, however, "entries from my diary". There is much fun to be had venturing into the darkness of the human mind. 'Hospital (Win Your Love)' is a rather dark tale dipped in candy shell! I took delight in enjoying others work of genius as well. 'Peacemaker' for instance is derived from an ancient Greek comedy by the name of Lysistrata. It is a tale of the women of Ancient Greece who go on sex strike until their men put an end to war and hand over political power. Ha! Imagine that.
This is a tough love record and I, its benevolent mother, sister, lover, friend and queen. There is as much joy and revelation in it as there is harsh reality. This is what life is to me.
The album was recorded at Tony Berg’s studio in Los Angeles. Jesca describes the scene: “The tracking room at Zeitgeist is about 15' by 15'. There are about 30 guitars hanging on one wall and a whole array of folk instruments hanging on another. There is a drum kit and a piano and all sorts of percussion instruments. All of these items add to the acoustic quality of the room. More specifically there is a natural reverb produced by the sound bouncing around the guitars banjos drums etc. There are stacks of amplifiers and microphones to play with as well. You can arrive at Zeitgeist Studios empty handed and leave with a fully produced record.”
Producer Tony Berg describes the experience of working with Jesca: "Making an album with Jesca Hoop is like recording the national anthem of a country that doesn't exist yet. Everything is new…even when she is referencing music from eras past.
For every inventive use of digital technology there is the unexpected flavor of a 70-year-old tamburitza; for every invented sound a vocal sung through a megaphone. And in the process of blending traditional with the not-yet-explored, a new kind of music emerges.
We relied heavily on a U47, 1176LNs, my API console, and hundreds of vintage guitars, amps, and more esoteric instruments. But we relied just as heavily on Shawn Everett's fearless experimentation with distortion, compression, and…irreverence. That, coupled with Blake Mills' virtuosity and iconoclasm provided the right atmosphere as Ms. Hoop took us places we've never been."
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