Tess Henley looking forward to her ASCAP performances at Sundance
January 23, 2015
The ASCAP Music Cafe at the Sundance Film Festival will continue this weekend with an array of performances including two by Tess Henley on Sunday and Monday.
Henley, who specializes in rhythm and blues and soul, is looking forward to her performances.
"I’m really honored because I know it’s a big thing and they are very selective and there are a lot of artists with ASCAP," Henley said during a call from Los Angeles. "I’m excited to be a part of it. I’ve never been to Sundance before, so I think it will be a lot of fun."
Henley developed a love for soul music through her family.
"I grew up listening to what my parents did," she said. "My mom was in a band and my dad listened to a lot of music. They all had their favorite piece. My dad was more into rock and jazz and funk. And my mom loves soul and Motown.
"So between the two of them, I listened to a wide range of music, and it wasn’t necessarily the stuff on the radio," Henley said. "My brother and sister and I took classical piano, so it was part of our lives."
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The piano was never forced on the Henley kids, but their mother encouraged them to play.
"She just wanted us to have a friend with the piano," Henley said.
As Henley began to develop as a singer, her mom urged her to write original songs.
" that time I was into artists like India Arie, Brian McKnight and many piano players like Stevie Wonder and Carole King," Henley said. "I did listen to the radio at times and heard the Backstreet Boys, but what I wanted to do was be a good songwriter."
During that time, the budding songwriter entered a string of competitions.
"I recorded my first song when I was a senior in high school and recorded my first album when I was a sophomore in college," Henley said. "At that time I was playing a lot of gigs and after I graduated from the University of Washington, I really decided to focus on music. I could fully throw everything into that.
"I got very creative and tried to figure out how to make it financially," she said. "It was such a learning experience and entering contests was a way to make something happen."
The competition route proved beneficial. In March 2014, producer Don Was selected Henley as the Guitar Center Singer-Songwriter III grand prize winner, making her the first female to win in the competition’s history.
Henley received $25,000, a bunch of music gear, and an opportunity to record an extended play CD with Was.
"That was a game changer," Henley said. "Even being a finalist, I received a lot of gear, but on top of that, I was able to record with Don Was."
She said the session was an amazing experience.
"I will always remember it as one of my favorite experience," she said. "Everyone had a lot of fun and no one ever got tired being there.
"The musicians [Don] brought in were so good," Henley said. "I was shocked that I was working with them and him."
Even now, Guitar Center has been by Henley’s side and was instrumental in getting her a spot on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" earlier this week.
"They have been so supportive, even outside of the contest," she said. "They have come to my shows and were actually the ones who made the Jimmy Kimmel performance happen."
While Henley is the center of the perfect hurricane, she is looking towards the future.
"I would like to keep moving forward," she said. "I just received my first national-tour dates. It will start in March and I’m really excited about that. It would be awesome if I could tour the rest of the year.
"In the meanwhile, I want to continue to grow and write as a musician and do what I love," Henley said. "I hope I can keep it going."
Tess Henley will perform at the ASCAP Music Cafe at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, Jan. 25, at 2:40 p.m. and on Monday, Jan. 26, at 4 p.m. Admission is free to Sundance Film Festival credential holders as space permit. For more information, visit http://www.sundance.org . For more information about Tess Henley, visit tesshenley.com .
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