For female musicians of a certain singer-songwriter type, the comparisons of their music to other female artists by journalists and reviewers are frequently both predictable and inevitable. But for an artist like Jesca Hoop, raised in Northern California and now living in Manchester, England, those comparisons are perhaps the least interesting facet of her wide-ranging folkish, bluesy style.



Yes, Hoop's music - as displayed on her most recent album Hunting My Dress, released earlier this year in the States - carries a shadow of pioneering musicians like Kate Bush or Joni Mitchell due to Hoop's eccentric vocal styling. But her brave embrace of a variety of musical genres takes her sound to a place that's refreshingly different from both her predecessors and other quirky contemporaries like Joanna Newsom or Bat for Lashes.



The result is an enchanting sound with a clearly queer appeal that any fan of fresh, emotive, expansive sounds should appreciate. In the midst of a North American tour opening for the Eels, Hoop, who was mentored early on by Tom Waits, spoke with EDGE about the difficulties of touring and sets the record straight on a few misconceptions about her.







Jesca Hoop

Happy with response?

EDGE: You're currently on tour opening for the Eels. How have the shows been going? Are you happy with the responses you're getting?



Jesca Hoop: It's been really good. It's hard work opening and being a supporting act, especially since they'd asked me to come out solo. I'm very aware of who's listening and who's at the bar, but it has been a mostly brilliant response.



EDGE: The label that distributed your first album, Kismet, ended up dropping you. Was there ever a time after that where you feared you wouldn't be able to do things like tour or release widely-available records again? How does it feel to be in that position once again?



JH: When I lost the label's support, I knew I could make another record, but I didn't know about touring. The United States is very big and to be able to tour it, you need to be able to have certain things come together and that's always a mystery, a very unsure road to travel. You're not sure what is coming your way even when you have a label. So I'm really happy that it all played out and I'm able to play here and support the new record.



EDGE: Was it difficult for you to move past that disappointment and continue creating new material during that unsure time?



JH: I didn't really need to get past it, it's just an old story, like one of the millions of babies that got drowned out in the bath water. I just figured out what I was going to do next and did it. I was actually not that disappointed when I was dropped. I had been disappointed that the label didn't support my first record in the way it deserved, but they gave it back to me and now I own all of my records, at least. With Hunting My Dress now, the material is licensed by Vanguard Records, but I still own it.



Deeply emotional element



EDGE: And the end result of that result - Hunting My Dress - is really beautiful and eclectic, though very emotional. What is it like playing the material today versus when you first created it? Have any of the songs' resonances changed for you?



JH: It depends on the way, the combination that I play them in. Different combinations obviously deliver a different result. If I play the songs all by myself, then it's more about the words and the story - the seed and characters of the song. However, when I play them with a full band, I enjoy that aspect of having the different elements present. Any viewer or listener can and have a character from the cast that attracts them.



EDGE: It seems that no musician these days is safe from being constantly compared to other performers, and there are certainly a handful of names that pop up again and again in your reviews and press. Are there any of those names that you take as badges of honor of a sort? Any comparisons that don't make sense to you?



JH: I think, with the musicians that people compare me to, I find that I'm not alone in these comparisons, in terms of any young woman who's making adventurous music in a songwriter mode. I don't take it personally in a positive or negative way. I think it's simply a knee-jerk reaction from the listener to try and find an association and a place where the music fits. I think of the women that people compare me to as a generation before me that are heroines to myself and my contemporaries. It's only natural that people compare myself and others who fit a similar vein to Kate Bush, Bjork or Joni Mitchell.



EDGE: The stakes are a bit different for women, aren't they? You played some shows with the Lilith Fair this summer. What are your thoughts on people who argue that the need for a women's-centric music festival have dissipated as more women gain Top 40 success, for example?



JH: It's a little bit strange to me, because there's no men's gathering is there? Women's participation music has grown exponentially in the last 10 or 15 years, and there's so many female songwriters it's kind of like the market is swamped in a way, which is not something you saw 15 years ago. But I just look at it like who cares? Why not put a bunch of female performers on the stage and let's all enjoy it, no problem. The people who say that are probably bored with some other moments in their life and they need something better to do with their time.



EDGE: There's a deeply emotional element to many of your songs - particularly one like the album opener "Whispering Light," about your mother who died of cancer. Is it difficult to conjure the emotions that inspired some of these songs before a live audience night after night?



JH: I find there's sometimes a fine line to balance between under- or overexposing yourself so that you, the audience, can get the song. If you go too far, you can end up crying, but not far enough and you don't quite deliver the message of the song. That's something I constantly have to practice.



EDGE: Does that make playing live difficult for you? How does it compare to the process of recording your music in the studio... do you have a preference between the two?



JH: I can't compare the processes because they are so different. It's a whole other art form and line of work and they fulfill completely different things. I absolutely love playing for a receptive audience, but then I also love the challenging process of having to go about arranging and recording a song.



EDGE: Finally, I know that myths sometimes have a way of simply being copied and pasted without being fact-checked these days in music journalism. Did you want to set the record straight about anything?



JH: That I was never a deadhead. I like the Grateful Dead, but I never was a deadhead.



Jesca Hoop plays with the Eels at the Metro in Chicago, 3730 N. Clark, Friday, Oct. 1, 2010. The tour continues through mid-October, with stops in Minneapolis, Denver, Portland OR, Seattle, San Francisco and ending at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles Oct. 12. Visit www.jescahoop.com for more information.