by Emily Savage
Like Mother Like . . .
Ventura County-raised singer-songwriter Jade Hendrix’s soulful voice is a trait passed down to her by her mother, Sharon, a longtime backup singer for acts like Tom Jones and Barry Manilow. “Music has always been the family trade,” says Hendrix from her home off Seaward Avenue in Ventura. “I grew up watching [my mom] backstage and in the industry. I think it would have been weird for me to have been, like, a doctor or a lawyer.” Yet, while she was raised in the magical mountains of earthly Ojai surrounded by entertaining and talented singers, she was initially the wallflower of the bunch. Picture this: As the shy middle child, she’d be sitting quietly in the backseat of the car while her mother, sisters and brother would all be singing at the top of their lungs through town. She wrote her first song at 14 but it wasn’t until Columbia College and University of Nevada, Las Vegas, that she got into local open-mic scenes, which is when her mother and her mother’s producer boyfriend Dan Voss came to a show and gave her the gentle nudging she needed to record her first album, 2009’s Carry Me Away.
Farewell to Emerald City
Now Hendrix has just released her newest musical offering: Farewell to Emerald City. The title of Hendrix’s brand-new EP, released June 24, is derived from the combination of two tracks off the record, an idea inspired by late folk singer Laura Nyro. “She’s sort of an unsung hero,” Hendrix says. The tracks that form the title are “Farewell” and another called “Bedtime Stories.” In the latter Hendrix describes the stories many of us were read as kids, such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, hence “Emerald City.” Hendrix has said that the record is a journey toward self-love, understanding and growing up. “I think that’s sort of what your 20s are about,” Hendrix, 28, adds. “And it’s not easy.”
Big Yellow Taxi and Country Road
Hendrix’s sound is inspired by the singer-songwriter scene of the ’60s and ’70s, which is evident in her folky, lyrical pop. Along with more modern singers like Adele, Esperanza Spalding and Norah Jones, she’s long looked up to Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Carole King. “What I loved about them — besides their brilliant voices — is that the lyrics came first, and the story was what mattered most. And that’s the same rule I try to apply to my music; the message is vital.” Hendrix’s sound may be sunny, breezy, even poppy, but listen to her words and her storied lyrics can at times bring up longing and self-doubt that fill in deeper tones to that soulful voice.
Collaboration is Key
Over her near-decade of performing, Hendrix has worked with many artistic collaborators. Some worked, some didn’t, but when she met accomplished musician David Zimmer, there was an immediate mystical, musical connection. They co-wrote Farewell to Emerald City and Zimmer played drums, piano and guitar on the record. “He’s a Renaissance man,” Hendrix says brightly. They recorded the album in just five jam-packed days with Scott Frankfurt at his studio in Woodland Hills. She has nothing but praise for Frankfurt as well: “There’s a fragility that you can feel when you go into the recording studio. It’s very exposing. [Frankfurt] has a gentleness in addition to a wonderful work ethic. He carried me through it.”
The last day of recording just happened to be on Hendrix’s birthday. They were doing the last song on the EP, called “Share the Love,” which requires a sort of gospel choir on the back end of it, and something magical happened: “My mom, my godmother and godsisters all descended upon the studio and just wailed, they just melted our faces off and it was just amazing,” says Hendrix. “It’s the kind of thing you carry with you.” And you can, if you get her record.
Jade Hendrix will perform at The Watermark on Thursday, July 28, and Amigo’s on Sunday, July 31. For more information, visit http://jade-hendrix.com.