Interview with Jesca Hoop
On 29th August, the Marine Court Hotel in Bangor plays host to Sam Beam (of Iron and Wine) and acclaimed songwriter Jesca Hoop. It’s one of our most anticipated shows of this year’s Open House Festival, if not the year so far.
They released the collaborative album of duets ‘Love Letter For Fire’ on 15th April 2016 and we’re excited to hear it recreated live. First, though, we caught up with Jesca who kindly took some time out from touring for a few words with us about life on the road.
Jesca Hoop, thanks for taking some time out to chat with us. How is preparation going for the upcoming tour with Sam Beam (Iron and Wine)?
It is my pleasure, preparation is more of an organic thing born of moments in the presence of our audience.
You’re no stranger to life on the road and lived quite a nomadic lifestyle for a while. Has that had an impact on your varying music styles?
Yes certainly, I fall subject to wanderlust if I am in one place too long. I think this is possibly a good thing. I have a hankering for change, turning seasons, new faces, spice varieties. I often feel a song coming on when I’m in a foreign environment.
Your religious upbringing is often mentioned in the press and it seems to be a common journey for artists to move from the spiritual to the musical? Do elements of the old way of life still sneak into the writing process?
Certainly, I find that “The Moral” will often stitch its way into my stories. Whether I play the righteous or the wicked, the “chosen” or “fallen”, there seems to be a moral pulsing me along. So my brain was washed at a certain point..at my very conception… ok… I can deal with that. I let go of those structures long ago. They have left their traces in the bedrock of my smile lines which channel tears. I can use my past to paint a fuller picture. The golden vein here… to my mind.. is found where my own decided moral compass settles on true north.
The collaborative album ‘Love Letter For Fire’ has been a huge success for you and Sam. What brought you together to record?
Was the process of writing and recording with another artist something outside of your comfort zone?
Not so out of it where I found the process unapproachable. I found the challenges, and there was a few, engaging. The process felt like developing a dialect with a neighbour who speaks a similar but different language. It was about finding a meeting place. It was also about surrender and trying new things.
We’ve seen your collaborations and tours with several artists, most notably Elbow’s Guy Garvey. How influential was he on your journey and how did that move to Manchester come about?
I would say I was ushered into the UK through Guy and the Elbow folks. Guy introduced me to my True Love who I live tucked away with in Manchester. I have much to thank Guy for. He continues to champion me. My relationship with Guy began over the phone when he interviewed me for his radio show on 6music. We made fast friends and formed a lasting relationship that is based on mutual respect. He is an old and trusted friend now and I feel very fortunate to have found him along my path.
Over the years, the music we write about here has become more diverse, as has your own. Do you feel the lines between folk, indie, and pop, for example, are becoming more blurred?
I certainly hope so… just like the colours of our skin and our bone structures morphing. I think there is forward movement in the blending. I think the important part is to retain always your authentic voice. Be true to yourself.. compartmentalise buzz phrase “cultural appropriation”. If I want to fucking rap… I’m gonna fucking rap. I might dress like a monk… or a junkie… while I do so. Music is art. Have fun with it. I don’t want to be told I can’t sing that way cuz I wasn’t born in Timbuktu. Express what you feel. If you are a chameleon let your colours shift and shine. Explore. Incorporate a new language. I guess what I’m saying is I would resist feeling like I can’t play with expressions that don’t come from my immediate environment or upbringing. The world is your oyster and art is freedom.
Both you and Sam have played Open House Festival before. Are you looking forward to returning to Northern Ireland?
I love coming to Ireland North South East and West. I feel very at home in Ireland. I like the people, I like the food, I like all that green and I am a real fan of Guinness and good peaty whiskey.
A lot of our readers are in Ireland but where else can we see you on the road this Autumn?
The ‘Love Letter For Fire’ Tour brings us across the UK with a couple more festivals included… End of the Road and Moseley… then into Europe. I will also play a solo show in Palma Mallorca in November.
After the tour, what’s next for you? More collaborations? A new solo record? Or something we’d never expect?
I have a new record coming out in early 2017! So touring solo stuff through 2017 Working on artwork for it now… Very Exciting!!!
Thanks to Jesca for taking time to catch up with us and for the guys at Open House Festival for another great month-long programme. Limited tickets are still available for this hotly anticipated show. We’ll be there, Jesca and Sam will be there, will you?