Tess Henley Has Arrived!

“Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally”.

David Frost

The quote above is from David Frost who was an English journalist, comedian, writer, media personality and television host. Frost rose to prominence in the UK when he was chosen to host the satirical programme That Was the Week That Was in 1962. His success on this show led to work as a host on US television. He became known for his television interviews with senior political figures, among them The Nixon Interviews with former United States President Richard Nixon in 1977, which were adapted into a stage play and film.

Certainly Frost could speak well on the subject of success as he reached the top of his field before his death in 2013. One of the great things about many of the folks who speak or write about success, is that each might define it differently. Success is not always measured in terms of fame and fortune. Within the music industry though, there is a level of monetary gain and growing a fan base that likely is the deciding factor in determining success. Nevertheless, the quote of David Frost above could help the aspiring artist maintain balance while pushing toward the top of the entertainment world. Concentrate on the art, the craft of music making and the success is sure to follow. Regardless of how you may define it. As I prepared for this week, my goal is to examine closely the effects of success on an artist. Of course we have all heard the sad tales of self-destruction related to not possessing the ability to cope with rapid ascension toward stardom. However, are there positive examples? Well, let’s see as we feature multi-talented musical artist Tess Henley.

Tess Henley is an American singer-songwriter and pianist from Kent, Washington, United States. She started taking Suzuki Method piano lessons at the age of 3, and by age five was dissecting harmonies that even her mother – a singer by trade – found difficult. Henley grew up enjoying a normal, well-rounded childhood which included sports activities as well as music. In 2010, Henley graduated from University of Washington with a degree in Communications.

As I have done just a few times since the beginning of Weekly Music Commentary, I am featuring Tess Henley for a second time. Why? Because there have been many career developments since I featured her over three years ago.

August 2012 I was introduced to Tess Henley by way of a single and video for her song Daydreaming. The song was an excellent arrangement with a full band with horns. A closer observation uncovered very clever lyrics with a catchy melody line and chorus. Of course the very professionally produced video helped tell the story behind the song. I needed to know more about Tess Henley, and I started my search for more information. I found an album of music that was previously released in 2008. The album was one of the best albums I had heard at the time. Immediately Easy To Love found a permanent home in my music library.

The young musician from the Pacific Northwest developed a very good following in that northwest corner of the US. I thought a much larger number of fans was close to finding the young powerhouse musician, but it was just a matter of time. It now appears I was right.

A couple of events started things rolling after the first Weekly Music Commentary feature. (Tess Henley: Music Good for the Soul) In 2013, Tess received the Vox Pop R&B/Soul Independent Music Award for “Daydreaming.” Henley was then named grand prize winner of the Show Me The Music Songwriting Contest with her song, “Who Are You.” Producer Don Was selected Tess as the Guitar Center Singer-Songwriter III grand prize winner in March 2014. She became the first female winner in the competition’s history, receiving $25,000, music gear, and an EP to be recorded with Don Was. Was produced Henley’s latest EP, Wonderland, tracked at Hollywood’s Henson Recording Studios. Acclaimed musicians included drummer James Gadson, James Hutchinson on bass, guitarist Mark Goldenberg, Mike Finnigan on Hammond Organ, percussionist Michito Sanchez, string arranger Davide Ross and Henley on keyboards, vocals and background vocals. As Was describes the project, “Sometimes magic just happens, you can’t really legislate that. There’s no producer in the world who can make that happen. All you can do is try to set up a situation where if lightning strikes the room, you’ve got the tape rolling. And lightning struck. It was a really charmed session, and Tess was amazing, didn’t miss a note all day.” The album was released early 2015.

Next came a defining moment that illustrated how far Tess Henley had moved forward in her young career. On January 22, 2015 Tess Henley made her national television debut performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, where she performed a pair of songs from her EP, Wonderland. I remember well that day when Henley posted an announcement on social media prior to the event. It was wonderful news as I immediately reposted the announcement with the words, “I’ve been waiting for this”. Henley was up to the opportunity to showcase her immense talent and gave a great performance.

I got a chance to see an interview with Tess Henley since the Jimmy Kimmel Live performance where she discussed her successful rise. She stated that since the Guitar Center contest much has changed for her professionally. Her musical instruments and sound gear has received a major upgrade, she has relocated to Los Angeles, and surrounded herself with a team of people necessary for a successful artist. She is currently on tour to several US cities. If there were any doubts when Tess Henley started her music career, they seem to be behind her now. Tess Henley has arrived!