'My stitching was born to fall apart,' says Jesca Hoop in her characteristic manner, at once enigmatic yet perfectly clear. Her demeanor is dark and watery with a palpable spiritual energy. The naturally unconventional young writer/artist is summing up her life's story, which began with a strict Mormon upbringing and then veered dramatically, taking her to the most rugged and remote locales in America. There, she lived and worked as a survivalist in the most elemental fashion, before making her reentry into 'civilization' in her unique way, becoming the nanny to the three children of Tom Waits and his wife and co-writer Kathleen Brennan. 'I like to maximize my idiosyncrasies,' she further explains, describing how she interacts with her destiny.
One of five children in a fifth generation Mormon couple, Hoop was steeped in a musical environment created by her family. She began performing as a child and starred in her high school choir. 'We were never allowed to watch MTV,' she recalls, 'but I loved mainstream radio. My favorites were The Police, Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, The Beatles, Cat Stevens, The Beastie Boys, Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell, The Talking Heads, etc...In addition to my musical picks, my parents' music played a significant role in my development as a writer. We listened to Crosby, Stills and Nash, Paul Simon, Ian and Silvia, Neil Diamond, James Taylor, Pentangle, The Pogues, Barbara Streisand and Abba, Abba, Abba.'
'As a family,' Hoop continues, 'we would sing old, old folk songs, like murder ballads and church hymns in four part harmonies. Murder ballads and church hymns....and they wonder what happened to me,' she jests. 'I would sing along with all these different kinds of music and mimic them, so I had a real sense of how to slip in out of genres. Eventually, when I'd write songs, they would come out in weird and abstract ways, but I still had a connection to what you might call the norm. And then when I moved further and further away from mainstream living, it really twisted my sensibilities-kind of mangled them a bit-thank God. I had no connection with pop culture for years. When you strip down to raw elements, you actually can conjure up an original viewpoint.'
Hoop broke away from the strictures of Mormonism just as her parents were separating. During this time, her mother Janette turned the basement into a theatre, and brought in all sorts of eccentrics to rehearse and put on musical plays for the community. 'Our theatre even had a ghost,' Hoop states plainly, 'A woman in a red dress. We determined that she was there to watch over our family as it was dividing.' At the same time, Jesca started to rebel against the traditions of her family and the only life she had known. 'My girlfriend and I started smoking pot, which was such an out there thing for me to do given my upbringing. I was singing with the Santa Rosa Chamber Choir at that time. The combination of singing in that style for hours a day and smoking thrashed my voice....until it was gone. I had to leave the choir, and it took me about a year to regain my vocal strength. I had to re-teach myself how to sing in the ways that worked for me.... Cut a new pattern and stitch myself back together. It was a blessing. It is why I sing the way I do. Appropriately, at that time I started listening to Kate Bush, Tom Waits, Bjork and Diamanda Galas.'
Hoop spent the next several years homesteading in Northern California, Wyoming and in the high mountains of Arizona, where she worked in a wilderness rehabilitation program for mixed up kids. 'I always wrote during this period and performed these songs within the context of firesides and porch sessions...but I never thought career-wise. I just loved living in the mountains, way out, isolated and being very close to nature. But then I realized that I had left behind something that was very dear to me...The Stage. I decided to move back to California, find a shack and fix it up, and start my band.'
Hoop formed a duo with a friend and started playing in Northern California clubs before going to work for the Waits family. The nature of this relationship and Hoop's budding talent inspired the couple to become her mentors. 'This was very fortuitous timing as I was myself a pretty mixed up kid and in dire need of direction at that point in my life,' she says. Things started to move when the Waits sent Hoop's demos to their publisher, Lionel Conway, who in turn put a copy in the hands of influential KCRW DJ Nic Harcourt, who began playing the song 'Seed of Wonder'-the same song that convinced the Waits that she was ready-on his Morning Becomes Eclectic Show. 'Seed' became one of KCRW's top five requests for eight weeks running, a station record.
After being pursued by several labels, Hoop has signed with 3 Entertainment, a newly formed co-venture with Columbia Records. She is now in Los Angeles producing her debut record.
When asked what her music is about, Hoop considers the question for several moments before replying. 'To me it is about fostering the imagination...invention and making a life of one's own. It's very heart-centered music, and at the same time, there is something very playful and sensual about what I do. I try my best to give something away--to create something that someone can actually make use of, so that within that creation they can drive their own story.'