Check out the official video for "Demons" below and read the Source's interview with Hernandez from earlier this year.
The stunningly beautiful Jessica Hernandez has a flair for the dramatic. Even snarling and crazy-eyed onstage during the incendiary peaks of her performances, Hernandez is striking with a voice comparable to the sheer powerhouses like Amy Winehouse, Adele and Fiona Apple. But Hernandez is one of a kind. It's doubtful that any of those R&B divas would film a one-take music video in the backseat of a Lincoln Continental. This type of spontaneity and authenticity is where Hernandez thrives. We caught up with Hernandez on her hometown of Detroit, her first full length album, Secret Evil, fashion, and being a self-taught musician.
Source Weekly: I have this theory that the next great superhero will save Detroit. What was it like to grow up there? Can you tell me a little bit about what living in Detroit has been like in the last few years during the decline? Has Detroit had any influence on your music?
Jessica Hernandez: Detroit is the kind of place that makes you want to work harder. There is obviously a pretty negative light being shone on the city with everything that has happening over the past few years but when you're actually there is seems like something really special is happening. Something really positive and different. I think a lot of people there feel that and are inspired by it. When you're in an environment where there is so little it makes you feel like there is actually a need for what you are doing. It can be pretty inspiring.
SW: Tell me about Secret Evil. It’s your first full length? How does the album differ from the EPs you’ve released in the past? What did you learn from recording the full length? What worked well and what will you do differently next time?
JH: Secret Evil is kind of an extension of Demons. Most of the songs were recorded at the same time with the same people, but Secret Evil has a broader direction to it. I really wanted Demons to be this darker thing that I connected with at the time. The LP has some more upbeat "happier" songs that I guess you could say are Secretly Evil since they all still have a very dark lyrical content. It all worked amazingly for where I was at that point in my life, its like a snapshot of that time and what I liked and felt. That's obviously changed a lot since we recorded that album and now I feel like I have a better sense of the band and the sound and where I want to go with it.
SW: Are you secretly evil? Is the music secretly evil? Why is the evil a secret? Am I going to become secretly evil now that I’ve listened to the album?
JH: Everyone is secretly evil, even if they don't know it. I definitely think the music is...it makes you feel good yet can be sending a pretty harsh/scary/dark/sad message. I think you're safe but depending on how deeply you get into the lyrics you could possibly become secretly evil.
SW: I read that you are a self-taught musician. Do you think that allows you room for more creativity? Does it contribute to your ability to fuse genres because you’re not classically trained?
JH: For sure. I think that's why the music is so hard to pinpoint. When I sit down to write I never think about a genre or key or chords or any of that stuff. I just start playing whatever is in my head and then sing what feels right. It keeps me out of my head since I don't know the "right" or "wrong" way. There is nothing to hold me back from making happy accidents.
SW: What is it that draws you to the continuous touring lifestyle? How long is the longest you’ve been on the road? Craziest road story from your last tour?
JH: If I wasn't playing in a band I would still be traveling. I've always been the type of person to move every 6 months because I get stir crazy or bored and need to see something new. It's a bonus that the thing I'm most passionate about allows me to do that to an extreme. That might be one of the things that drew me to being a musician in the first place. I think 5 months was the longest I was on the road. It wasn't all my tour though. My boyfriend also tours in a band called The Growlers. There was a point where our schedules were really crazy and our tours were completely opposite so every time I got off tour I would fly onto his tour then back on my tour. I have no crazy stories that I can tell without incriminating myself or one of my band members who I love. haha.
SW: How has playing with jazz musicians affected your writing and music?
JH: For one it's taught me a little bit about what I'm doing. I seriously know nothing about theory so the guys are constantly teaching me. It's cool because the stuff I record solo is super lofi and sloppy and just all emotion, the guys are somehow able to polish that and make it more edible and cohesive. The best thing is that I can write knowing that they can play anything and I am not limited. If I have some crazy horn idea, I can sing it and know John’s going to pick it up and make it even better.
SW: I gather that fashion and music are two of your major passions? What is different about the arts and where do they overlap?
JH: They kind of go hand in hand for me. That goes for most things creatively. I just always want to be making something, sometimes that means writing a song and other times that means making a dress. I love that some how you can match a look with a sound and a sound with a photo and all these creative things just end up melting together.
SW: There are some circus, gypsy type elements to your sound. Where does that influence come from? Soul influences? Rock influences? Blues influences? How do they all come together?
JH: Well I have a pretty big obsession with the circus and the carnival and there is a weird secret evilness that comes from that lifestyle. The same goes with gypsy music and lifestyle. I think I just love things that are somehow really beautiful and f*cked up at the same time.
SW: Tell me about your interest in dramatic performance…how does that play in your music?
JH: I was definitely a theater kid growing up. I had this weird double life in high school of being a hardcore chick going to shows and getting in fights then at school I was eating lunch in the sound booth of the school theater going over lines for the musical. That balance of working hard at something you love all day then going out at night to get in trouble and release all that energy kind of translates into my music and adult life ha.