Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday when I blog about/interview the female artists who rock my world! Last week's interview with the lovely Melissa Auf der Maur got the biggest response yet! There is no doubt that many of you guys love her as much as I do and I hope you'll all be downloading her new songs, which will be available from her myspace tomorrow! Of course onf of you lucky commentors won a signed MAdM t-shirt! That lucky individual is QueenofCastile from LiveJournal! Please send me a msg with your addy Queen so I can pass it on to Melissa!
Now, the woman I'm featuring today is brand new on the music scene, but I admire her just as much as I do Melissa, so I hope you guys will devote as much attention to this week's WWRW, Jenny Hassler!
Jenny recorded under the name heilege and released a single with b-side To the Sky/War of the Roses that you can purchase from amazon or find in the iTunes store. I highly recommend downloading it right now. It will be the best $1.78 you ever spent. You can also hear these tracks on the heilige myspace or heilige facebook fan pages, so check those out and friend heilige!
Okay for the sake of full disclosure I am going to admit that Jenny is a friend of mine and she also designed my website (so the pretty designs you are seeing around the blog right now? All Jenny) and I do like to support my friends, but the women who I feature on WWRW have to really really touch me, so please know that all my enthusiasm about Jenny is completely 100% honest not just me promoting a friend. I'm listening to her music now as I type this and I listen to her songs a lot because they put me in perfect writing mode. I've fallen in love with these songs like I fell in love with PJ Harvey and Mazzy Star when I was 14. So hopefully that gets you psyched up. Also of course Jenny will be doing the usual WWRW giveaway, so read the interview, leave a comment and be entered to win a CD containing her single and b-side! Now without further adieu, here's the amazing Jenny Hassler!
Q: Tell us a bit about your musical beginnings. How did you get started playing music? Which instrument is your first love? Are you self taught or did you take lessons? Who are some of your influences (particularly the women since this is Women Who Rock Wednesday)?
Jenny: I started music at an early age. I guess you can say it came naturally to me. My first instrument was actually the clarinet, I studied it intensely even throughout high school. I even made it into the Illinois State Band twice. However, I'd have to say my first love will always be piano. I tried playing it when i was young, not knowing what the keys really did and just playing by ear. I started taking lessons at the age of ten. This was also around the time I started playing bass and taking lessons. I played everything from modern rock to jazz. I really fell in love with both piano and bass. As for guitar, that was something I taught myself with my knowledge I already had from bass and piano. I did study music theory, so guitar did come sort of naturally to me as well. I do feel a special connection to my acoustic guitar. It's how I write songs. I don't know what I'd do if I had to get a new guitar..I love that Fender I got as a "first gig" present.
As far as influences go, my mood changes often on music and I get into a slump sometimes, but I always find myself coming back to two women - Courtney Love and PJ Harvey. I feel like both of them had something to say, and they said it. What influences me most is hearing emotion in music or seeing it in art. Without emotion, a song is pointless. To me, writing music is the best way to "let it all out."
Q:You've been in a couple different bands. Can you tell us a bit about the musical journey that led you to heilige? You did heilige as a solo project, any reasons why? And where did you get the name?
Jenny: It's been a long ride, and I feel it's just begun. The first band I was in was a band with my brother on guitar, his two friends on guitar and drums, and me on bass. I've come a long way from Alice In Chains and Pantera covers. I've always been in bands growing up, but have always had a hard time getting out what I needed to say. Heilige was just that for me. I started it about four years ago with a good friend of mine on drums, and me playing everything else. It worked out fine for a while, but unfortunately we had a falling out. I left music for three years, and decided to bring it back in my life, since I had something to say now. Really, I felt a little discouraged to share my thoughts with anyone but my music, so I just told myself it would be a solo project. It worked, and I love keeping it around. Heilige is like my baby that will always be there. I was inspired by the book "Der Stellvertrater" to write the very first heilige song, so I got the name from that book. The word "heilig" means "holy" in German.
Q: You have two songs available for download on Amazon and iTunes. Tell us a bit about these songs. What do they mean to you and why we'll love them?
Jenny: Both of these songs mean a lot to me, although they are fairly new songs. The 'A' side is "To the Sky." This song takes everything I've ever felt and puts in into a song. I like to think that so far, my life has been interesting. I think it's a good story. I can't tell you what it exactly is about, I don't write songs that way. Often times, I'll be sitting at home playing guitar and words will just come out. I wrote this song in five minutes - lyrics and all. "War of the Roses" was a little more thought out. I still just let the words come out, but I thought a little harder about the actual music. I originally titled it "City of Roses" dreaming of the West Coast. They are really personal interpretations of life, and I think anyone can read into the lyrics and come out with something personal.
Q: I think you are a great example of how musicians who want to be heard can control their own destiny. You didn't wait to find a label, you put out your music yourself. Can you tell us why and how you went about doing this?
Jenny: All it takes is one person to tell you to "follow your dreams." I knew I had to do this, even if it's just two songs and only on iTunes, for myself. Like I mentioned before, I left playing music for three years. Those three years I wasn't myself. I was lost and I didn't feel in control. When I found music again, I felt like I was home again. I knew I had a number of great songs, and I should pursue putting them out there, not waiting for anyone to control my destiny. I did some research, bought some equipment, and spent a lot of time in my basement, making each song as special as I wanted to make it.
Q:What is next for heilige? More songs, a tour? Will it continue as a solo project? You also joined a band, Fictile Shine, can you talk a bit about that? How is it different from heilige? In general, what can we expect muscially from Jenny Hassler over the next year?
Jenny: Heilige will never die. As for a tour, probably not. More songs - definitely! I am planning on releasing a full album with eleven tracks including "To the Sky" and "War of the Roses" next year. It's still a work in progress though. Now I'm focusing on my other band, Fictile Shine. You'll hear "To the Sky" in Fictile Shine along with some other originals. A little more rock mixed with a little old country, and you'll find Fictile Shine. I really enjoy interesting bands, and I think Fictile Shine has that going for it. Look out for Fictile Shine definitely playing out in Saint Louis and hopefully touring to Denver, Chicago, Memphis next year. As for Heilige, we'll have to wait and see...
(Note from Stephanie: You can check out some brand new Fictile Shine demos at their myspace.)
Q: In addition to being an amazing musician, you are also a web designer and a make-up artist. Can you tell us a bit about those passions, what led you to them, etc? Do they take a backseat to music or will you always make time for all of your creative outlets?
Jenny: I'm not going to fool myself ever again...nothing will ever replace what music means to me. I love art in general, that's why I love being a makeup artist and a web designer. They are very fun to me, but neither of them gives me the outlet like music does, and always did. I remember being eleven years old, sitting in my bedroom and writing lyrics, wishing i could really play the guitar riffs I had in my head. Music is so important to me, and I'm glad I finally grew up and admitted it.
Q: Now for the two standard Women Who Rock Wednesday questions. The first is a two parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge. We like to see the true roots of rockin' women!
Jenny: Oh no, I was hoping you wouldn't ask! As far as the first album I ever bought, it was Alice In Chains' "Sap," which to this day remains one of my favorite albums. It's so simple and emotional. This really turned me on to music. As far as concert, I'm going to have to admit my first concert ever was the Spice Girls in 1998. I really got into the cool shoes, and I was 15. In my defense, the very next show I saw was just a little later with Silverchair, Hole and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I did want to go to OzzFest in 1997, but my parents wouldn't let me.
Q: So far, what has been your biggest rock star moment? Maybe it was a concert you went to or played, a moment of big success in your career, an "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World type moment where you met someone cool, or a time where you just got the rock star treatment? Whatever it is, please dish!
Jenny: Really, this interview makes me feel all "wait, I'm a rockstar?" I know I have a while to go, but one thing stands out to me. I played a show Valentines Day 2004, and a 16 year old girl came up to me and said "You Rock!! Can I get your autograph?" I was 21 at the time, and I never really felt like my music made a difference, but I can say, that definitely made me feel like it did.
Thanks for joining us, Jenny! I love both your musical projects and think it is awesome that you got your start band-wise with Pantera covers and will admit that your first concert was Spice Girls. You do rock! You are also an inspiring story of a woman following her musical passion and hopefully that will inspire a lot of my readers!
So, readers, get your hands on that CD by commenting about my interview with Jenny. Then check back next week to see if you've won and read my special Thanksgiving edition of WWRW, which will be all about Women We're Thankful For!