In a world where authenticity is molded into forms of commercial pop appeal, there will always be artists who innately craft their own lane of organic, true-to-self songwriting.
Tess Henley is a perfect example of that breed of artist. Comfortable in her own process, she elevates the listeners’ ear with her distinctive, genre-bending music.
Henley’s songs can draw you in like a melancholy curl of smoke, or lift your spirits like a summer breeze. Wherever her varied production, dusky vocals and melodic hooks take you, they’re seeded in a devotion to creative growth.
The singer, songwriter and producer began classical piano at age 3, and by 5 was dissecting harmonies that even her mother – a singer by trade – found difficult. Playing piano soon included singing and accompanying herself on stage, later progressing to songwriting.
During her formative years, she showed a dedication to learning new crafts. This ranged from visual arts and music, to graphic design, sound engineering and even video editing. As she entered the world of songwriting, she flourished as an artist, winning a string of national and international songwriting competitions.
Billboard describes her music as a "classy brand of soul that could hold up in any era" while Clash Magazine says Henley “matches old school funk to a future-facing vision of what pop could be.”
In 2014, the Kent, Washington, native was selected from over 10,000 songwriters as the winner of Guitar Center’s National Artist Discovery Program. Legendary producer, Don Was, chose Henley to record her Wonderland EP. Was told Billboard, “Tess is a compelling artist on a number of levels. She’s unlike anyone else who’s out there. That’s something that I value above maybe anything else.”
Henley released Wonderland in 2015, followed by her national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live. After a four-year-hiatus, she released her self-produced EP, Better, in 2019.
“I took a hiatus because I needed change”, says Tess. “I wanted to give myself space to be creative and that takes time. Kinda pressed refresh in a lot of ways. Life and art are really interlaced for me, so it feels like a natural course of progression. Musically, I experimented more and broadened my perspectives in the creative process.”
Produced by Tess and co-produced by fellow creative, Jesse Boykins III, the EP marked a new chapter in Tess’ musical journey. Better has become the most recognized work of her career, with the title track being featured on HBO’s Insecure, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, Apple TV’s Mythic Quest, and Google’s “Launch Night In.” “Dean Martin” was used in Ralph Lauren’s 2019 Christmas ad campaign.
Following Better, Henley released a holiday 2-pack, and has two full-length albums in the works. The first is Paramount, an audio-picture series hitting on the realities of life, love and relationships, and is set to start releasing in early 2021. She says both albums “explore new themes and musical colors.”