A sixth-generation San Francisco native, award winning singer-songwriter essence has been immersed in art and music since childhood. And yes, her birth name really is ‘essence’ – she was raised by quintessential flower children, her parents being two free spirited bohemian artists from the Haight-Ashbury ‘Summer of Love.’
Since winning the Grand Prize in the National Lilith Fair Talent Search in 1998, essence has been signed to RCA Records, Way Cool/MCA Records, and Or Music (Los Lonely Boys, Matisyahu). She debuted with the successful indie release Conception, which garnered much Bay Area radio airplay and press and established a devoted fan base.
essence’s sophomore release Mariposa garnered critical acclaim and prompted a national touring agenda which found her opening shows for artists Jason Mraz and Shawn Colvin.
In 2009, essence released Feels Like the Future, and subsequently won the Grand Prize for the Great American Song Contest, not to mention 2nd Place in the International Songwriting Contest (out of 15,000 entries).
Her songs have been prominently featured on Nash Bridges, Lifetime’s The Division, Access Hollywood, and NPR’s Art of the Song. “Shape of You,” an emotional song about loss and healing, was the theme song in the film Motherland, which won the SXSW Audience Choice Award in 2009.
essence has opened for Tom Petty, Shawn Colvin, Chris Isaac, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Chrissie Hynde, Steve Miller, Pat Benatar, and Linda Perry. She has played at venues ranging from NYC’s Bowery Ballroom to San Francisco’s Fillmore and The Warfield, LA’s Rose Bowl, and Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live.
In addition to writing folk/americana, pop, and rock songs, essence expanded her repertoire by creating a collection of charming, catchy tunes inspired by her son that turned out to have a life of their own becoming favorites of families nationwide, loved equally by parents and children alike. Her last album, A Dog Named Moo, was entirely funded by loyal fans on Kickstarter and was picked up and released by My Kazoo/Universal Music. A Dog Named Moo is a multi-media project featuring a collection of 13 songs, a “T REXXXX” book, a smartphone app, and several music videos. essence is developing an educational curriculum based on the project. A Dog Named Moo was voted Top Kids Album of the Year by Daily Candy.
essence’s latest long player could likely be her masterwork. It is a 12- track opus entitled Black Wings which chronicles the trials and tribulations of a failed marriage propelled by dishonesty and addiction. The undeniable weight of the pervasive subject matter is artfully handled with razor sharp couplets, gritty performances and smart arrangements underscoring obvious pain, but doing so with humor, wisdom and eloquence.
Says essence of the album, “Black Wings is a story told out of sequence, each song is a snapshot of an event that led to the ultimate undoing of my 10-year marriage. These 12 songs capture betrayal, dark secrets, deception, revenge, emotional warfare, and the unbelievable horror of my worst fears being realized. The stories on this record emerge from a deadly silence, they dispel a facade of a happy family portrait, and they air the truth of what had been hidden for too long.”
It is easily heard on songs like the epic, “Headed North,” whose video enjoyed dual premieres in late May with Folk Radio UK and The Huffington Post, the brilliant rave up “Camels & Diesel,” with its effortless melding of roots and rock chant complete with gang vocals and the sultry trad blues vibe of “Honeyed Out” are just a handful of numbers worth spotlighting on Black Wings. It is an album of tremendous depth, without question, putting essence on the same page with Lucinda Williams, Neko Case and Jenny Lewis, just to name a few, all of whom are veritable experts at turning anguish into song in the most poetic yet no-nonsense of ways.
To that end, essence continues, “The ritual of writing and recording served as a lifeline to my survival during a very dark life passage. These songs led me through disbelief, rage, loss, grief, and ultimately to healing and reclaiming my personal power and the strength to leap into the unknown– knowing the fear of things staying the same was greater than the fear of things changing. Black Wings has been the key to my transcendence, punctuated by the unshakable synchronicity of art imitating life. As this music is born, I am flying free.”
essence’s Black Wings will be released on July 29th.