"She is an old soul, like a black pearl, a good witch or a red moon," says Tom Waits of his children’s former nanny. But put this surreal celebrity connection to one side for a moment, as there might be more to this sentence than abstract wordplay. True, when Jesca Hoop sings she conjures up the wisdom of a woman who has lived a dozen lifetimes. Whether as a result of her humble Mormon upbringing or her years in the mountains of Arizona, there is a refined confidence in Hoop’s vocals that suggests a soul stacked with stories from the fringes of society; from the the very brink of civilisation.
Jesca Hoop would make one hell of an interview. Raised by Mormons, escaping to travel the country with Deadheads, she eventually settled for something less unusual: working as a nanny for legendary musical chameleon Tom Waits, a job title nearly as impressive as her music. Oh, wait, that’s still pretty weird. The nanny thing comes through in the music, too—a large handful of these tracks, with their gently picked acoustics and mystical vocal harmonies, are as dreamy and transportive as a great bedtime story.
Even if she had nothing beyond her autobiography to bring to her songwriting, Jesca Hoop would have plenty of tales to tell, being the child of folksinging Mormons, then going on to roam around the country as part of a pack of traveling Deadheads before winding up as the nanny for Tom Waits' family. But the California-bred Hoop does indeed have plenty of additional idiosyncratic ideas to offer, not just lyrically but musically, on her second album, Hunting My Dress. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Hoop's work is the way she writes her own rulebook.
Jesca Hoop was raised in a Mormon household in Northern California, where she grew up singing harmony with her siblings. Later, she worked as a nanny for Tom Waits' kids. Her songs have been heralded by KCRW's Nic Harcourt and Elbow's Guy Garvey, who took her on tour as an opening act. But recently she moved from California to Manchester, and it is this, perhaps the most mundane aspect of her biography, which turns out to be most crucial, at least in regard to her second album, Hunting My Dress.