There is something utterly familiar and comforting about L.A singer Tess Henley. Her music invokes vivid imagery of all kinds, from dark and bold colours to romantic pastel hues. But the road to personal and creative serenity has been paved with roadblocks of all sizes, with Henley coming out the other side stronger than before. A thought echoed on her recently released single- her first in four years- "Better".
The visuals for "Better" paint a subtle picture of Henley's newly declared independence. Which, surprisingly is not so new after all. Having started her career in the spotlight after placements (and wins) at competitions such as Budweiser’s National Superfest Summer Block Party, John Lennon Worldwide Songwriting Competition, and International Song Competition for SoulTracks (to name a few), she has still managed to maintain her status as an independent artist. When we caught up with her to discuss her journey from then to now, she shared with us how these early experiences helped in shaping her identity as a musician. "My first national TV debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the Guitar Center Singer-Songwriter program, the Summer Block Party contest, etc. – those are definitely bonuses and highlights in my career – and also important pieces to my journey as an independent artist. While they might not directly have an influence, I’m sure that in some of those experiences, I have been inspired in one way or another that ultimately led to something creative."
While her star was still on the rise, Henley decided to take a step back from the spotlight, after losing someone extremely close to her. But for a girl who has been taking piano lessons since the age of three, music wasn't something that could simply be turned off. "I took a hiatus in the sense that I wasn’t releasing music & I withdrew myself in certain social aspects," she reveals. "But during that time, I was working harder than ever on new music, as well as myself. It felt liberating at times to give less fucks. I loved having the time to create freely. Amid the sense of relief, I was often trying my best to fight frustration, doubt, anxiety and depression that came along with the period of growth and reassessment."
All of this writing eventually led to a collection of songs. Songs that personified her personal growth, along with all the challenges that led to it. "It was kind of like a diamond under pressure. There was a lot going on – good and not so good. The songs were my happy place." While accepting all the changes in her life, Henley still maintained that underneath it all, the same heartbeat in her chest. A sentiment elegantly explored on her newest single, "Same Girl".
"Am I the same girl|Yes, I am|Yes, I am!" Soulful and honest, "Same Girl" flexes between assured calm and emphatic admission, all the while maintaining an irresistible grip on our sonic senses. It's an attestation to Henley's ability to burrow under your skin, ignite dormant sensations, and leave you feeling safe and warm. More than anything else, though, it's a profound reminder of what we've been missing for the past four years.
Her inspired collection of songs will be released in the form of an EP, titled Better on July 19th. "This EP signifies acknowledging my desire for change, progression and evolution – pushing myself to be a better artist, writer, producer, setting a new bar, learning more about myself and others, seeking new information, breaking old or unhealthy habits, and focusing on what makes me happy." In other words, it's the first page of a new chapter, where she sheds her fear and self-doubts, and shows the world how much better off she is without them.