Tess Wiley Interview

My final post of the year is an interview with Tess Wiley. She is the fourth artist I have interviewed in my "best of the decade" series. My Top 50 albums of the decade can be found here, and here is where the artists interviewed rank in that top 50:

Scott Hunter- lead singer of Poor Old Lu (The Waiting Room #9 of the decade)
Chris Simpson- lead singer/songwriter/guitarist of the Gloria Record (Start Here #1 of the decade)
Erick Newbill- guitarist of Fair (The Best Worst-Case Scenario #16 of the decade)
Tess Wiley- Super Fast Rock'n'Roll Played Slow #19 of the decade

Tess was first known as the rhythm guitarist in Sixpence None the Richer. She was in that band only briefly however, and has since come in to her own as a solo artist, releasing three full-length albums: Rainy Day Assembly, 2001; Not Quite Me, 2003 and Super Fast Rock'n'Roll Played Slow, 2007. (Links are to the cheapest way to buy each album.) Tess is originally from Texas, but has lived in Germany for the last decade. Her label home is Tapete Records.

What are your top 10 albums of the decade?

10. Imogen Heap - Speak For Yourself (2005)
9. Dear Reader - Replace Why With Funny (2009)
8. Blumfeld - Jenseits von Jedem (2003)
7. Kid Koala - Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (2000)
6. Over the Rhine - Ohio (2003)
5. Emiliana Torrini - Fisherman's Woman (2004)
4. Feist - Let it Die (2004)
3. of Montreal - Icelandic Twins (2004)
2. Björk - Vespertine (2001)
1. Josh Ottum - Like the Season (2007) {to be released in America, Josh's homeland, in 2010}

AP: What are your favorite five albums this decade released by friends and bandmates?

5. Paul Bryan - Handcuff King (2003)
Paul produced my first record Rainy Day Assembly, having already worked with lots of better-known 90s artists from the Boston area such as Paula Cole. He now plays bass for Aimee Mann, among others, and produces and composes string arrangements with more and more known and respected artists. Check out his website.

4. Jason Harrod - Bright as You (2005)
I didn't exactly work with Jason except for a one-week tour of mid/east America in 2003. But we hit it off and I covered his song, featured on this record, called "Messed up Everywhere Blues" on my last record Super Fast Rock'n'Roll Played Slow. We both apparently have a thing for long song titles.

3. Sixpence None the Richer - Divine Discontent (2002)
I played with this band from 1994-1995. It was great fun but had to end, then they had a huge hit (four years later)! They are still close friends of mine, even if we don't get to talk much. I was fortunate enough to have been able to play four festivals with them here in Europe summer before last. I find so many of the songs so infectiously singable, and I was thrilled to see Leigh stretching out into songwriting territory. Isn't she good? Her record Blue on Blue is also a favorite of mine, but I only have five slots I can fill here.

2. Solomon Burke - Don't Give up on Me (2003)
Jay Bellerose, who played drums on this record, also played on Rainy Day Assembly. He's an unbelievably great and instinctive drummer and percussionist. Back in 2000, when we record Rainy Day Assembly, I was too immature to recognize the genius and wondered why he made such odd choices for each song. Once I heard it back, though, I was spellbound, not to mention humbled.

1. Jolie Holland - Escondida (2004)
Jolie was my first songwriting buddy. I met her in the Arnold Junior High orchestra in Cypress, Texas in 1988. I recall her sitting at the piano during dress rehearsal for the Christmas concert, "composing" pieces on the spot which were not seldomly quite melodic. We didn't work all that much together since we were only "kids", but we did throw a band together for a Houston arts festival, probably in 1992, just for the one show. We were called "Brass Buttons", after the Gram Parsons song. When I'd heard she had a record out I was impressed, and when I actually heard it, I was so incredibly stoked! It's so great.

AP: What are your current musical projects?

TW: Since my last release Super Fast Rock'n'Roll Played Slow, of which I'm still quite proud, I've made a record with a friend of mine here in Germany under the name Land der Lebendigen, which means "Land of the Living" and comes from Psalm 27. It's a bit of a worship record borne out of our playing at our church here in Giessen. We had created quite a fan base during our Sunday morning "performances" and had been encouraged for the past 5 or so years to make a recording. What with all the years of brewing this thought, interrupted with one baby after another, when we finally got around to it, it had become a much bigger monster than originally planned. But I'm very proud of it - it features a variety of instruments such as orgen, clavinet, a small choir, horns and a string arrangement from my Dad (Fletch Wiley) as well one from my friend Paul Bryan (see above). It is in German but nevertheless musically well worth a listen, if not merely to hear me sing in German (tee-hee).

Lately I've been getting asked more and more to contribute vocals to various projects, the first of which was a jazzy electronic duo from Bochum, Germany with a project called Leland P. They're in the process of making a new record which should be released sometime in 2010, when Essen, a nearby city, will be crowned "World Culture City 2010", and we're hoping to get in a bit of the action. I've posted a song at my Myspace site. This record, although also from Germany, is in English!

Another English-language German group with whom I'm working is Gregor McEwan. Oddly, another band with a man's name. The record, Houses and Homes, will be released 2010. And finally, at the myspace site for Steev Richter, I sing on the song "Seakeeper" with him.

The next plans for me are to disappear somewhere into the Black Forest in the new year to write a load of new songs for a new record, with the hope to release in the fall of 2010. Gotta get away from my two li'l boys so I can concentrate!