The Arts, “Lockdown Series” Part 2: The Formidable Jade Hendrix
From performing as a solo artist on the Ojai-Ventura music scene, to opening for Ronnie Spector in Los Angeles and the English Beat in Ojai, to gigs with her band on the main stage at the NAMM show and L.A., one thing sings out clearly: Jade Hendrix is a phenomenal female artist. The thirty-something singer-songwriter constantly gives back to local communities, including fundraisers for the 2018 Thomas Fire and mudslides with her mom Sharon Hendrix, a world-renowned backup singer for Tom Jones, Natalie Cole and Barry Manilow, and her godmother, Carol Dennis, the legendary backup singer for Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Before the lockdown, Jade lent her talents and time to the Women’s History Month celebrations at the Ventura County Museum.
Jade’s deep roots in music blend clearly with her own unique soulful sound and storytelling lyrics. Telling that story is even more important now given the current situations. In a recent quarantine virtual performance for the famous Los Angeles club Monday Monday at the Hotel Cafe Second Stage, with her hit songs including “Change” and “Wrong Color,” she said, “My roots are from my grandfather who grew up in Monroe, Louisiana. As a queer woman of color I come to these conversations with a lot of privilege compared to my family and friends with a lot more melanin in their skin and live in a different America as a result. While I still believe that those of us that have that privilege should make space for and amplify the voice of our far more marginalized brothers and sisters, we still have a lot more work to do – taking action, putting our money where our mouths are and lifting up our voices in the face of oppression.”
Jade had a lot more to say. Here is our interview:
Q. Can you share about growing up and getting into music?
A. I grew up in Ojai, California and attended Happy Valley Performing Arts School writing and performing songs. I majored in cultural studies at Columbia College in Chicago and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
My mother, Sharon Hendrix, has been a world-touring back-up singer since I was a teenager, so I was blessed enough to experience some incredible music halls, theaters and arenas as a kid when she would take me and my siblings on tour with her. We listened to Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Judy Garland and Donny Hathaway.
I’m a self-taught guitarist and pianist, but I get my voice from my mom, through and through. I made my first LP titled Carry Me Away at the encouragement of my mom and producer Dan Voss, and have been working as a musician, songwriter and recording artist since 2009. The lyrics come first, and the story is what matters most; the message is vital.
During lockdown, is music a plus or minus, and will it/how does it influence change in the human condition?
Like all good things, I think it’s a bit of both. On the one hand, any outlet we can tap into for self-expression is a lifeline. Especially when it allows us to lend our voices to the growing calls for change in this country and the world at large. But some days, the weight of it all can be a little bit too much and it feels downright debilitating to pick up my guitar. So I believe it’s important to listen to that muse when she shows up, but to also allow ourselves the grace and compassion necessary to shut it down when we need to.
Is that different for music and art?
I don’t think so. I believe there’s a thread that runs through all forms of artistic expression. And that, even when it speaks directly to a personal experience, it inevitably speaks to the times we live in and what it means to live in this world as it is today.
Any anthropological-social-economic-political issues influencing your experience as a musician right now?
I think it’s challenging not to be influenced by the seismic changes happening around us. My greatest ambition is to lend my voice, my privilege, and my pocketbook to the many causes that are pushing for real, equitable change in this country.
Are you creating new music based on that influence?
I’m someone who feels a lot. And so I write about it. I’ve written a handful of songs that speak to the times we’re in and I continue to play them in front of as many audiences as I can.
Are you seeking new ways to create and why?
I’m playing with the idea of writing a musical. I’m not sure what it looks like, or sounds like, or even what it’s about yet! But I’ve long been a lover of musical theatre and how it’s a coalescence of so many art forms.
What’s next for you?
I’m not sure what’s next, at this point. I feel like we’re all experiencing this day by day. Sometimes minute by minute. But I’m as inspired as I’ve ever been to write and to get involved in the great shift that’s happening right now. And I’m donating to the charities that speak to me. Black Lives Matter is at the top of list. So is the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Advice for musicians going forward?
My advice would be to do it because you love it. It’s a tough business, but if your passion and love of the craft is your foundation, you’ll find your way. I believe it is the artist’s responsibility to speak truth to power. If you’re disturbed by what’s happening around you, write about it. Engage with it. If you’re inspired by the light that gets through the darkness, write about it. Amplify it. And be the light.