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Jessica Hernandez's journey to self

Singer/multi-instrumentalist establishes her identity on diverse debut album

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Communication is key. When Jessica Hernandez was in high school and college bands, she would try and make chord-change and song suggestions to her bandmates, but they never took her seriously. The dark-haired singer couldn't play an instrument, which only added to her frustration. Clearly, the only way to tell musicians about the songs she wanted to play was to play them herself.

"I taught myself and wrote my own songs and found a band that wanted to play songs the way I wanted to hear them," Hernandez says. "I bought a guitar and a keyboard and started writing my own stuff and playing open mics and playing around town and built up a band of people that trusted my vision and wanted to be a part of it."

That vision led to the formation of Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas, the Detroit-based band which defies categorization and genre labels. The group will perform its blend of rock, soul, funk and jazz at the Neighborhood Theatre on Oct. 14 when they open for retro-soul purveyors St. Paul & the Broken Bones.

"It's hard to pin down our music and what I'm trying to do with it," Hernandez says. "I have so many different influences when I sit down to write. My inspiration is coming from so many different places and styles of music that I'm into."

Hernandez says when she first started to write music, she tried to avoid picking just one genre. After all, who says there are rules when it comes to being artistic? Hernandez tried not to think about styles and let things happen organically to discover a sound of her own. She feels the end result is a "happy accident" that comes from different directions but is held together by the album's production.

She had roughly 200 different song ideas when she worked on the band's August 2014 debut album, Secret Evil. When she finally narrowed it down to 11 songs, she made sure to showcase a bit of all of her styles so that any future curveballs won't be a surprise. From the slinky soul of "No Place Left to Hide" to the doo-wop influence of "Sorry I Stole Your Man," from the rhythm-heavy "Caught Up" to the cabaret vibe of "Run Run Run," Hernandez sets herself apart from the masses through cohesive diversity.

"I could have decided to put only Motown-y songs on the album, but I wanted to make one song of each piece of me and put it together on one record," Hernandez says. "There are a handful of songs that didn't make it on this record that I like even more than some of the ones that did. It's cool to have songs that I'm excited to put out, but weren't ready for the first record."

Hernandez is looking forward to returning to North Carolina, where she attended military school as a teen. While Hernandez was getting focused on a future in the military and attending West Point, her parents realized their artistic child was fading away into someone else. Thankfully, they didn't send her back for her senior year.

"My parents were freaking out because I was the artsy kid — in choir, singing, painting. They thought I was changing too much," Hernandez says. "I'm so thankful they saw that and didn't let me go back. They saw who I was at a young age, even before I knew."

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