songs on Ghost in My Head are the work of an exceptionally strong and musically
mature composer and singer. Hennessy's voice is powerful, distinctive and
assured. It deserves to be heard.”
- Greg Quill,
I began writing these songs, the floodgates opened to my whole life," says
singer-songwriter Jill Hennessy in regards to her upcoming debut release Ghost
In My Head. A revelatory album,
Hennessy offers a series of intimate emotional vignettes spun with indelibly
fluid melodies and her poignant musical reflections on love, loss, struggle and
redemption. "It's the
embodiment of a lifetime of work."
perhaps best known as an actress for her starring roles in the hit television
series "Law & Order" and "Crossing Jordan," Hennessy
began her show business career as a musician, busking in the streets of
Toronto. "I left home when I
was 17," remembers the Edmonton-born artist. "I went to Toronto and tried to find work. One day, I was walking down Yonge
Street and I heard two guys playing Take It Easy by the Eagles. I knew all the harmonies of all those
songs -- my dad played the Eagles all the time -- so I started to harmonize
with them. I stayed three hours
and they gave me a cut of their money.
Soon we started having a regular gig on the subways and did the
underground club circuit, playing coffeehouses like Fat Albert's on Bloor
with her Toronto coffeehouse and subway gigs, Jill began working with an improv
comedy troupe playing local dinner theaters. "A short-lived boyfriend bought me a guitar," she
recalls, "and showed me an A and a D chord. I went out and bought the U2 Joshua Tree songbook and a Tracy
Chapman songbook and began learning all the songs I could. I used my guitar case as a table. My guitar was my friend, my family, the
one constant in my life."
1989, a friend of hers borrowed her guitar to audition during the Toronto
tryouts for "Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story," a musical adaptation of
the life and music of the profoundly influential rock & roll pioneer. "I went to his audition to: a)
give him some support and b) to pick up my guitar," Jill remembers. During
her friend's audition, Jill was cajoled on-stage where she played Van Morrison's
Brown-Eyed Girl and one of her own songs in an impromptu try-out for the
musical. Her natural talent and
ease on-stage -- "plus I spoke Spanish" -- led to a series of roles
-- including Buddy's wife Maria Elena -- in the Broadway production of "Buddy
- The Buddy Holly Story."
life is 6 degrees of Buddy Holly," says Hennessy (who, coincidentally,
lives with her husband and two children in the New York apartment building
where Buddy lived with Maria and cut his final homemade demos in December 1958). "The reason I came to New York is
because of Buddy Holly."
1992-93, following the close of the Buddy Holly musical on Broadway, Hennessy
sang backup and played guitar in a variety of bands including the New
performing on subway platforms ("the 1 and 9 line"), parks
("Washington Square," "Central Park"), and the West
Village. "When I got 'Law
& Order' in 1993," she recalls, "I reluctantly had to leave the New
made her official recording debut in 2003, performing songs by Tom Waits (You're
Innocent When You Dream) and Bob Dylan (It's All Over Now, Baby Blue) on the T Bone
"Crossing Jordan" soundtrack album. The All Music guide praised her for revealing an "....
expressive voice with just a tinge of world-weariness."
the deepest connection between the music of Hennessy and the spirit of Buddy
Holly lies in the heart of Texas, home to Holly's Lubbock birthplace and
Austin's legendary Bismeaux Studio, a state-of-the-art facility that's played
host to recordings by a variety of artists, including Asleep At The Wheel, The Chieftains, Trace Adkins, Pam Tillis and Sir George
Hennessy create the haunting ambience radiating throughout Ghost In My Head is Grammy-winning Irish
producer Patrick McCarthy; an engineer on The Joshua Tree around the time that
Hennessy was buying the songbook. McCarthy has worked on records by R.E.M., the Waterboys, Counting Crows, U2, Madonna and others.
-- who sings lead and background vocals and plays rhythm (acoustic and
electric) guitar on Ghost In My Head -- assembled a core ensemble of incredibly
simpatico musicians for the album (as well as for her live performances): Robbie
lead guitar (the Flatlanders, Jimmie Dale Gilmore); Brian Standefer, cello (Alejandro
Escovedo, James McMurtry); Bukka Allen, accordion, keyboards (Terry Allen, the
Flatlanders, the BoDeans); Glenn Fukunaga, bass (Jo Carol Pierce, Los Super
Seven); and Rob Affuso, drums (Skid Row).
artists joining Hennessy and her band on the album are Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Martie Maguire (Dixie Chicks) and
husband Gareth Maguire, and the mythic Texas country pedal-steel player /
multi-instrumentalist / producer Lloyd Maines. Also joining on the album are her
husband Paolo Mastropietro and their eldest son Marco.
wrote the songs comprising Ghost In My Head in a particularly
prolific period from 2005 - 2007.
"The songs just started coming out," she confesses. "It was cathartic. When something hits me now, I write it
from, or inspired by, personal experiences -- some direct, some tangential, some metaphorical -- the
songs on the album are bone-marrow direct, honest and spectral. Some, like Save Me and 4 Small Hands, are keening laments
for unnamable loss -- irretrievable innocence or opportunity or something
deeper. Others, like 10,000
or Oh Mother or Holding On, are, according to Hennessy, "deliberately
big, written to be huge and forceful.
Every song is so story-driven.
If you can even get one or two words on a page, the words will lead you
to the next word, the words sort of guide you. The painting sort of paints itself, the painting tells you
where to go."
her instincts and following her muses, Hennessy has distilled some of the essential
passions, experiences and insights of her life into the music and poetry of Ghost
In My Head.
of my parents sing or play any instruments but they loved music -- Ian &
Sylvia, Peter Paul & Mary, James Taylor, Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones,"
says Hennessy. "One of my good memories was when my dad would come home
from work. We'd sit on the kitchen
floor and listen to records -- Elton John, Carpenters, Joni Mitchell, and
especially Cat Stevens. That was
my image of family, being together, being safe. I feel like music is the closest thing to who I am. It's where I feel most at home."