Tess’ mother, a professional singer who often practiced while driving her kids to sporting events around town struggled with a new song’s difficult harmonies. Singing out from the minivan’s backseat, 5-year-old Tess uncovered those lines like child’s play. “That’s when we knew she’d been blessed with exceptional ears,” says her record-collecting father. Tess’ connection with music had really started two years prior, when she discovered the family piano, and daily Suzuki lessons soon followed. The Japanese method of teaching music like a language helped develop those budding skills in a home that preferred not listening to commercial radio. So, Tess was raised with the sounds of James Taylor, Stevie Wonder and Motown from her mother, while her father introduced her to iconic bands such as the Beatles, Tower of Power, and Steely Dan.
After Dice Raw from The Roots crew took interest in her latest compositions, Tess began recording her full-length album in Philadelphia, the epicenter of a soul sound all it’s own. Tess is fusing her voice and artistic vision with Dice and his talented team, including Khari Mateen (The Roots, Jill Scott, J*DaVeY). Tess’ music has already received international acclaim as a truly independent artist all on her own accord. This special collaboration has produced impressive new high-water marks for the rising young artist. The stakes have been raised in earnest. Tess’ time is now.
Today, Tess is described as an emotional voice that you can feel. She’d rather be known as a musician who strives to write musically rich songs (recently awarded Top 3 Honors in the prestigious John Lennon 2011 International Songwriting Competition). After signing distribution agreements for the US & Canada, her single, Boy In The Window, won the 2011 International Song Competition for the largest soul site in America (SoulTracks.com), who says: “Henley as a vocalist doesn’t suffer from being compared to Alicia Keys. Both eschew the breathy little girl sound that is the rage these days. Henley, like Keys, opens her mouth and gives a full-throated vocal that sounds mature, passionate and believable.”
R&B super site, Singersroom.com, adds “Ms. Henley has made a name for herself around the world for insightful lyrics and melodic music…boasting talents that indicate a strong future.” Opening for Jill Scott & Anthony Hamilton as the winner of Budweiser's Dallas Superfest Contest, Tess went on to win the $25,000 Grand Prize as the contest's overall winner, beating out thousands of vocalists (September 2011), including the 2012 winner of NBC TV’s “The Voice.”
Music lovers from all over are beginning to take notice, thanks to reviews like these; Jazz & Soul (EUR) calls her first CD, Easy To Love “An extremely fresh album”, while highly respected Soul & Jazz & Funk (UK) says “Tess shows remarkable maturity and focus, her music is draped in luscious harmonies; it’s truly infectious. The Henley approach to music is all about craftsmanship, commitment and an appreciation of what truly constitutes musicality.” Tower Records distributed a Japanese Special Edition CD of Easy to Love, as well as a 7” vinyl, with proceeds that aided tsunami relief in Japan.