Back in 2011 I stopped in to Lola’s for a show put on by KTCU’s “The Good Show” and was introduced to a young pop/rock singer named Jessie Frye. I was really impressed with her vocal and instrumental talent — and her stage presence. The lady owned the stage like a rock star.
A lot has happened in the past six years. The Denton native has climbed in popularity — there are videos, tours, and she even got to perform at a Bernie Sanders rally. But last April, Frye’s father took ill. She had to cut her tour short, and he passed away in June. Now Frye is back in the studio, and some changes are in the works.
“I’ve only played once or twice since then,” said Frye as she met with me while taking a break from dealing with her father’s estate. “I’m really eager to get back into the swing of things. We recorded a couple of singles that I feel really strongly about and I’m actually going to be finishing up mixing them this week.”
But don’t expect a release anytime soon. The music will be out there when she feels it’s ready.
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“I’m taking my time and really getting it right,” she said, “because I feel like we’re going to be reworking the live set — and I’m going to be reworking what I’m doing visually as well. A big transition is happening.”
“I’m meditating on it,” she continued. “I’m still kind of thinking about it. I know I play into the dark imagery a lot, kind of the strong empowered rock persona, which is definitely a part of me and a part of my heart. But I feel like I’m going to hold on to a lot of that, but I’m maybe going to get a little more colorful. I’m going to experiment more with stepping away slightly from the darkness.”
No spark in the dark
As could be expected when dealing with the loss of a loved one, Frye found herself writing some dark music. But once in the studio, it just didn’t seem to gel. The material just didn’t have that spark and felt forced.
“I liked them,” Frye said. “But you know that feeling you get when you listen to a song and you can tell that that person, it was 100 percent magic to them when they were recording it? That’s been a key word, magic — and taking risks.”
So Frye took a trip to New York, a kind of a mini-vacation as she put it. While there she put down some song ideas into her voice recorder. Back home, when she started putting things together, things took an unexpected turn.
“When I got back home, I kind of fiddled on the guitar and the piano and I was like ‘These are pop. I know I write pop songs, but I also write rock songs and I don’t know who I am.’”
Finding hope in pop
“I brought the pop songs into the studio and they were just magic. There was just a completely different feel working on the more pop-driven stuff, and how can you argue with that? I wrote all the songs; they all came from me — it’s not like I’m being dishonest about it.”
We’re not talking about an album here, but singles. That’s what the kids want these days seem to want. With digital delivery of music being the norm, many artists are putting out individual songs rather than long conceptual albums. It has its advantages, and Frye strikes me as someone who knows the business of music.
“I like it for a lot of reasons,” said Frye. “It’s simpler, more cost effective [and] you can work faster. You’re not married to this whole promotion of this one thing for a year and a half.
“I feel like these are game changers for me,” she said. “Even though it’s like three songs that I’m focusing on, it’s the three songs I’m most proud of ever. And I feel like they are going to be opening the doorway to a totally new era of my music.”
As part of this transformation, Frye will be leaving Denton. When she’s not on the road touring, she plans on splitting her time between Austin and L.A.
She plays Saturday at Dallas’ Felix Lozada Gateway Plaza, at the foot of the Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge between downtown and west Dallas. So be sure to catch her live locally while you still can.
Family Arts Day Dallas
Jessie Frye, Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, Bandan Koro African Drum & Dance Ensemble, Charming Gardeners, Thaddeus Ford Jazz Bubba Hernandez y Los Super Vatos
Noon-5 p.m. Saturday
Felix Lozada Gateway Plaza at the foot of the Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge