Featured Music: Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Delve into Jessie Frye’s soulful tuneage pronto.
Jesse Frye
Fri at Mochalux Coffee & Tea Co., 1101 E Bardin Rd, Ste 101, Arlington. 7:30pm. Free. 817-468-0488.
Wild and Untamed Thing

Young singer-songwriter Jessie Frye draws from odd influences to take The Delve.


Arlington singer-songwriter Jessie Frye sounds older than her 19 years on The Delve, her recently released debut EP. But the precocious talent on that record, however impressive, has precedents. The soft ethereal vocals that sail unexpectedly into passionate falsettos, the lyrical obsession with love affairs that enchant and betray, and the gorgeous, diffuse melodies that the player casually plinks out at the piano keys — they all recall the early tuneage of Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell.
Except that Frye doesn’t regard female pop music giants like Nyro and Mitchell as serious influences. Again, this story has a familiar ring — those artists also refused to restrict their sound to a predictable gender ghetto. Rather, Frye counts her earliest mentors as Robert Smith of The Cure and Dr. Frank-N-Furter (a.k.a. actor Tim Curry) from the VHS edition of 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
By the time she started grade school, she “had listened to The Cure and watched Rocky Horror a million times over,” said Frye with a husky laugh. “I guess you could say my mother is hip. She was definitely lenient. My parents got divorced when I was young, and that sets you apart to begin with.”
There was something about the intersection of decadence and melody, theatricality and serious musicianship that corrupted Frye in the most wonderful way. “Expressionism,” she claims, became her guiding principle before she knew what that label meant. But the seeds of her creativity were not mysterious. Frye’s first concert was thrashy goth rockers Type O Negative — she went with her mom.
Frye’s mother and aunt had taken classical piano lessons when they were teenagers, but that was the closest Jessie got to a hands-on musical influence in the family. Instead, she found herself scribbling bits of poetry and prose and singing along to the stereo tunes she heard around the house. The urge to express herself — even in her own small, immature voice — overpowered everything else. At the age of nine, she requested and received voice training. By 12, she was taking intensive private piano lessons. Just a year later, her mother agreed that she would be homeschooled rather than attend an Arlington public high school.
Blame it on Marilyn Manson, she half-jokes about her abrupt conversion to home tutoring. “It wasn’t like I was saying, ‘I’m so fabulous and deep and fucked-up, I have to withdraw from the world,’” Frye said. “I was a cheerleader in sixth grade. I always had friends. I had an intense relationship with a guy. … But I heard the weirdness of Manson, and I loved it. I decided I wanted to learn in my own little world. Luckily, I had a mother who let me.”
Toward the end of her formal education, Frye was already getting in trouble for skipping homework to read the florid literature of writers like Oscar Wilde, Anais Nin, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Wilde and Nin, in particular, taught her to view the world from a sensual perspective, to believe that the worship of beauty and artistic expression could easily compete with anything offered by organized religion. (Frye, by the way, can verify her claims of literary devotion. When I randomly mentioned Wilde’s rarely performed play Salome, she dropped quotes from it effortlessly.)
Two people in the Fort Worth area proved to be more practical influences. Michael Garcia of the prog rock outfit Parallax View met her at a CD Warehouse location when she was 16, and he was the first professional musician with whom she shared her songs. As co-producers, they recorded the earliest demo of The Delve’s “Behind the Footlights” in 2004.
By then, Frye realized her attention span was too tiny for the ultra-competitive world of classical music. Every European composer bored her but Chopin. She went to work as a “sheet music girl” at Mr. E’s Music, where she met guitarist and classical instructor Jeh (pronounced “Jay”) Horton. Based on her music theory chops, he convinced her to teach beginning and intermediate piano lessons at his Mansfield studio.
She continues to tutor piano students, but the stars — or maybe just the local connections — have aligned so that Jessie Frye can see beyond the horizon. Together, Frye, Horton, and Garcia co-produced The Delve at Garcia and Bart Rose’s newly revamped Fort Worth Sound studio. It’s a sultry, thoughtful, but too-well-behaved debut by an artist who’s just beginning to assimilate her extraordinary influences.
“I am ‘neon-green’ as a musician,” she said frankly. “It’s all new to me. I was thrilled when we got the songs on iTunes. Now I want to make a lot of music and be heard, like Ryan Adams. I want to poop out great songs like he does.”

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