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Seattle singer-songwriter gets star power for sophomore album

Seattle's Tess Henley has the backing of Jimmy Fallon's house band The Roots on her new album "High Heels & Sneakers". (Janae Jones photo)

When acclaimed Seattle singer/songwriter Tess Henley decided to record her second album, she didn’t have a big budget. Somehow, she still managed to land some of the biggest names in the music business anyway.

Credit her for her ambition and aggressiveness. Rather than doing it herself or hiring some inexperienced local producer, she shot for the stars. Henley knew what she wanted her album to sound like and reached out to her favorite producer, Grammy-winner James Poyser.

Poyser has produced or played with some of the biggest names in music, including Adele, Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Al Green, and dozens of others. He’s also a member of Jimmy Fallon’s all-star house band The Roots.

Poyser was actually interested.

“He connected me to Dice Raw, who also works with The Roots and is on some of the tracks,” Henley said in an appearance on Seattle Sounds. “So I flew out to Philadelphia to do a couple of demo songs with them. ”

They hit it off. Dice loved the music and signed on to produce the album, along with fellow producer Khari Mateen (The Roots, Jill Scott, J*DaVeY), even though Henley couldn’t afford his usual rate.

The result is “High Heels & Sneakers”, a powerful 14-song soul and pop tour de force that features performances from members of The Roots and a number of other top notch, veteran studio musicians. It debuts May 7.

“They come in and knock out the parts and even had some people from Seattle and Spokane who happen to live out in Philadelphia playing on the album, so that was cool,” she said.

“I’m glad that they believed in it and it was probably one of the best moves I’ve made so far,” Henley added.

Henley doesn’t know where the relationship with The Roots crew will lead, but she figures having them in her corner can’t hurt.

“That whole group over there is tight and if I could play on Jimmy Fallon’s (show) with them, that would be awesome. But we’ll just see how this all develops,” she said.

Tess Henley performs at the Moore Theater Saturday May 18 as part of the Music Lessons Matter! benefit, and the official release party for “High Heels & Sneakers” Friday May 31 at the Columbia City Theater in Seattle.

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