The demands upon an artist regularly writing original music are great, said Miss Tess, frontwoman of the Brooklyn-based Americana act Miss Tess and the Talkbacks. But on her latest album, she took a break.
Sweet Talk, the band’s 2012 release of songs penned by the Rockville native, wasn’t too far in the past, and the band decided for its next venture to record songs by other artists they’d enjoyed playing.
The result is The Love I Have For You, a collection of cover songs that the group put out this fall. They’ll be celebrating the release next Thursday with a show at Iota Club and Café, one in a string of album release shows set for Miss Tess and the band along the East Coast.
The process was part reprieve but also part exploration, allowing Miss Tess an opportunity to learn more about the music legends who’d influenced her.
“I think all the artists have a tremendous wealth of contributions toward the Americana music world,” Miss Tess said. “It’s really an absolute joy to learn these songs; they’re all songs that speak to me personally or else I wouldn’t be interested in covering them.”
The artists whose work she reinterpreted represent a wide range of Americana music – the blues by Ted Hawkins and Bonnie Raitt, the classic country of Hank Williams and an early Willie Nelson song, and tracks by Randy Newman and Neil Young, all rendered in the band’s eclectic roots music sound.
“It’s interesting to put out a tribute album, because you might have some influences that are surprising to people,” Miss Tess said.
What ties these artists together, Miss Tess found, was their lifelong dedication to music. They all had long careers in music, and they have something to teach.
“As a songwriter, I think it’s important to learn a lot of other people’s songs, to enhance your knowledge of music and to give you more tools to work with when you’re coming back to write your own music,” Miss Tess said. “Everything in music is borrowed, to some extent. But you’re putting your own stamp on it.”
Among the cover songs is one original piece by Miss Tess, from which the album takes its name. “The Love I Have For You,” a love song which Miss Tess says probably took its cues from Hank Williams, was included because it matched the album in sound and theme.
It may be the sole original piece on this new album, but recording the album has Miss Tess feeling refreshed and ready to write more original material.
Audiences at the Iota Club will hear cover songs from The Love I Have For You and originals from Sweet Talk, but also some new songs, too.
Now that The Love I Have For You is out, Miss Tess is looking forward to writing more, without tremendous pressure to release a new album. But putting out the tribute album has done more for the band than grant its songwriter some relief.
“The cover album has introduced some new elements to the band’s sound, so through the next writing process I think the sound is going to be developing even more, so we’ll see where that takes us.”
• For more information about Miss Tess and the Talkbacks, visit misstessmusic.com.