Arts and Entertainment

East Coast songbird Heather Masse on coming out west

Wailin
Wailin' Jennys member Heather Masse comes west to record her first album of her own material.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo/Heather Masse

New York-based multi-instrumentalist songbird Heather Masse comes west to record new album and tour in prep.

Through the innocence and tradition in the cadence of her music, you’d guess that Heather Masse was a small-town girl.

She grew up in Maine and started singing at a young age, it reads in her online bio. She went to school in Boston, got a degree in voice from the New England Conservatory of Music, and soon after college she put in work on an album with the modern American string band Joy Kills Sorrow.

A couple years later, she faced one of her biggest fears — moving to the mecca of New York City.

“I thought just because I was scared of the city, I’m going to move there,” Masse (pronounced Mass-ey) said.

She did and she found a multiplicity of amazing musicians, she said, through which she first hooked up with the renown bluegrass band The Wayfairing Strangers and then with the Canadian folk trio, the Wailin’ Jennys, who were looking for a new third at the time. At a Jennys’ show in Philadelphia, Masse said she auditioned in the women’s bathroom, got the part and hit the road with the girls soon thereafter.

“I basically moved to New York and started touring full-time,” she said. “So, this is the first time I’ve been in the city for more than two months at a time.”

With the Wailin’ Jennys on a year-long hiatus following the stress of six years of constant touring (two for Masse), she said she’s getting ready to settle in and start jamming more in that scene than on the road.

“I really love being on the road, but I also really value community,” Masse said. “It’s nice to stay in one place and be able to support your friends.”

But before she settles in on the East Coast, she’s coming out west to record an album with Portland-based producer Jed Wilson — whom Masse noted as her favorite contemporary pianist, and, incidentally her brother-in-law.

She said the album will be the first comprised completely of her own material, sonically traveling from the bluegrassy folk guitar-ish roots she’s known for, to a more sophisticated, vocals-over-piano, jazz feel.

To prepare for the record, she’ll be warming up her vocal cords and finding the sweet spot on her six-string during a small Tacoma-to-Bainbridge-to-Bellingham-to-Portland-to-Brooklyn tour this December.

HEATHER MASSE plays the Pegasus Coffeehouse with the Heather Anne Band at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12, 131 Parfitt Way on Bainbridge. All ages, $10 cover. Info: www.pegasuscoffeehouse.com, myspace.com/heathermassemusic, www.thewailinjennys.com.

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