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WPGM Commentary: Tess Elena Is Coming Of Age On Her Debut EP ‘Fire Escape’

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Hey! My name is Tess Elena and I am a singer-songwriter from New York City. I have just released my debut EP, Fire Escape, in which all of its songs were written and performed by me.

I wanted my first EP to be a culmination of my artist journey, to not only represent my most authentic self, but also display the full tapestry of what it means to be a woman.

I believe our voices are our superpower and I think my music shows all the different facets of the human experience. The sexuality, the heartbreak, the strength and empowerment, the honoring of your childhood, the goofy humor, and the joy of falling in love.

I wrote these 4 songs over the course of a couple years, many of which were written with many drafts and many versions. Laborious and rewarding, each song is a part of me, like a branch from a tree, I’ve been growing my sound, and these songs represent me musically.

Growing up, my parents were both artists, my mom was an actress and singer and my dad is a musician and composer. I grew up going to rehearsals for plays and musicals all around NYC and it planted a seed in me to one day be my own artist.

I knew how hard the artist road is, I saw it firsthand with my family. But a little voice in my head and heart kept dreaming up this idea of me performing and selling out arenas with my music, and I couldn’t ignore it.

I took my first music class my senior year of high school where I learned 4 chords on guitar. I started to write melodies and lyrics with those chords and it soon became a therapeutic way for me to express myself. I fell in love with songwriting.

Years later when I decide to pursue being a singer songwriter as a career, I took classes in the art of songwriting and had private voice and guitar lessons. It was then that the EP was born. When I had completed Emotion Mommy, Subway DMs, Heart Attack, and Fire Escape.

“Emotion Mommy” is a female empowerment song about healthy boundaries and not wanting to carry all the emotional weight in romantic relationships.

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This song was a labor of love to write with many drafts, but once I came up with the concept of “Emotion Mommy”, it became easier for me to create lyrics around the idea of not wanting to be someone’s mom in a relationship. The metaphors flowed and I wanted the song to feel sassy and powerful.

“Subway DMs” was such a fun one to write. It is based upon a real experience I had taking the subway home. I wrote it all in one sitting and I was just snapping my fingers. It’s amazing to see its transformation into a funky pop song with a full band sound including saxophone!

“Heart Attack” is my heartbreak ballad song. A lot of people have had their first love. One that felt so intense and they can still remember that pain that they got when that person left.

It is a scar that remains on everyone’s heart for the rest of their lives. I wanted to write my own version. This song was also written with many drafts and many rewrites of the lyrics.

The last song on the EP, “Fire Escape” is my most recently written song. I grew up in an apartment in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan and we didn’t have a backyard but I did have a fire escape. It became a safe space for me to play games and then as I got older, I would play guitar on it and write songs.

I wanted to write a song about where you felt at home as a kid can sometimes be found in a romantic partnership. It originally was written with a much slower tempo and lower register and it turned into a pop rock song!

My whole EP was recorded at a studio in Brooklyn called Vice and Virtue with the producer and audio engineer Anthony Rocky Gallo over the course of two days with my band which included a drummer, Luke Gefell, bass player, Max Barrett, and piano player, Lora Cohen.

The saxophone, played by Andrew Pereira, and electric guitar, played by Ricky Pistone, for “Subway DMs” was recorded in another studio.

After listening to the final mastered tracks, I decided to go back in and add extra vocal elements to my songs. I then went to work with Rob Sheppard, an audio engineer based out in Hoboken, to add more BGVs and extra elements to spice up the EP. The album was mastered by Mike Kalajian.

This EP was a labor of love to make, with countless hours in the studio, and dozens upon dozens of vocal takes and mixes to the final product that you hear now. I am so excited to share my blood sweat and tears of an EP with you all.

Listen to my debut EP Fire Escape below and stream it wherever you listen to your music here.

Words by Tess Elena // Follow her on Instagram + Twitter

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