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Kent's Henley captures singer-songwriter competition | VIDEO
For the Reporter
Kent musician Tess Henley has been named the winner of the third annual Guitar Center's Singer-Songwriter competition.
As the winner, Henley will have the opportunity to record a four-song EP with Grammy Award-winning producer Don Was. She also will receive digital distribution through TuneCore, recording time at Converse Rubber Tracks Studios, pocket $25,000 cash and take home new gear, musical equipment.
"As an independent musician, this is a prayer answered," Henley told American Songwriter magazine. Henley, 26, is a Kentlake High School graduate.
Part of a musical family, Tess' brother Carson Henley competed in the competition last year and – even after falling short in the final round – had such a great experience that he encouraged his sister to give it go.
It's a good thing he did.
Henley – out of nearly 10,000 entries and 10 finalists selected to perform live in the grand finals at Hollywood's Hotel Café on March 1 – was the one who most impressed the judge, Was.
"In the end, I chose Tess because she had a true voice and a strong sense of who she is," Was told American Songwriter magazine. "Not only that, but when I listened to her perform, I could envision the complete record we would make together. She has a true gift."
Being chosen by Was says a lot. The producer has worked with such legendary artists as The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Elton John, John Mayer and more.
"To be able to work in the studio with someone as talented as Don Was, I can't even fathom. I know I'll be in good hands," Henley told American Songwriter magazine. "It is a blessing that competitions like this exist, and I can't think of any other company that puts so much effort into supporting singer-songwriters."
Henley began training under the Suzuki Method for piano at age 3 and by 5 was dissecting harmonies that even her mother – a singer by trade – found difficult. She's honed her live skills opening for folks like Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton and playing her own solo shows while also building her profile as a songwriter.
Henley's single, "Boy In The Window", from her 2010 EP, The Appetizer, earned a 2011 Independent Music Award for Best R&B Song, won the 2011 International Song Competition for SoulTracks.com (the largest soul site in America), was awarded top-three honors in the prestigious John Lennon 2011 International Songwriting Competition and was featured on the soundtrack for 2012's Hello I Must Be Going starring Blythe Danner.
After Dice Raw from The Roots heard her music, he took an immediate interest in the young talent, taking Tess under his wing. He brought her to Philadelphia – the epicenter of a soul sound all its own – and introduced her to fellow-producer Khari Mateen (The Roots, Jill Scott, J*DaVeY). Dice and Khari signed on to produce Tess's debut album High Heels & Sneakers (released May 2013). The album was recorded at legendary arranger Larry Gold's "The Studio" over the course of a year and features 14 new songs, including the first singles Daydreaming (2013 "People's Choice" Independent Music Award) and From The Get Go.
Learn more about Henley, visit tesshenley.com.
Watch Tess' winning performance here: http://youtu.be/ROP-bkS6Eh8