Some vocalists sing to themselves, some sing to crowds. Listeners who first hear Halie Loren may be convinced that she is singing just to them, with an authenticity somehow both earthy and ethereal. This award-winning singer and songwriter captures the playfulness, pizazz, vulnerability, and sensuality in a lyric like few others. But it is her talent for turning those feelings into genre-defying original compositions – songs at once universal and deeply personal – that has earned her the attention of the musical world.
She took first place in national songwriting contests in jazz, inspirational, and country categories while still in her teens, challenging early attempts to classify her music. She is today a jazz singer of rare sensitivity, with a deeply felt interpretive ability that brings a fresh perspective to oft-traveled musical pathways. But it is her innate understanding of the shared connectedness across musical boundaries that excites listeners and delights audiences around the world.
Her debut jazz CD, 2008′s They Oughta Write a Song, won the largest independent music organization’s award for Best Vocal Jazz Album, and by 2010, the world had opened up to her. With distribution in Asia through JVC/Victor Entertainment, it became Japan’s No. 2-selling jazz CD of the year.
In 2010 she released two albums. Stages, her first live CD, was selected as an Editor’s Pick by online retailer CD Baby. After Dark prompted online reviewer Wildy’s World to name her Artist of the Year. “Thirsty,” one of the album’s two Loren originals, won the Independent Music Awards Vox Pop poll for best jazz song of 2011. All three CDs climbed into the top 5 on jazz charts at Amazon and HMV Japan, and the singles they spawned charted on Japanese jazz and pop radio stations. Genre-defying, indeed!
Her fifth and most personal jazz album, Heart First, caps a breakthrough year for Loren, one in which she reached unprecedented audiences, touring in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Italy, and Canada. Heart First went into limited release in December 2011, and almost instantly spawned a No. 1 hit jazz single at iTunes Japan.
Now, through a new partnership with Justin Time Records, Heart First will go on sale in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and throughout the world on March 6, 2012.
Heart First features four new Loren originals, including the semi-autobiographical “A Woman’s Way” and the sweetly hopeful “In Time,” which she dedicated to the people of Japan in the wake of that country’s devastating earthquake and tsunami last year. To this she adds a savvy concoction of jazz standards such as “Taking a Chance on Love,” “C’est Si Bon,” and “My One and Only Love,” and re-imagined pop classics by artists as diverse as Bob Marley (“Waiting in Vain”) and Neil Young (“Lotta Love”).
“I started out with the intent of making a more bluesy album,” says Loren, “but as the song selection narrowed, I realized that I was taking a different approach. I was loving the way the songs sounded having more of a jazz-pop vibe.”
Her hands-on approach to recording creates a warm and intimate, stripped-down ambience. For the new album, Loren says, “I wanted to have all the elements sound really natural and to have the different solo instruments shine. I love the sound of the air and the wood.”
Contributing to that sound were her longtime collaborators: pianist and co-producer Matt Treder, bassist Mark Schneider, and percussionist Brian West, joined by the newest addition to her core band, guitarist William Seiji Marsh.
Forged in the beauty of a remote Alaskan island, her childhood gift for fusing divergent musical styles soon brought her to Nashville, where at only 17 she began collaborating with chart-topping and Grammy-winning musicians and songwriters. When she returned to the Pacific Northwest, she did so with a newfound urgency to put her stamp on the music world on her own terms.
That thirst for independence became an enduring asset. Freed from the pressures of creating music to satisfy corporate and market demands, she rediscovered her own unique voice. New audiences discovered and embraced her, flocking to sellout concerts at the famed Cotton Club and Blue Note in Japan.
The tracks on Heart First reveal the maturing of an artist no longer chasing perfection, but connection – with each song and with her listeners. “I take more chances now than I ever have before,” she confides. “It just came out naturally in the studio, finding that focus and the storyteller’s voice more than the perfectionist’s voice.”
That voice, one reviewer noted, “conveys the wonders of the invisible world: wounded defiance, stubborn love, hard-earned hopefulness. She sounds like someone who knows a thing or two about a thing or two, and has the chops to make that knowledge a thing of beauty.”
It’s that voice, reaching listener after listener, touching something deep inside, which makes Heart First exquisite, and Halie Loren an artist to look out for.