Almost a decade ago, California-born Jesca Hoop moved to Manchester for good.
The story goes that Elbow frontman Guy Garvey, enamored with Hoop’s first album, Kismet, invited her on tour as the band’s supporting act. “I fell in love with a friend of theirs,” she says, referring to the band’s manager, Tom Piper. “I moved over for love, actually. Why else would you move to Manchester?”
And it’s clear her love for the city is strong. In light of the tragic events that took place in Manchester in May 2017 following an Ariana Grande concert, Hoop posted a letter on Facebook addressed to the victims and their families and friends:
“I am so very saddened by this event. I cast my prayers for all those suffering from the loss. I recognise that music is important to Manchester teenagers. It is a deep connector that stems from the very heart of the city and you can see its richness in the teen community as our kids take their first steps into their independent lives, through the celebration of music and togetherness. I am so very sorry that this sickness penetrated a realm that is meant for them to explore, blossom and grow in a safe environment. For Manchester I hold a candle. For mankind, I hold hope.”
The singer/songwriter was raised in a Mormon family in Northern California; at 16 she fled the church and traveled around Wyoming, California, and Arizona writing songs, later crossing paths with the legendary Tom Waits. For five years, Hoop was a nanny for Waits’s children, and he and his partner Kathleen Brennan were her musical mentors, immensely encouraging of her career. (In a statement, Waits said her music is like “going swimming in the lake at night.”) Hoop has also worked extensively with Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam; the two released the album Love Letter For Fire in 2016.
Today Jesca Hoop continues to wield authentic, heartfelt, and at times eccentric ballads on her fifth studio album Memories Are Now, which debuted in February. Hoop called us from Manchester (it was raining, as she says it often is) and told us about the music and food scene in Manchester, the culture shock of moving to the UK from California, and the scenic spot where she goes for long, long walks.
Watch Jesca Hoop’s video for “The Lost Sky” off Memories Are Now below:
Where to See Live Music in Manchester
“My favorite little venue in Manchester is called The Deaf Institute. Originally it was a school for the deaf and hard of hearing, and now it’s a music venue/bar and restaurant. Upstairs there’s this little 250-cap venue that’s really stylish and it’s really comfortable, and it gets hot and the stage is up high. It’s just a great building, and it’s one of my favorite places to play in the world. The Manchester music scene is a small world. You can see a lot of different musicians out and about, [including] legendary bands. Manchester doesn’t like hype, and it doesn’t like to build people up. It’s a real kind of relaxed environment for musicians.”
The Best Places to Eat
“My favorite little restaurants are actually in the village that I live. There’s a great Jamaican spot called The Drop. It’s as good as any casual dining spot that I’ve ever eaten in, really. It’s this great dive that’s super simple. There’s a lot of great Turkish food in this area; there’s a place I like called Turkish Delight.”
Where to Clear Your Mind
“I retreat to Cumbria which is just outside of greater Manchester. It’s a lake district; it’s the nearest [place] for walking in the mountains, and it’s as idyllic as any place on earth. Beatrix Potter land, where she drew a lot of her inspiration from. It’s a mine for poets and writers and painters. I go there to stretch my legs and get fresh air and long, long, long, long walks.”
There’s No Hollywood in Manchester
When I moved to the north of England I really missed the usability of California and the level of comfort, how it embraces you and how it nourishes you, and its forward thinking. Manchester is a little more set in its ways, and
“[When I’m touring] I miss the gray and the green, the misty and wet sky.”
it’s got a hard edge, and it’s not accommodating. It’s not built for consumption, it’s built for grafting and working. Well, Hollywood doesn’t exist in Manchester, does it? That element of, let’s celebrate our state, our home, let’s make things lively and glamorous, and the artisan way of life isn’t as prevalent here. They don’t want to be gentrified and they don’t want to be told they need to improved. My life here is quite isolated I would say. I’m very quiet and work at home here, as opposed to Los Angeles where I really kind of stretched around the city and made use of all the different landscapes. In Manchester, I’m much more quiet and to myself.”
Rainy Outdoors and Cozy Pubs
I like that it stays relatively cool in the summer. That comes with the drawback of not being very sunny, [laughs], but I think [when I’m touring] I miss the kind of gray and the green, the misty and wet sky, because it’s usually wet here, and that’s nice and relaxing, especially for a singer. I can feel my vocal health improve when I’m here. I also miss the contrast between the rainy outdoors and the warm cozy pub.”
Book a Hotel
Stomping Grounds is an ongoing interview series with artists, musicians, authors, directors, and more on the cities they love, all across the world.