Making people smile and groove from coast to coast with the Trey Anastasio Band and now her own outfit, the young Jennifer Hartswick seems to have secured a major musical career. This past year she formed her first solo project, the Jennifer Hartswick Band, and released a new CD entitled Fuse. The band is preparing for an upcoming late summer and fall tour to promote the new CD, and Hartswick has stepped into the leadership role by recruiting four of her buddies from the Trey Anastasio Band. Ray Paczkowski (keyboards), Russ Lawton (drums), Andy Moroz (trombone), and Dave Grippo (saxophone) have teamed up with Hartswick again along with four of her favorite Burlington musicians: Dave Diamond (guitar), Chris “Bullah” Henry (bass), Luke Lapland (saxophone), and Christina Durfee (vocals).

Photo by Jeff Kravitz
Hartswick has quickly become one of the hottest young musicians on the road. Her beautiful lyrics and singing are perfectly matched with her band's music. The Jennifer Hartswick Band displays beautiful and exotic soul music with a hint of jazz improvisations, and she has taken greater control of the multifarious aspects of record production – namely writing and producing Fuse. This is a side of her that sets the scene in musical diversity as she delves into genre and style, embracing her flavors of R&B, jazz, soul, and funk. Hartswick has proven that she can do it all by playing an instrument, writing her own songs, and maintaining creative control over her material.

Hartswick became a nationally known musician in 2001 when she joined the Trey Anastasio Band as the only female, playing trumpet/tuba/vocals. She has thrilled audiences with her crystal clear voice, gliding effortlessly from low notes to high, from be-bop to ballads with Anastasio. Many fans believe that she is Anastasio’s secret weapon and feel that his best lyrics ever written are with her on vocals. If you have seen the two of them perform on stage, then you have witnessed a side of Anastasio that nobody has ever seen of him performing with Phish. You can find the duo dirty dancing at the center stage, having sword fights with their instruments, and leading the band and audience out the venue doors in a marching parade. She states that she is forever grateful to him for the opportunity he has given her to play music.

Hartswick’s music has a lot to say. It is elegant, soulful, and sultry, in much the same way that the singer, songwriter, and trumpet player is. She also models a sassy wardrobe on stage especially with the voluptuous boas she wears around her neck and her stylish outfits. The Vermont native takes nothing for granted in her life. She feels that she is at a point in her life where everything feels right. She feels honored to share her joys of music with her band mates and the audience. Come inside the world of Jennifer Hartswick as she talks about her new solo project, the day she quit school, her friendship with Trey Anastasio, and what she does for the Burlington music community when she is not on tour.

Lady Liberty: When did you decide that you wanted to start your own band?

Photo by Jeff Kravitz
The idea started about two years ago. I started to have a vision of whom I would want in my group. So I started to write music for this group about a year ago and materializing everything.

Lady Liberty: Now you have added some new members to this group after you recorded the album?

Yes, we have added Luke Laplant who is a phenomenal sax player and Christina Durfee who is a great vocalist and she will be on back-up vocals.

Where did you record the album?

We recorded the record at the Chuck Eller Studio in Charlotte, Vermont.

Why did you decide to name the album Fuse? Is there an inside story that goes with it?

[Laughs.] There is a story behind every single one of those titles. The song "Fuse" happened the way I love music to come about. We were sitting in the studio and we had some extra time. Someone started to play a groove, and somebody hops on it and then someone else hops on it and we had this really cool thing going. It was something that evolved very naturally and I just really love music that happens that way.

There is a song on the album, track seven-called "First Tuba." Any relation to "First Tube" or "Last Tube" from the Trey Anastasio Band?

That was actually another spontaneous thing that happened. Russ Lawton and I got to the studio early before everyone else and he goes, "Hey, there is a tuba." We did it in one take. Afterwards we were joking around like, "what do we call this one?" My brother was also there and he held up a piece of paper through the window saying "First Tuba." So yes, it is definitely a play off of that whole thing.

You have some members of your group that also play with you in the Trey Anastasio Band. Do you feel you all have a different style between the two groups?

Photo by Jeff Kravitz
Oh yes definitely, but it is kind of funny that everybody sees it as me snagging people from Trey’s band. Which definitely has happened, but I have known all these guys even before I knew Trey.

It seems that there is a very tight bond between a lot of the Burlington musicians?

There is definitely a bond that we have. I mean we play together all the time in each of our bands. I play with Dave Grippo's band, as does Andy Moroz. They play in my band and we play in Trey’s band. It just something special that happens when we play with each other. We are all just so close and comfortable with each other. We literally had a half of a rehearsal before we put the album together. I told all of them how the music goes and it was very spontaneous. So in that retrospect it is sort of like what Trey does because we are always spontaneous, but the grooves are different and it has a different style. But these guys are just amazing musicians that it really is not a problem adjusting. I have known Dave Grippo and Andy Moroz since I was sixteen years old so we are quite comfortable with our social settings and musical styles.

What are your plans to promote this new album?

Photo by Jeff Kravitz
We plan on doing a lot of shows at the end of the summer and into the fall season. Everybody is so busy right now with other stuff and it is wedding season, but we are looking forward to doing these shows. On July 25th we are having a CD release party at Club Metronome in Burlington.

Did you write all the material on the album?

Yes, this was conducted very independently. I'm not a control freak, but I do like to be in control of the music that I write.

I want to switch over to your history with Trey Anastasio and how your relationship with him came about.

Photo by Jeff Kravitz
Well, I met Dave Grippo when I was sixteen years old. I was playing at a high school jazz festival in Burlington and he saw me play and afterwards found me backstage and asked me to play in his band and I said of course. So I played in his sextet for a few years and when I was a senior in high school he introduced me to Trey.

Did you know how nationally admired and respected he was as a musician at that time? Trey definitely has a big fan club.

Oh yes he does have a HUGE fan club, but at the time I was not all that familiar with Phish. I basically listened to classical music all my life because a lot of my family members were classical musicians. Let’s just say I got a late start on things.

I read that the day you quit college you drove off the campus and literally ten minutes later Trey called you and asked you to join his band. Do you feel like it was fate and that everything happens for a reason?

No question about it [laughs]. That day was the first time that everything was suddenly right in my life. As soon as I got off the phone with Trey I drove straight to his house to begin practicing.

Especially being in college and thinking that you are making the right decision to quit school.

Photo by Jeff Kravitz
Yes, my whole life has always been based on space and that the right thing will come along. I just sort of let things happen, that is just how I am. I knew that things were not as good as it could be at the time so I just packed my things up and drove off and Trey called me ten minutes later. So if that is not fate then I don’t know what is.

Trey has come such a long way with his solo project. He started playing live in 1999 with just him, Tony Markelis and Russ Lawton. Then he add you, Dave Grippo and Andy Moroz in the spring of 2001 and the summer of 2001 he adds Ray Paczkowski and Russell Remington, and in the summer of 2002 he adds two more members: Cyro Baptista and Peter Apfelbaum. It seems like each year keeps getting better. How do you feel like all of you have evolved as a group?

Photo by Jeff Kravitz
It just seems so long ago when I first joined the group. When the three of us that got added the first time - which was me, Dave and Andy - we were the threesome that never leaves each other side. We were all so new at it and we were learning how Trey works and how we work with him, and how this whole music business works. We kept adding people which I think made it better it also made it harder because your having to teach it to the new members and having to back-track. But I think once we stopped adding people and started focusing on what we had, I feel that is when we started to grow the most and really got to know each other.

You seem to bring out a side of Trey that you don't get to see with him leading Phish. He dirty dances with you on stage and stomps his feet and smiles at you. It is like he has a musical crush on you.

Thank you Joy, that is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Trey and I definitely have a good vibe and chemistry on stage. But I think the reason this band works so well together is because everyone is just madly in love with each other. I mean we just can't get enough of each other and we do everything together. This band is literally the nicest group of people ever.

Alright, now since you were a senior in high school up until now, what do you feel Trey has taught you the most as a musician?

I mean just the experience of being with him, whether it be the Barn rehearsing or being on the road touring... I feel that the biggest tip I have picked up from him is the way he arranges music. I feel that is his biggest asset. I think people get so overwhelmed by his guitar playing that they never really see it. The way that he arranges music it just so unheard of and it just blows my mind. I could never compare myself to him in that way. He is truly a genuine artist.

What do you feel you have taught Trey as a musician, besides how to dirty dance on stage?

Photo by Jeff Kravitz
[Pauses and then laughs.] That it is alright to act like a total fool on stage. I mean I obviously have the best freaking time while I am on stage and I just can't hold it in. I have to let it out and be goofy. I just can't help it. I will act like an ass on stage anytime. Some musicians are just too serious when they perform on stage!

Being a female musician yourself, what woman musician has inspired you the most?

Well there are so many, but when I was younger I remember my mother putting in a tape of Ella Fitzgerald and I remember listening to that tape constantly. I was just in love with her voice and how sweet it was.

You also teach at the University of Vermont?

Yes, I teach jazz trumpet in the music department. I also do some music workshops and give private lessons to young kids in the Burlington area. I really enjoy working with kids.

What is your advice or message to your students?

Just to not let anything get in the way of what you want to do with your life. Don't let anybody tell you that you can't achieve what you want to do because that is just so ridiculous. Just go out and do it. That is how my parents raised me and so I just try convey that message to them as well.

Interviewed by Lady Liberty
JamBase | Kansas City
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[Published on: 7/21/03]

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