The first thing you’ll notice about Jessica Hernandez is her voice. Her powerhouse vocals – equally invoking the spirit of Amy Winehouse and the fire of Aretha Franklin – are singular and distinct, especially in a contemporary musical environment that favors aesthetics and theatrics over actual musicianship. “Since I could talk, I was singing and I’ve always been into powerhouse vocalists like Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey,” Hernandez said. “I was always trying to imitate those voices when I was really, really young.” It is that same voice that truly separates Hernandez from the pack.
Her vocal training was informal at best and rebellious at worst. In the spirit of sticking true to herself, Hernandez abandoned formal vocal training in high school after one lesson. “He was telling me to change everything I was doing and it made me frustrated,” she said. “He was trying to make my voice more normal and I’m stubborn so I just never went back.”
It took a couple of years for Hernandez to transform her singing prowess into the fully-fledged group she now leads. “It wasn’t until I got older that I got into songwriting, and wanted to get a band and find my own voice,” she said. After a couple of rounds of trial and error, that band, The Deltas, helped solidify and transform the songs Hernandez first wrote into the showy numbers that define their sound today.
In many ways, The Deltas, sounds and feels like a throwback to another era. Sonically, no genre is left off the table. Tracks like the recently-released single “Don’t Take My Man to Idaho,” channel everything from rootsy, Americana rock to rockabilly swing to outright soul. It all mashes together to create a rhythm and sprit that feels uniquely personal and relatable. And for Hernandez, she’d have it no other way.
Still, that DIY-aesthetic the fuels her enigmatic vocals and the rawness she cherishes, has created new challenges on the road. She now incorporates a variety of different rest and preparatory methods to make sure her voice is in top form. “I honestly didn’t even have a routine until we were on the road and there were a couple of shows where I completely lost my voice,” she offered. “I wasn’t used to having to use my voice for an hour-and-a-half every night.”
In one particularly dire moment, she lost her voice right before she needed to perform and was given a steroid shot so she could perform. “I wasn’t able to talk for like two weeks after that,” said Hernandez. Now, when she’s on the road, she adopts a dietary routine to avoid dairy, cold liquids, and spicy foods as well as consume a consistent amount of throat teas.
But thankfully, the crowd on Friday within the Toyota Tent were treated to a more stripped-down set that still blew audiences away. Although the crowd was small in the beginning, the audience began to swell as Hernandez’ – clad in a red top and yellow shorts – vocals beamed across the room and out into the general Lollapalooza festival area. Folks trampled in off the grass and cement walkways to listen to Hernandez belt and her group rock. It was a special, rare treat.