PLAYING IT FORWARD Jesca Hoop credits Santa Rosa High School's drama department for her success.
'The Loner Stoop." That, laughs singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop, now of Manchester, England, was her name for the space just outside the theater department at Santa Rosa High School.
It was in the early 1990s, when Hoop, who describes herself as a less-than-overachieving student, found an unexpected place of acceptance at SRHS.
"That spot outside of Mr. Craven's theater, the Loner Stoop, that was where I spent a lot of my time during my senior year. It was kind of my safe space," remembers Hoop, calling from New York City, where she's been promoting her just-released sixth record. Titled Love Letter for Fire, it's an album of love songs written and performed with folk singer Sam Beam.
Next week, Hoop will be returning to Sonoma County for an intimate concert at Main Stage West Theater, in Sebastopol. The rare, small-house performance is a benefit for Main Stage, where John Craven, who still teaches at SRHS, frequently directs and acts.
The concert, Hoop says, is one way of repaying the kindness and support she received 23 years ago, when few could have predicted she'd someday appear as a backup singer for Peter Gabriel or that she'd open for Mark Knopfler, the Punch Brothers, Andrew Bird and the Ditty Bops. It was long before Tom Waits compared her music to a four-sided coin, saying, "She is an old soul, like a black pearl, a good witch or a red moon. Her music is like going swimming in a lake at night."
"I really do have to thank John [Craven]—and also Dan Earl, who was with the choral department at the high school—for giving a misfit like me a safe haven where I could believe I might someday excel in something," Hoop says. "There wasn't a thread of ambition in me back then. I was singing and acting nonstop, and I was skateboarding nonstop, but I had no focus, no goals, no orientation. John was part of the process that showed me I was wasting my gifts, and led me back to what I was supposed to be doing, which was, of course, writing and singing songs."
Though now a resident of England, Hoop admits her Santa Rosa roots—and her days out on the Loner Stoop—remain a big part of who she is as an artist.
"I'm a true California girl, through and through," she says, "and I'll always be proud of that."
Jesca Hoop appears for one night only, Sunday, April 24, at Main Stage West, 106 N. Main St., Sebastopol. Registration is at 6:30pm. Reception and silent auction, 7pm; concert, 8pm. Advance reservations strongly suggested. 707.823.0177.