DeVestern, Halley

By Dominick A. Miserandino,
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Besides having a brilliant blues/rock new cd she's had the opportunity to help Janis Joplin's old band out on vocals.

DM) Did you start out in music or one of the other arts?

HD) I was acting for a while, but I hated the lack of artistic control. I always enjoyed singing but got tired of musical theater ... there was a rock singer in me struggling to get out! I worked for a music publisher a couple of years ago and figured I could write songs as well -- if not better -- than some of their writers. So I took a chance, started writing, got a band together, made a record, and there you go.

DM) What did you act in?

HD) Oh, Off-Off Broadway stuff, regional theater, commercials, lots of extra work. I once played an Alex Kelly rape victim on "America's Most Wanted" and kept getting residual checks because they kept showing the segment while he was on the run.

DM) Then who influenced you musically?

HD) Well, folks would probably pick up on the Janis Joplin influence right away ... my older sibs played "Cheap Thrills" 24/7 when I was a wee thing, so it just seeped in. I also love old R&B artists like Aretha, James Brown, Al Green...''70s soul like The Ojays, Ohio Players, Earth Wind and Fire, The Spinners, Gladys Knight ... all the disco divas ... Cyndi Lauper, The Who, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, John Hiatt, Bonnie Raitt, Howlin' Wolf, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Hole, Patti Smith, Sheryl Crow, etc. etc. etc. They're all in there.

DM) One of the songs I listened to a few times was "I Light Myself on Fire." I can't help wondering what it is about. I hope it's not really about a girl who wants to douse herself in gasoline.

HD) No! I get this a lot. My friend's mom was very upset when she first heard the song, thinking that I was suicidal. Actually, the song is inspired by the famous photo of the monk lighting himself on fire in protest, but in the song it's a metaphor for committing oneself to an ideal, no matter how painful or unpopular it is. It's saying, "I'm doing this, I believe in this, I'm drawing a line in the sand." It's certainly not advocating suicide. One of my best friends killed herself recently, and I think it's the most awful thing you can do.

DM) How did you deal with your friend's death?

HD) Not very well. I'm still dealing with it. I wrote a song about it called "She Had a Hammer." She was very powerful and talented and everyone looked up to her, but she just never felt she was good enough.It's a terrible thing to go through. I was just numb for several days right afterward and was afraid to be by myself. It's much better now, but I'm still a little angry with her. I can't imagine what her family must have gone through.

DM) Do you still talk to the family?

HD) I saw her sister not too long ago. She's doing very well, she's very strong.

DM) Have you ever had the chance to meet any of them?

HD) No. The closest I've come is touring with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis' first band. They're pretty cool!

DM) Did you get to sing with them?

HD) Oh, yes! They needed a singer for an East Coast Tour -- their singer, Lisa Battle, left to pursue her own music -- and, boom, there I was! I sang with them most recently at The Starwood Festival in Jamestown, N.Y. this summer. It's a real trip singing all those famous songs with the guys whose recordings I had heard as a kid.

DM) And which Janis songs did you sing?

HD) Let's see: "Piece of My Heart," "Down On Me," "Summertime," "Ball and Chain," "Need a Man to Love," "Combination of the 2," "Women is Losers." In other words, most of the big hits.

 

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