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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Local music spotlight: Jessica Haffner’s philosophy? Just do it

Jessica Haffner will perform at Maryhill Winery in Kendall Yards on Saturday. (Jaime Denise Photography)

Jessica Haffner has loved music as long as she can remember.

She recalls singing along with her mother at church. She got her first taste of performance during high school as part of a school-sponsored cover band and decided to learn to play guitar shortly after. After high school, Haffner spent four years in the Army, performing as often as she could.

Following her service, she moved to Spokane and performed with several different bands before deciding to take a break from music to focus on her family and children. After about 2 1/2 years, Haffner picked up her guitar again.

Q. How would you describe your sound?

A. I’m definitely a pretty traditional acoustic singer-songwriter sound. My influences come from country, indie, folk. I like a huge range of music, and you can see that in the covers that I do. I do everything from a Nine Inch Nails cover to Sublime. I also do these indie, little-known artists. I do a Head and the Heart song, tons of different artists. I have lot of different influences.

Q. Do you perform mostly covers or do you write original songs as well?

A. I do write originals as well. Writing originals is such a process. I can write a song if I have an idea in my head; there have been instances where I’ll sit down and I’ll write the whole song in like 30 minutes. But then, you always kind of second guess yourself, or at least I do, about “Is this actually good?” or “How does this sound?” And you always feel like it’s never quite done or it needs more … I kind of struggle a little bit with original writing. I write a lot of poetry and I always have since I was 18, so I try to draw from that and put it to music, which is way harder than it sounds.

Q. What styles of music or musical artists do you take inspiration from?

A. It’s kind of all over the place as far of styles of music that I like. As far as artists themselves, I definitely gravitate toward female artists that write their own songs and that are really influential for different reasons. Probably two of my favorite female vocalists are Alicia Keys and Jewel, just because they write all their own songs and they’re just incredible musicians and incredible singers. I just think it’s really important for women to actually create their own music.

Q. What would be your dream venue to play?

A. I’ve never really dreamed about making it huge and playing arenas. I’m very introverted and very private, so I’ve just never really had that dream, necessarily. I think as far as venues go, I absolutely love playing outside. I love playing for local businesses. Just yesterday, I played at this little bike shop called the Cycle House. They had me play outside, and it kind of drew people in from the street. It was just a really cool experience to be part of the community.

Q. What are your favorite songs to perform or which ones appear to be crowd favorites?

A. I do an Alicia Keys song that I love to perform and it’s one of my favorite songs ever, just because it’s so much fun to sing, more than anything. It’s called “Fallin’.” It was pretty big back in the day. I love doing Sublime’s “What I Got.” I love doing a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.” Johnny Cash did an amazing cover of that song. Everything that I do, I’ve always used music as a way to process emotion, really heavy emotion, especially loss and breakups and heartache, that kind of stuff. Most of the stuff that I do is very emotional for one reason or another. All my originals are too; they can be very heavy. I’m trying to balance that out; bring some lightness, try to write a love song, which is so hard. However music moves you, I think it’s important to find a way to share that, so that’s what I try to do.

Q. What advice do you have for any other Spokane locals who might be interested in pursuing music or starting a band?

A. Just based on my experiences as a musician, and especially to the women that are out there: learn an instrument. You have to learn an instrument, and I wish I had put a lot more time and effort into that earlier on. Learn an instrument and practice. That’s the biggest thing; you’ve got to be prepared. And never give up; it’s never too late. All those cliché things … But for real, I’ll be 38 this year, and I’m just doing it, just now doing it and figuring out how to make it a part of my life and that’s dumb. I should have done it 15 years ago.

Q. Do you have any passions or hobbies other than music?

A. I love outdoor anything, outdoor sports. I run, I bike, I mountain bike. I love to paddle board. I love to ski in the winter; I do cross country skiing, I snowshoe. Yoga is a pretty big part of my life. Just everything with my kids, too. I get them out bike riding and hiking.