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Interview: Actress Jill Hennessy Returns to Her Singer/Songwriter Roots with 'Ghost in My Head'

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Jill Hennessy / Photo by Gentl & Hyers
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Jill Hennessy's music career has followed an unlikely trajectory. Prior to her high-profile acting gigs on shows like Crossing Jordan and Law & Order, Hennessy's dream was to become a musician. She's never relinquished this passion, and in recent years her music has come to the fore.

With the release of her first album, Ghost in My Head, many of her early dreams are coming to fruition. This year she's set to perform during Lilith Fair, which is a far cry from her early days as a street busker in Toronto and New York. She's also found herself in the company of many musicians she's long admired. Her debut album was produced by U2 engineer Patrick McCarthy and includes guest performances by artists such as Mike Mills (R.E.M.) and Martie Maguire (Dixie Chicks).

Although this is Hennessy's first album, the lyrics reveal an artist in her prime, and throughout the 10 tracks she uses her natural vibrato to convey both strength and vulnerability. LAist caught up with Hennessy earlier this week to learn about the new album, her strangest busking experience, and her gig Monday night at the Hotel Cafe.

LAist: Which was scarier—the first day you tried street busking or the first time you took to the stage with your new music?

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Jill Hennessy: That's tough, though I have to say that my first busking experience was really terrifying. I could barely play the guitar. I'd taught myself with Tracy Chapman, Indigo Girls and U2 songbooks. And I'm by no means a virtuoso lead guitarist; I'm a real straight-ahead rhythm guitarist.

Some of the thoughts that went through my head were: What right do I have to be here? Will I get arrested for not having a permit? Will people hate me or just ignore me?

But on the other side of that coin, there were no rules. It's great because it's one business where there are no real demands. You don't have to look, act or sound a certain way. You just throw it out there and see who responds to it.