"Hope Waits' effortlessly transcends influences and comparisons with a fully formed and highly personalized approach. She uses her Louisiana background to the fullest in a brilliantly produced album that creates a sonic gumbo where sounds bubble to the surface briefly before submerging back into the mix." - DOWNBEAT Magazine
Hope Waits possesses that rare talent that is born of challenge, pain and heart. Raised on the banks of Bayou Desaird in Monroe, Louisiana, her story eerily parallels those of many of the great blues and soul singers whose essence she reflects. The 7th of 12 children born to an alcoholic father and a manic depressive mother, Hope and her siblings shared a dark childhood filled with poverty, abuse and neglect. “The hunger was overwhelming,” she reflects. “Basic needs were rarely met, and the abuse was astounding; but I love my family and I would never want anyone to feel sorry for me.”
Growing up, Hope lived in constant fear of being taken away from her family if word ever got out about her abusive home life. Yet, she was suffocating in the reality that she would never have a life worth living if she didn’t someday leave. So, at 15, she got on a Greyhound bus that led her 700 miles away to an older sister in South Carolina where she finally “began to see a life outside of that hell.” Safety, however, came at a cost. “I felt so much guilt for leaving my younger siblings and my mom,” she says. “It’s something that still haunts me.”
Hope’s interest in music was nurtured at an early age, but only for a short time. “My dad and granddad brought home a 100-year-old upright piano when I was four. I played it for hours every single day for three years before we were forced to move because we couldn't afford the rent. When my dad was moving the piano it collapsed in transit. They never found another free one and free was all we could afford.”
Growing up sheltered from secular music, Hope learned to sing in church choirs; while secretly soaking in artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. She quickly learned how to craft a tune out of her difficult upbringing by covertly writing songs underneath her bed; for fear that her mother would hear them. Unable to sing those songs, her passion stayed locked deep inside until leaving home. Once Hope was away from her oppressive and abusive home life, she was able to deepen the desire to express herself through song. It was after leaving home that she first heard the iconic voice of the woman who quickly became her musical idol – Billie Holiday. “I instantly loved Billie,” Hope states. “I felt a kinship, a deep knowing from the moment I heard her voice.”
While Hope was beginning to find herself both personally and musically in South Carolina, tragedy struck back home in Louisiana, when her mother was brutally murdered by an unknown assailant, a cold case that remains unsolved. Faced with unimaginable sorrow and the responsibility to help take care of her younger siblings, Hope knew she needed to follow her dreams of singing. Life is too short to have any regrets. Those are some of the last words Hope shared with her mother just months before her death. “Growing up without a single drop of confidence, I was always afraid to do this but after she died, she wouldn’t leave me alone - coming to me in my dreams, hearing her voice repeating those words - I felt an intense desire to create music. I knew I would never find anything else to do in life that would bring me that kind of fulfillment.” Just weeks after her mother’s death, Hope bought her first guitar and began learning songs by Ani Difranco and Joni Mitchell. She focused on lyrics as a cathartic exercise and began writing songs again, this time with a passion and knowledge that music was what she was born to do. ”I know my mother would not be disappointed in me. I know she is proud of me. Maybe she didn’t make the best choices as a parent but I am who I am because of her. She gave me my voice.”
Hope performed in the South with various jazz and pop groups and as a solo singer/songwriter before ultimately moving to Los Angeles. Chance brought her into Chessvolt Studios where she met producer Peter Malick (Norah Jones, Otis Spann, James Montgomery Band) and his business partner Douglas Grossman. The two immediately recognized the timeless qualities of her voice and brought her in to record her self-titled debut album.
With Malick at the helm, Hope delivers an album so full of maturity and passion that it belies the fact that this is a debut. DownBeat gave the album a glowing four-star review stating, “Hope Waits effortlessly transcends influences and comparisons with a fully formed and highly personalized vision and approach.” Allmusic called the album “atmospheric, intense and often hypnotic.” While Honest Tune proclaims “Hope Waits possesses a rare combination of ability, class and grace, qualities that could well make her the modern day equivalent of Billie Holiday.” She was also featured in ELLE Magazine (Brazil) as one of the top five new female singers who are a “must listen.” Also included were Melody Gardot and Diane Birch.
Soon after its release, Hope’s music was brought to the attention of Putumayo World Music who included the singer’s take on Jackie Wilson’s “I’ll Be Satisfied” on their Women of Jazz release with songs by Melody Gardot and Madeleine Peyroux. In the spring of 2011, Hope’s self-penned song “Fortune Teller” was featured on the compilation Songs Of Love For Japan alongside two of her formative influences, Tori Amos and the aforementioned Ani Difranco. All proceeds from SOLFJ went to benefit victims of the 2011 Japanese earthquake/tsunami disaster.
After spells of dizziness and a hearing loss that was beginning to affect her performances, Hope discovered last spring that she has Otosclerosis, a genetic hearing disorder that affects approximately 10% of the population. The hearing loss impacted both ears and, if left untreated, would eventually eliminate her hearing completely.
Hope recorded her entire debut release without knowing that her condition was treatable. She kept her disability hidden from everyone involved in the recording sessions, as she explains; "I felt that if people knew I was going deaf, I wouldn't be taken seriously as a musician. How can a singer be deaf?" Thankfully, Hope was able to visit an Otolaryngologist who diagnosed her and recommended surgery in both ears. "My hearing was to the point that I just had to trust I was singing on key, and singing loud enough for the audience to hear." In 2011, Hope successfully went through two surgeries to repair her hearing and has gone from up to a 60% hearing loss to a mere 5% loss in both ears.
With her debut album, Hope Waits is beginning to put her struggles behind her and a bright future is starting to unravel. Her story of triumph and redemption has begun.