Aspen native Cox takes Carbondale stage
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE – The name – Roxy – probably won’t ring any bells for local music fans. But the voice is almost impossible to forget: deep, raspy and capable of unfathomable volume.
It is the voice that, a decade-plus ago, shook the windows of Syzygy, the R Bar and other local clubs, back when its teenage owner went by the name Jessica Cox.
Cox makes her return to the valley stage Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at Steve’s Guitars. It is her first local appearance in five years, since she sang at the memorial for her musician father, Chris Cox, at Jimmy’s Restaurant. The show will feature a solo set of original songs by Cox, followed by a set of cover tunes with Bobby Mason, which Cox figures makes for a near-ideal homecoming: “Since I can’t play with my dad any more, I’ve got to play with my godfather,” she said.
Cox gave up cigarettes a month ago, after nearly 20 years of smoking. The smoke-free month hasn’t taken the signature roughness away from her voice. Especially when speaking, the sound that comes out is lower than ever. After a recent visit to The Aspen Times office, a Times worker was prompted to ask: “Does she always sound like that?”
It was around the same time that she took up cigarettes – at the age of 14 – that Cox also began singing regularly in Aspen nightclubs. She and her father, along with pianist Jason Perrin, guitarist Tai Vare and singer Suzanne Paris, played classic rock and original tunes. But Jessica was no sweet-voiced novelty; when she let loose, it was as if Janis Joplin had been reincarnated in a rail-thin middle-school kid.
Cox, whose figure remains tall and slim and now features an array of tattoos, left Aspen for New York City shortly after her graduation from Aspen High. One of her early jobs in New York was at Stingy Lulu’s, a luncheonette in the East Village that had drag queens for waitresses.
“All the customers thought I was a drag queen because my voice was so low,” Cox said. “They’d go, ‘You’re the best-looking drag queen we’ve ever seen.'”
Cox’s biggest accomplishment from her New York years was Lick, a hard-rock quartet that toured the East Coast and lasted some six years, into the mid-’00s. The group nearly signed a substantial record deal, and when no contract was signed, she was heartbroken. Soon after, she dated a record producer, Sal Villanueva, a key figure in the emo music scene. The experience with Lick, coupled with the stories she heard from Villanueva, soured her on the music business.
“I learned so much about how the music business is run, I got sick of the business,” said Cox. “Nothing had to do with talent. It’s how you look, how they can market you, who they could bring in to write a song for you. It made me sick, really.”
Cox quit making music for four years. When she returned it was with a new outlook. “I realized I needed to play just for me, because I love it, and not worry about the business side of it,” said Cox, who moved to the North Shore of Oahu a year and a half ago, is spending the winter in Telluride with her mother, the artist Judy Haas, and is contemplating her next move – back to either New York or Aspen. Her hope is to start a band that is more centered around her vision, rather than a democratic group like Lick.
Cox’s philosophical adjustment has been accompanied by a renewed focus on her guitar skills and her songwriting. She also has a newfound awareness of what her strengths are. In New York, she became a fan of hard rock and punk, styles she tried to emulate. But most of the attention in Lick came for the slower, more melodic material she wrote.
And she has a new appreciation of her musical roots. After her father died, Cox listened to old recordings from Syzygy. “I realized how much he motivated us,” she said of her father. “And what an amazing guitar player he was. It was great to grow up around that, have my dad teach us so much about music.”
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Theatre Aspen’s Solo Flights one-person play festival returns to the Hurst Theatre this summer Aug. 25-31with double the programming compared to its inaugural four-play festival in 2019.