After taking over TV with her catchy Hyundai commercial, the independent singer/songwriter makes her debut album a 'Reality.'
Over the winter, Jessica Frech was fairly ubiquitous as the face - and voice - of Hyundai. In two TV commercials, Frech offered original musical odes to the automobile, a placement she earned following exposure of her series of comical songs and parodies on YouTube.
"People of Walmart," in particular, found Frech (which rhymes with check) ribbing the people-watching value of a visit to the superstore. To date, the good-natured song's clip has racked more than 6 million YouTube views.
Now, Frech's debut full-length album is a reality. Literally: the self-released "Reality" arrives today (March 20). She's helped promote the set with live dates on the second annual DigiTour, which features a selection of singers who've swelled their audiences through YouTube videos.
The Nashville-based self-described "singer, songwriter, ukulele-ista, slapstick YouTube video creator, (Belmont University) college student (and) coffee house hermit" said in a recent visit to Billboard's New York offices that "Reality" largely eschews observations of big-box retailers (as rich as they are for subject matter) for more personal songwriting.
''Real music, as I call it," says Frech with a laugh. "Not that comedy isn't real music."
Notably, "Reality" includes not only a cover of Melanie (Safka)'s 1971 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 "Brand New key," but also an update of her "I Tried to Die Young." "(Melanie) just happened to be at one of the shows I was playing and I talked to her afterwards and we got to know each other," says Frech.
Impressively, fan support via Kickstarter helped fund "Reality" entirely. "It's amazing, because I've waited a long time to put this album out," Frech says."It's nice having been able to throw singles up on YouTube every once in a while, but (even nicer) to spend the time … and the money that I didn't have (to record and release the set).
"For fans to donate and pledge and to fund my album was just mind-boggling."
Fans that pledged to Kickstarter (billed as "the world's largest funding platform for creative projects") even got access to special treats. "Somebody bought my Les Paul ukulele that I played in the 'Walmart' video," Frech says. "(Fans could even buy) props from the videos that I've shot. It's kind of cool to see people say, 'I want that!' I'm like, it's just a purse that sits in my room …"
Frech considers utilization of social media essential to traversing the inroads that can help lead an independent artist to greater success.
"It's about being persistent, especially with YouTube, Twitter and Facebook," she says. "Talk with your fans, get to know them. Know what kind of music to write for them - but stay true to yourself."
"That's what was great about the Hyundai commercials," says Frech. "(Hyundai executives) were so good to me about helping me still be myself, turning these little homegrown videos on YouTube into commercials. I've had some people say, 'You sold out,' but it was absolutely not like that. I'd come up with these huge, grand ideas and (Hyundai personnel) would say, 'Jessica, remember, we want you to be yourself.' I was the one trying to be commercial.
"I definitely learned: continue to be yourself and opportunities will continue coming."
From Hyundai to a national tour, as well as a new jingle for energy drink Neuro.
And, should "Reality" continue to build her fan base, Frech might even be able to upgrade to a new car of her own, instead of just singing about such a purchase.
For now? "I drive a 2001 (Toyota) Camry. It just hit 200,000 miles."