Outside-the-box musical talent hits the Recess stage

Friday night, Recess 101 will open its doors to returning customers and new customers as well as a returning artist and a new artist – at least new to the Recess 101 stage.

Gena Hall, who prefers to go simply as Gena, will make her Brookhaven debut on the Recess stage alongside seasoned artist Andy Tanas.

“I’m a real fan of female singer/songwriters,” Tanas, from Memphis, Tenn., said.

Tanas who found his place among bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Oak Arkansas and Krokus, raves about Gena and her music.

“She’s the best I’ve heard in about the last 30 years,” he said.

Tanas said he met Gena through a friend of his on Facebook. Six months later, he’s producing her first album, and she’s joining him in Brookhaven for a show. Tanas describes his own music as Southern Gothic, which he explains further as a darker side of the South. Gena’s music, like Tanas, is something of its own and can’t be easily placed in any one existing genre.

“It’s music from the heart,” Gena said. “Like a life story that’s been packed in for a long time.”

Involving styles from folk, rock and jazz, Gena said her inspiration comes from artists such as Eva Cassidy, Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell.

Gena comes from Memphis as well but has lived in Madison since 1984. She said her story involves having children when she was young, one at age 17, the second at age 18 and the third at age 20.

“In situations like that, you kind of have to put your dreams on hold,” she said.

Her husband died in the 90s when the children were still young. Although she was then a single mother, she started playing music in clubs and other venues.

“I didn’t do much original music. I still wrote, but I kept it to myself,” Gena said.

She said playing in clubs had her playing a lot of cover songs, and she didn’t have much chance to play her original songs publicly. However that began to change when she met Tanas, who had heard some of her original music.

“He asked me ‘do you play this around town,’ and when I said no he asked ‘why not,’” Gena said.

Now Gena, her guitar and her voice will grace the people of Recess 101 tomorrow night

“It’s so new. It’s kind of a scary wonderful thing,” Gena said. “I can hear the music in my sleep.”

She said Tanas seemed to be the missing link to the chain that would hoist her past her current level of fame.

Gena’s motivation comes from many places, but she said one person shared something with her that stuck with her – “Don’t die with the music still inside of you.”

The show featuring Tanas and Gena starts at 8 p.m., and the cover charge is $10.