Thursday nights are when you’ll find her, plucking her harp strings as harried humans hurry into the grocery store in search of that night’s dinner.
Ella Jenkins, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Scottish Music from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, Scotland, often sets up shop outside of New Leaf Community Market in Half Moon Bay. It’s a practice she developed while studying in abroad.
“To help pay for food and rent, I’d play outside on the main streets in some of the nicer parts of Glasgow,” Jenkins said. “It was a pretty normal thing to do.
“Everybody is busking, and that’s the way it goes,” she continued. “It led to a bunch of gigs.”
Busking refers to the practice of playing music or performing for donations in the streets or other public places. Once her feet were firmly planted in Half Moon Bay, Jenkins set out to find a place to continue her Scottish tradition.
“New Leaf is a really special place,” said Jenkins. “I get to talk to cool people. I get to connect to the music. It’s purely for the fun and networking of it.
“It’s my weekly therapy because I get to play some music,” she continued. “We don’t often play it just for the love of it. It’s a nice way to chill out.”
Jenkins’ unique approach to playing the harp has pulled the heartstrings of music patrons. Every once in a while, someone will see Jenkins playing and book her for a gig. “I had a cool experience over the holidays,” she recalled. “I was playing outside and was asked to play at a holiday party.”
Jenkins describes her style as breakup music. Her song “Snow Bird” was written about a childhood neighbor who died. She’s also penned an instrumental that was written on the day of the Orlando. Fla., nightclub shooting. All of these tunes and more can be found on her debut album titled, “Who Asked You Back.”
“The harp is such a typecast instrument,” said Jenkins. “I think it’s really much more versatile than people give it credit for. In ‘Who Asked You Back,’ I really tried to give the harp a different angle.
“It takes you in a particular direction,” she continued. “It was really important to have (the album) go somewhere.”
The album is full of surprises, offering up a unique take chock full of bluesy, riff-based kickers as well as a hint of creepy, stolen baby mythology. Smash Mouth’s electric guitar player Sam Eigen dropped in to collaborate on a few tracks.
“Who Asked You Back” will drop on Saturday. A release party will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. on Saturday at 337 Mirada ART Gallery, 337 Mirada Road in Half Moon Bay.
For more information on Jenkins visit ellaharp.com.