Wolf -What motivates you?
Jesse – I’m a seeker. I’m always happy to be where I’m at but I’m also aware that there is always more to be experienced so I’m constantly trying to rise towards whatever that may be. We’re kind of on this staircase and you don’t just get one step upward and think, “Okay, well I’m here now. I guess I will just sit at this step for the rest of my life.” For me it’s more like, “Alright. I’ve accomplished that. Now what!?” I’m always making little tweaks in my life to make things better for myself. I also believe in a Power that is beyond what is just inside me and I’m constantly aware of signs that there is something higher at play than just the world I see with my eyes on a day-to-day basis. There is something out there and, you don’t even have to give it a name, it’s just a light inside all of us that is working toward some greater good. Those themes are woven throughout the album. So I’m motivated by that. I’m motivated by people also. Creative people especially. A good film motivates me. The way that everything can come together; the cinematography, locations, costumes, acting, score, etc. I’m very inspired by the discipline involved in making a great film and I try to have my songs unfold in a cinematic way because of that influence.
Wolf – When did you decide that music was what you wanted to do?
Jesse – When I was about 6 years old I knew. I was constantly putting on some type of performance for the neighborhood and I continued to do that throughout my childhood, joining band, choir and later in high school fronting bands, etc. I always liked being on stage and I knew that I wanted to do that, I just wasn’t sure how. The town I grew up in until I was about 15 had about 500 people at the most. I had this dream but I wasn’t quite sure how to execute it. When I was finally old enough to move here to Los Angeles it was tough. Because I was torn between knowing I had to make money to survive and knowing that there were going to be many, many years of doing shit gigs and probably not getting paid much for them. But I’ve always known. Frankly, I’m not very good at much else. I can kind of fake just about anything but as far as other career paths go there is just not one other thing I can imagine doing. I even tried from time to time. There were moments, albeit brief ones, when I would think, “F*ck this,” and I would try to take a different path, maybe even going so far as to do some research and maybe interview for a particular job, but every time I was close the Universe would kind of come in and be like “No. No. This is not the path for you.” And sometimes that would come in the form of a close friend being like “Dude. What are you doing?” And then I would get a placement or something and remember, “Okay okay. This is where I’m supposed to be.”
Wolf – How has your sound evolved from your first singles to Higher?
Jesse – I believe it’s important to continually be reinventing myself. That’s what keeps me from getting bored and with every new experience and collaboration I grow and get a fresh new take on things. The very first EP I ever released had much more of an Alternative/Country/Rockabilly vibe to it. I wrote every song from scratch on guitar but I realized that I was never going to be a shredder. I just played enough to write a song. I decided about 5 years ago when I first sought out to make the album that it was important for me, at that point, to bring in someone who was good at producing proper beats and pop songs, I was no longer interested in being the acoustic storyteller type of artist. That’s when I met Mindé, the executive producer of the album. The first song that he and I wrote together was “For Ships To Come In” and I when he first sent over the final product it felt so right to tell a story over a beat that made me want to dance. It was much different from what I had been doing.
Wolf – What piece of advice would you give aspiring musicians?
Jesse – My advice would be not to listen to me or anyone else who may try to tell you what to do, how to sound, who to be. Go with your gut. Only you know what is going to work. If you have a dream you have to protect it. If people can’t do something themselves they’re gonna try and tell you that you can’t do it either. Don’t ask for anyone’s permission. When you trust yourself and speak your truth, that’s when the magic happens. If you love what you are doing, people will see that.
Wolf – What artists would you say inspired you and your music?
Jesse – It’s hard to answer that. So many. I take inspiration from the deepest of poets to the most outlandish of pop stars. I think that all art has something to say. I listen to a lot of classical. Sometimes I will go weeks at a time without even hearing one song with words, aside from something playing in the background at a restaurant or something, but I won’t intentionally listen to anything other than classical. Especially when I’m writing a lot because I want my songs to be a pure expression of self. Classical is so freeing and there are so many little subtleties of melody and sound. I like to do that, especially with the background vocals I create, so I find a lot of inspiration there. I’m also hugely inspired by a lot of old and even ancient books and texts and great philosophers throughout history. Quite a few of my songs have blossomed after reading something that really hits me in my soul.
Wolf – How did it feel to work on “Higher”?
Jesse – Creating always feels good. It’s cathartic. I love being in the studio and seeing ideas come to life and how they progress from the beginning to the end. The finished product is often a complete 180 from what we may have started with and that’s pretty cool to see. This album was a little bit different though because it was the first time I really felt like “Okay, I’ve found my voice. I’ve found my sound. This is exactly, precisely what I want it to be doing.” And that was an incredible feeling because I spent so many years trying on different hats as an artist, and I think it’s good to and I will always be trying new things out but this was the first time I was finally like, “wow. this one fits.”
Wolf – Any anecdotes you would like to share?
Jesse – Look up from you phone more often. I love Instagram just as much as the next person but there is a whole world outside of that tiny little box. There are real people standing in line next to you at Starbucks who are in fact probably a lot more interesting than the models on social media that you don’t even actually know. Say hi to someone. People want to be talked to and recognized. A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.
Wolf – One last thought
It was a pleasure exchanging emails and getting to know Jesse beyond the artist and meeting him, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the artist and the person are one and that this singer/songwriter is not only filled with talent but with a capacity to reach people in a personal level. I can honestly say that I am thankful for meeting him.
Interview by Wolf in a suit