Hailing from Oregon, Ben Rue now calls Nashville home. The singer songwriter was introduced to country audiences earlier this year with his debut single "I Can't Wait" (Be My Wife). The single received accolades from Billboard, All Access and, importantly, listeners. Ben graciously took some time to talk about the single, his favorite moment thus far and more.
You were singing at a young age while working on your family's grass seed farm. Did you know from childhood that you wanted to pursue music as your profession?
I knew that I wanted to perform in front of big crowds, whether it was on a stage [with a music career] or pitching for a baseball team. I wanted to be at that level professionally where I was in front of thousands of people.
Did you grow up listening to country music?
All I listened to growing up was country music, especially Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Diamond Rio.
Are those artists ones that you would want to model your career after?
Definitely. Garth is a memorable performer, has a great work ethic and knows what people want to hear. Diamond Rio has some of the best melodies that I have ever heard ever and Chris Cagle and Alan Jackson write so simply, but say things in a way that no one has ever heard before.
When did you start playing guitar and writing?
I started in college. Our mom played multiple instruments and always encouraged us to get involved with music. My older brother started playing before I did, and I always like to say that I can do whatever he does, so I picked up the guitar and started teaching myself from You Tube videos. Once I picked up the guitar, I started writing. Playing the guitar really encouraged the writing process for me because I am not very good with talking about my feelings and emotions. For me, it is easier to put them into songs.
What finally spurred the move from Oregon to Nashville?
I would say that the final push was when I took part in the first season of the X Factor. I made it through a couple rounds and Simon had some really nice things to say about me which gave me the encouragement and the confidence to take the next step. I drove cross country in thirty eight hours and arrived in Nashville on February 19, 2012.
Growing up on a farm requires a strong work ethic. Does that transfer to your music career?
Absolutely. We woke up early and worked fairly late. My brothers and I were good at always keeping each other in line. The competitiveness of sports also prepared me for a music career. [Ben attended Concordia University on a baseball scholarship and played for an independent team] Both instilled in me the work ethic that I have today.
You have said that you have a "passion for making lyrically meaningful music." Why is that important to you?
That is one of the elements of the 90’s country music that I grew up on and I feel very strongly that it is important to be able to reach people with meaningful lyrics in my songs. I was driving to Nashville and was five minutes outside of the city, still struggling with whether I was doing the right thing driving across the country on a leap of faith. As I was coming around the corner I saw the silhouette of Nashville and Garth Brooks’ “The River” came on the radio. That song spoke to me at the perfect time in way that nothing else probably could. I want to create songs like that which connect with the listeners.
Your single “I Can’t Wait" (Be My Wife) has those meaningful lyrics and has gotten such a positive reception. Talk about the single and what drew you to record it.
It’s more than just a song that people who are engaged or newlyweds can relate to because it is a reminder of how simple love should be. Anyone who has been married for many years sometimes needs to remember why they fell in love.
I was drawn to the song for the message, but also because it is also so different from what is on the radio right now. It might be kind of unheard of that someone new comes out of the gate with a mid-tempo ballad, but it was something I really wasn’t afraid of. I connected with the song and was happy that the song was brought to me.
How do you follow up a song that has been called the wedding song of the summer?
A little pressure right?! (laughing) I will just keep doing what I know how to do and create great music. I am excited to continue writing and creating songs with lyrics that express what is difficult for people to say, because I struggle with that too.
A lot has happened this year for you professionally. Is there one specific moment that was a highlight?
Recently, I played in Rochester NY. There were 3500 people there and I am pretty sure every single one of them was singing "I Can't Wait" back to me. The response from that crowd was incredible and if you watch the video of it on You Tube, I think you can tell I was genuinely excited. To know that my song has that effect on people is overwhelming.
What’s next for you?
I will be writing every day. I am playing with Scotty McCreery in New Jersey and Eric Paslay in IA. I will also headline some shows and visit radio stations. I want to be out there reaching people across the nation one city at a time. This is all new to me, so I am really excited to go state to state and play for people. I am ready for anything.
Finally, I always like to know, is one recently released album that you cannot stop listening to?
Brett Eldredge has a really cool, fresh sound. I love everything he has released. I think people connect with what he puts out because he is really genuine.
For more information visit Ben's official website
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Watch the video for "I Can't Wait" (Be My Wife) here
Jamie Lynn Spears has had a momentous year. She released her first single to country radio, "How Could I Want More," as well as her debut EP and performed at the Grand Ole Opry. This Saturday, September 27th, Jamie Lynn will headline the Everyday Heroes Concert in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Jamie Lynn graciously took the time to chat about her year, the importance of giving back and more.
It was almost a year ago that you released your first single, "How Could I Want More," to country radio. The response from listeners, fans and even skeptics was overwhelmingly positive.
It was especially nice to have that with this song because it means so much to me. It is a very personal song and anytime you put something out there like that and get a reaction to it, it's great.
Another big event that occurred this year was the release of your EP, The Journey, which had a nice mix of intimate and fun songs.
It definitely was! It was really cool to be able to get music out to my fans. It was hard to choose which five songs to put on there, but I am really proud of the EP and how it came out. Each of those songs means a lot to me. They are a broad spectrum of songs that tell the story of a different part of my life and show who I am as an artist.
During the year you performed quite a bit including a radio tour and performance at CMA Fest.
Yes, I really did. I had some great experiences. At CMA Fest there was a lot of personal time with the fans, which was my favorite part. It was great to shake hands with and talk to the fans one on one. I loved hearing how they connected with the songs and which ones they really liked. The radio tour was something that I had never done. It was neat to meet the people who work at radio and are in control of what the fans hear. Both were learning experiences that I really enjoyed.
You also recently made your Grand Ole Opry debut, which I imagine was an incredible experience.
It was such an amazing, overwhelming experience and a very personal one as well. I have always wanted to stand in that circle where all of those legends have stood. I was nervous because I really wanted to do my best. It was wonderful to be able to share that time with my family and those I love.
This Saturday you will headline the Everyday Heroes Concert in Seaside Heights, NJ. How did you get involved with the event and why is it important to you?
Anytime I am approached with being involved with anything that benefits a cause, I think it is important to show my appreciation. When I was approached about this benefit, I was immediately honored to be able to be involved. I respect and appreciate what all of these men and women do and am very happy to be able to sing some songs for them.
This benefit is one that honors those who put themselves on the line and make sacrifices for others. They [The event honors Firefighters, EMS, Police and Military] have such compassion for others. I think it is wonderful to be able to support them.
What are you professional plans for the remainder of the year?
Things slow down in Nashville during holiday time. I did a lot this summer and had my daughter travelling with me, so right now we are settled into our routine at home and figuring out the next step.
For more information on the Everyday Heroes Concert visit here
For more information on Jamie Lynn visit her official website
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From singing in the shopping cart when she was two, to singing all over the United States and the UK, British Country singer/songwriter Sasha McVeigh says music is her life. In a very short time Sasha has already gained experience and accomplished goals that even seasoned artists would be in awe of. Gearing up to record her first full length record, Sasha took some time to chat about her journey, her biggest moment so far and what's ahead.
A few years ago you graduated [from the US equivalent of high school] and were accepted into numerous university programs, yet you chose to pursue music.
Music was something I have always wanted to do and being in school made it difficult to focus on that completely. I started playing piano at age ten and writing songs at age twelve. I only began playing guitar three years ago, when it became apparent that it was going to be difficult to take a keyboard everywhere I went! I just became obsessed with the guitar and now I cannot go anywhere without it. I even named my guitar Dean because he is a Martin!
After graduation, I told my parents what they expected-that I wanted to focus on music full time. They believed in me and supported me 100%. They sold everything so I could go to Nashville in 2012.
Why did you gravitate to the country genre?
My dad got me into country music. We would dance around the coffee table to the music of Willie, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. I love songs that have a story behind them and I think country is one of the only genres where when artists play their songs you can hear their stories. It is a very personal genre. I have always been a storyteller and when I began writing songs, they naturally came out country.
Are those artists that you mentioned being exposed to in childhood some of your influences?
Yes, some of my biggest influences are the artists that I listened to at an early age. I have been listening to Elvis since I was seven years old; I absolutely love his music. I listened to a lot of Shania Twain and my mom often had Motown playing. I also am influenced by Zac Brown Band and Kasey Musgraves.
You started your musical journey in 2012 and it seems to be progressing fairly rapidly.
It’s kind of crazy really. I don’t come from money; my parents are pensioners who really did sell everything so I could pursue my dream. Telling them thank you seems redundant now because it doesn’t begin to cover how grateful I am. My message to people is that if you are dedicated to your craft, if you focus on your dreams and have a good support system anything is possible.
When I went to Nashville in November of 2012, I planned on playing a couple shows and ended up being booked solid for two weeks. [Sasha played at Tootsies, The Rutledge and The Bluebird to name a few]. I returned to Nashville in May 2013 and toured again. But the biggest thing for me so far was playing at the ACM kickoff party in Vegas in April 2014 with Hunter Hayes. I still can’t believe that happened.
How did that come about?
It was a bit of luck actually. I performed in Colorado at the Country Jam Festival singing in the VIP area and Bob Romeo, who is the President of the ACM, was there. I was taken over and introduced to him and we got to talking. He really liked my music and said that if I was ready for it, he would love for me to do something with the ACM in Vegas if I was ready for it. Naturally, I said I was ready and in April of 2014, there I was opening at the LINQ! I was the first artist ever to get to perform on stage at the Linq, which was just unbelievable! I was an unsigned British country music artist, so for him to have that faith in me and to think I was good enough to do something like that is just incredible! I mean, even now I look back at the pictures to make sure I wasn’t dreaming the whole thing!
Will you remain in the UK or relocate to Nashville?
I am kind of deciding that at the moment. British country artists usually focus on the UK first while I started off in America. The main reason I wanted to start in Nashville was that I knew if I got into scene and played shows I would be given the foundation to develop my sound and my skills. I feel that my time in Nashville was like attending the University of Music. I was really able to go outside of my comfort zone, as I was a bit shy, and am now able to play in front of all ranges of audiences.
What are our plans for the rest of the year and 2015?
I will have a single out in January called “Two Ships,” which is about a previous relationship. On November 1st, I will head to Nashville to record my first full length, full band album which will be funded through Kickstarter. I hope to have the album out in in either March or April. I wrote everything for the record thus far and more or less decided on the track listing. When I’m in Nashville, I am going to be doing some co-writing, which is something I have never ventured into before, so maybe some of those songs will end up on the album as well.
We will tour in the UK and Europe and we are working on lots of exciting things I cannot talk about yet! I am just so excited to get out to perform, tell my stories and see the audience’s reaction. I am really living the dream!
Finally, I always like to know, is there one recent release that you cannot stop listening to?
That’s a tough one, let me think. I'm currently listening to Dustin Lynch's new record and of course Elvis, I always have him on. You can’t really get better than Elvis.
Find her on Facebook and Follow her on Twitter To help Sasha make her record, visit her Kickstarter
They might not be household names yet, but rising duo The Roosevelts are soon to be a band that "everybody knows." The Austin based duo, comprised of James Mason and Jason Kloess, merge various musical styles into an undeniably unique sound coupled with meaningful, heartfelt story songs. Their EP, Cold Sheets, was released in 2013 and the video for the song of the same name recently premiered on CMT. Jason was gracious enough to take the time to talk about the music, “Cold Sheets,” their first tour and more.
As one half of The Roosevelts, tell us when you began playing guitar and when you decided to pursue music professionally.
I started playing piano in Kindergarten and took lessons for six years, but I really didn’t like practicing. My Dad played guitar and I wanted to play guitar too. So in the 6th grade I got guitar for Christmas. My Dad taught me the basic chords and I took from there. I was in a couple different bands in high school and college, and had a lot of fun doing it, but I never took it too seriously and didn’t think of making it a career choice. Once I graduated college, I moved to Austin [from Alabama] on the advice of a friend who told me what a great city Austin was and how I needed to spend time there.
For the record, you guys are not brothers, so how did you end up connecting with James?
I met James through a mutual friend in Austin. We were at a dinner and someone said half jokingly ‘oh Jason you play guitar and so does James, you guys should get together and start a band.’ We realized that we had similar styles and musical tastes and so we started playing together. We played a lot of bars and fraternity and sorority parties, where we did a lot of covers and Motown songs. We were writing our own songs as well, but they were a different style and really were not seeing the light of day. So, we decided to go into the studio and record some of our songs. It was then that the light bulb went off for me that there was the possibility that we had some magic with our music. From there we decided to form The Roosevelts [in 2012] and here we are now moving full steam ahead.
I read that you chose the name The Roosevelts because it was President’s Day. Being that you guys seem to have the Lincoln look going with the beards, how did Roosevelt win out?
I never thought about that, the Lincoln look, I’m going to have to use that! (laughing) We had a long list of possible names that were just really, terribly bad. We were looking for a short name that we could tell people and they would remember it. Naming ourselves The Roosevelts just felt right with [regards to] our musical style and the direction we were going. Plus, there were two of them and there are two of us. Then, when we were leaving the studio we realized it was President’s Day, so we knew we definitely had to go with the name.
Your 2013 release, the EP Cold Sheets, encompasses many different styles from soul to pop to folk and southern rock. Is that due to the fact that you listen to a wide range of music?
That’s a big part of it. We both grew up listening to James Taylor, Dave Matthews, and Stevie Wonder. I also listened to a lot of southern rock, like CCR and Skynyrd. I’m all over the board with music; I like hip hop and Top 40 occasionally too. In addition, when we were playing weddings and frats, we spent hours learning a lot of Bill Withers and a lot of fun songs that kept people moving.
James has said that you both "knew what kind of sound we wanted to create” when you went to record the EP. Can you elaborate on that?
We knew the direction we wanted to go in and what to stay away from. We didn’t want to just have songs that got people moving; we wanted to get back to more singer songwriter songs, more heartfelt meaningful songs with deeper lyrics. For the EP, we came in with about fifty songs-those that weren’t seeing the light of day when we played the frat parties or weddings-and Dwight Baker helped us weed out the best six for the EP and we went from there. Then we found the players to recreate the music live, which is sort of a backwards way of doing it, but that’s how we went about it.
Did you and James write all of the songs on the EP?
Yes. There may be one or two songs that James has a heavier songwriting credit on, but typically, we write together. We send ideas back and forth, critiquing the songs and polishing them up. I tend to write more face paced, higher tempo songs while James’s style is more singer songwriter, slower paced. It’s actually nice to be able to co-write with someone who has a little different style than you because you can change songs up yet still keep the feeling to the song.
Our influences really come through in our musical style and in our songwriting too. We can write one way and if we don’t like the direction a song is going we can always pull from something else and add a blues influence or rock or Americana, whatever it might be.
What’s the story behind your current song "Cold Sheets?"
It’s definitely a break up song. James wrote most of it after a break up. It’s kind of that feeling a person might have where they are missing the consistency you have as a couple and wanting it back even though you know it’s not a good idea.
CMT recently premiered the video for “Cold Sheets,” which offers an unexpected take on the song. Who decided on the concept for the video?
The video portrays the song in a way that is different than the typical breakup video. We received the treatment for the song as a couple in wartime, as opposed to love lost at the end of a relationship, which was really interesting. As we were shooting the video, the concept for it evolved and the entire shoot, which was a lot of fun, was done very collaboratively. We actually shot four different endings and did not know which one made the final cut until we saw the end product. That was a little scary, because we didn’t have control, but it turned out great.
How was it decided who got to play the lead in the video? Did you guys flip a coin?
I don’t know how James got to be the lucky one! (laughing) I must have been in a different room when they decided who got the make out part. I think I get dibs on the next one!
The Roosevelts just completed their first tour of the southeast. How did you find the reception to the music?
It was awesome! It was our first tour, so we didn’t know what to expect, especially going into markets where we had never been. The crowds were phenomenal! The reception was an affirmation that the music we were creating was resonating with people. Hearing people’s reactions to the songs and having them shouting requests when we went back again was like ‘wow they’re remembering us.' We’re headed back to the southeast in a few weeks; it’ll be great to see our fans and play our music for them.
We are also going to be on Rock the Boat again. We’re really looking forward to that, seeing the fans, watching the other bands play and getting to know them. It’ll be a blast!
Given that the EP was released in 2013, will there be new music soon?
We actually finished recording a full length record two weeks ago, however, we don’t know when it is going to be released; it may be tabled until later next year. Many people have not heard the current EP, so we want to focus on getting that out there for awhile.
Speaking of new music, is there is one recent album that you just cannot stop listening to?
That’s a good one. I’ve really been digging Ed Sheeran’s latest. We saw The Lone Bellow at Live on the Green in Nashville, those guys are so good. I know I speak for James on that one too, he’s a big fan.
For more information visit their official website
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Purchase Cold Sheets here
Watch the video for "Cold Sheets" here
Hailing from the Washington D.C. area, The Morrison Brothers play an original style of country where the music truly speaks for itself. With numerous songwriting awards and a relentless touring schedule, The Morrison Brothers have proven themselves to be a premier act in the D.C. area and beyond. The band is currently promoting their single “Little Miss Whiskey” from their latest release State of the Union. Front man Willie Morrison took the time to talk about the single, what’s ahead and more.
The Morrison Brothers have been together since 2007. Tell us how the members came together to pursue music as a profession.
We are all from the D.C. area and have all been doing music since a young age. I went out to California for college and played venues out there with my brother. When we went into the studio to record and heard how the songs were coming together, we knew we had to get a band together. I ended up leaving California and moving back east and that’s when the Morrison Brothers were formed. There are two sets of brothers in the band, my brother [Truman] and myself and the Nolan brothers [Matt and Kevin]. We also have Dave Benson [guitar, bass] and Alyson Gilbert [vocals].
The band mix genres for a unique and appealing sound. In fact, your music has been described as “if Van Morrison, O.A.R. and the Eagles had a baby.” That’s a pretty big compliment.
It is definitely a big compliment. To have someone say that about us, well you can’t argue with that, you know. I would say that we are definitely in the country vein, but we all draw on a vast well of influences from all genres that contribute to our sound.
Do you have any other specific influences or inspirations?
The Nolan brothers are jazz guys, as well as big fans of Little Feat. My brother and I grew up listening to The Allman Brothers and Merle Haggard. We were very lucky because when we were kids, our parents would take us to see all different kinds of live music every weekend.
State of the Union, your third album, was released in 2013. The album has varied tunes from southern rockers to ballads to party songs which highlights the band’s diversity. Did you do all of the songwriting?
Yes, we wrote everything on that album. Songwriting is a group effort; we all respect one another, with regards to songwriting, and we sort of evenly split it. Maybe one or two people will bring the majority of a song to the table, but then the rest of us sit down and help finish it up or tweak it a bit. It's kind of a neat way to do it.
A standout track on the record is “Ain't No Stopping You” which has a Matchbox 20/Santana vibe.
That song is a curveball; we didn’t really know what we were going with that one. It has that Santana/Spanish vibe going on there, as well as that long solo instrumental. It’s a song we just really enjoy and is really fun to play live.
Your current single, “Little Miss Whiskey,” is garnering airplay in multiple cities and states including Nashville, Georgia and Kentucky. What’s the story behind that song?
That song came together quickly. It is just a really feel good, have a good time song.
"Little Miss Whiskey" has really helped us grow as a band. We had a few other songs that maybe got played locally on a midnight show, but “Little Miss Whiskey” is the first song of ours that is legitimately getting played on the radio in different cities. When we heard it on the radio, it was weird, but really cool. It pumped us up because that had never happened before.
In the last few years, you have had the opportunity to open for Merle Haggard and Tim McGraw. Those must have been incredible experiences.
It has been so much fun. We have been so lucky to meet people who have inspired us, like Merle Haggard, and to watch them perform. We also opened for Leon Russell, Frankie Ballard and Maggie Rose. They are all extremely talented and professional. We really learned a lot from them.
What can someone expect from a live show?
We are very proud of what we do. You can expect to see a band, in every sense of the word. When you see us play, it’s impossible not to see that we have been playing together forever. We have a lot of energy and we feed off of each other's energy. We have a great time and hope the audience feels that and has a good a time as we are.
What are The Morrison Brothers plans for the remainder of year?
We will play some local shows. In the summer, we travel a lot in the South and Midwest, but in the fall and winter we play mostly within a certain radius, like NY, DE, and PA. We will also be writing a lot and hope to have new music, an EP, out within the coming months.
Finally, I always like to know if there is one cd released recently that you cannot stop listening to.
We have two, both young artists who have an old school country vibe to them. We’re listening to Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and Ashley Monroe’s Like A Rose. We just love those albums.
Watch the video for "Little Miss Whiskey" below
For more information visit their official website
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Country music artist Veronica Ballestrini first came onto the scene at the age of 17 when she caught national attention from The New York Times for her social media and YouTube success. In 2009, her song “Amazing” from her debut album, What I’m All About, earned her a debut Top 30 single on the Music Row Country Breakout chart. Recently, Ballestrini was chosen by Ford Motor Company to be an agent for the Ford Fiesta Movement as part of a promotion with Ford and YouTube. In addition, in 2014 she released her sophomore album, Flip Side, as well as her current single, “Cookies and Cream.” Veronica took some time to talk with us about the album and single as well as her influences and plans for the remainder of the year.
Is it true that you became interested in country music after attending a Dolly Parton concert?
Yes, that is true. It was an awesome concert that I will never forget. I remember she played with a full band, but then sat on the edge of the stage, just her and her guitar. Her performance was just so pure and real; I had chills. I fell in love with the way she delivered the lyrics, with such feeling and emotion, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. It was after that, when I was around twelve years old, that I started playing guitar and writing songs.
Dolly is obviously a major influence and inspiration to you. Is there anyone else you draw inspiration from?
I love Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban. I have many inspirations from outside country as well, such as Colbie Caillat. I feel it’s important to open my mind to many different styles of music because they help shape me, my music and my writing.
You gained national attention early on in large part to your You Tube videos. As an independent artist, how has social media impacted your career so far?
I was always told that you have to work hard to get to where you want to be. My parents taught me to never give up on my goals, stay focused and believe that when you work hard for something, it will happen for you. I had gotten turned down by labels, but that just made me want to do it myself. I never took no for an answer.
Social media can open doors for independent artists who might not be on the radio. It has been a great way for people to hear my music and for me to connect with fans because at the end of the day, that's what it is all about.
Your first record, What I'm All About, was released in 2009 and your latest, Flip Side, was released this past June. Talk about the record and why you waited five years between projects.
I had a couple of years between albums and that was because I wanted to get the songs right. I wanted to experience life and have the songs to back it up. I am very proud of Flip Side and am excited that people are finally hearing it and liking it!
Music is a way for me to express myself. I wrote all of the songs on the album because it is important for me to sing songs that mean something to me. For me, music is a healing, universal language. I may take a personal moment and turn it into a song that people can relate to that may help someone get through a hard time, which is really what I’m here for.
How did you decide to title the album Flip Side?
My manager came up with that name. He saw a lot of the songs on the record as happy and a lot as sad and said ‘you know there’s a flip side.’ When I heard that, I thought it was perfect.
Is there any song on the record that is a particular favorite to you?
“Death of Me,” which is a sad break up song, is a favorite. Another favorite is “Because You Loved Me,” which I wrote for, and dedicate to, my mom and dad who have always been there for me.
You current single is “Cookies and Cream.” What is the backstory to that song?
It is just a happy song about being in love and the magic behind it. I always thought it was ironic that when girls go through a break up they drown their sorrows in ice cream, but when a relationship is new and you are out on a date, you can barely eat the ice cream because of the nervous butterflies.
What are your plans for the remainder of the year?
We will be releasing the music video for “Cookies and Cream” and then I will go back on tour in Asia and the U.S. We may put out one more music video in the wintertime and maybe even a Christmas song.
What do you listen to in your downtime?
I love Colbie Caillat’s first album; she has such a delicate and unique voice. I also really like One Republic and Miranda Lambert’s “Automatic."
Watch the lyric video for “Cookies and Cream” here
Purchase “Cookies and Cream” here
For more information visit Veronica's official website
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Jesse Terry is an internationally award winning songwriter whose music is truly genuine and heartfelt. His three albums, The Runner, Empty Seat On A Plane, and Stay Here With Me, showcase storytelling, and an emotional depth and intimacy all conveyed by his comforting voice. Jesse was the Grand Prize winner of The John Lennon Songwriting Contest, The NSAI/CMT Song Contest, and The We Are Listening Singer/Songwriter Awards. He has had the honor of performing for US and NATO troops stationed at Thule Air Base in Greenland. Jesse graciously took some time to talk with us about writing from a place of truth, influences and what's ahead.
Tell us a little bit about how you decided to pursue music as a profession.
I was super into fine art, but I had gotten an injury, and my mom lent me her guitar. I was hooked; consumed by it really, and once I wrote my first song, I decided that was it for me. I quit art school, put down the paintbrush and completely focused on music. I had many wonderful guitar teachers including David Coe, and a voice teacher, Tracy Marble, both of whom prepared me for Berklee. I attended Berklee, and two months after graduation I had a publishing deal in Nashville. I worked in Nashville for five years writing professionally and then started touring full time.
To be offered a publishing deal two months after graduation is typically not the way things happen for many.
No, it’s not. Berklee offers its students an amazing Nashville spring break trip. I was a total nerd and went there four years in a row instead of going to Panama City. It was just amazing! We got to go into Warner Brothers, have Alison Krauss talk to us; just ridiculous things! We toured the finest studios, sat on stage at the Opry, went to the Bluebird and met songwriters in town. Also, in my senior year I won the grand prize in NSAI/CMT Song Contest. It seemed the universe just guided the way and I knew I was on the right path. I got a job washing boats in Nashville, and one day, Mark Alan Springer came down and asked me to write for him full time and get paid to do it. Of course I said yes.
So this way is not normally how things happen, and I learned that later on because that company [I wrote for] eventually closed their office, and as I was looking for a new deal, I realized just how hard it was and just how few spots there are. There are a little over 300-400 paid songwriters positions in Nashville, which is not a lot when you think about how may singer/songwriters there are in Nashville.
How did you make your way to Connecticut, where you currently reside?
After the company closed, I went to the South Pacific just to clear my head. It was there I met my wife, who is a New Zealander. When I got back from there, I toured and traveled for eight months straight and got married. That was 2010, which was a very good year.
Your wife seems to be one of your sources of inspiration.
My second record was pretty much about falling in love with Jess, touring with her and marrying her. I see songs and albums as snapshots in time, and that album was really about that whole time. Those were definitely magical, momentous times in life. It was a big year and most songs were about that experience.
Where else do you draw your inspirations from?
Just real life. Not that you can’t make stuff up, but I write from a place of truth and one that feels real to me. I won’t write anything unless it resonates from me and has impact. I am always trying to write about different things, a lot of which comes from the road and meeting interesting people from the places I have been. Those are the things that I missed most when I was in Nashville, because, for the most part, I was showing up to a job and writing in an office. There is nothing wrong with that at all, and some writers are fine with that, drawing inspiration from books and film, but I needed a bit more input, which I get from traveling, coming in to assist me with my writing.
Who do you consider your musical influences?
Besides my wife, I love the Beatles more than anything. I also enjoy the real golden age of storyteller and songwriters like James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young. They really inspired me. They are so transparent and vulnerable in their songwriting which appealed to me. I find it really comforting because it’s so obvious they’re speaking the truth, and that connects with you on a deep level. They’re definitely people who I would want to model my career after.
What drew you to make the type of music that you do?
That’s a great, tough question. I was hung up on the kind of project we were going to do, wondering if it would be acoustic or more rock or something else, but my producer said don’t worry about it, just worry about writing great songs and think of it as genreless. If the project needed something like pedal steel or a big string section we’d add it. That’s been so liberating because I hadn’t been thinking about genres and where the music fits. I just think about great songs, what fits the songs and how to produce the songs creatively.
For your own records do you prefer to write on your own, co-write or does it depend?
It just depends. I wrote the whole second album by myself, which I wanted to do because I had years of co-writing in Nashville, and I needed a break from it. Then, when I came back to co-writing, it was a lot of fun to do again with the right people; people who I was inspired by, and I loved, including my producer Neilson Hubbard and Angela Kaset, a wonderful singer/songwriter. I love how certain co-writers will take you different places, but you don’t want to go to so many places that you become a chameleon with your project and lose your center. It’s really cool to have different kinds of songs on a record, but they should be authentic to you.
It seems to me that with your music and lyrics, you strive for something more than commercial airplay?
Thank you, that’s very kind of you. We’d all love to have a big old hit, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting that, but I cannot write from that place. I have to write from truth and what I love, and then, hopefully, eventually one of those songs will organically have exposure. I’m not against having a hit, but I don’t find it necessary, and I don’t write with that purpose in mind. I just try to write the best, most truthful song I can write.
Speaking of exposure, you are going to have nine song placements on the PBS series RoadTrip Nation.
Yes! They called me a while back and used one of my songs, so when they asked to use more of the music, I agreed. I’m a huge fan of NPR and public television and told them they can use whatever they’d like. I would have been thrilled with one placement, but to have nine is great. I don’t know when the songs will pop up, so it’ll be fun to watch and keep my ears peeled for my songs.
Do you feel that this year things are moving forward faster for you professionally?
Absolutely. It’s the first year that I’ve headlined theaters which is a big milestone, but I think 2015 will be big year for me. I’ll go out on bigger tours, support larger artists and put out a new record. It will either be a full length record or an EP. I am keeping an open mind because unless we feel that we have ten to twelve perfect songs, I will not make a full record.
Your last two records were fan funded. Will you also go that route with the new record?
I will probably shop that record to labels, but I also will keep an open mind. I wouldn’t sign anywhere that wouldn’t let me be me. I’ve been at it long enough to know that if I try to fake it, it wouldn’t work. I’d rather not waste their time or mine. I think I have a place, and I’ll find it as my own authentic artist.
It’s still hard to make music independently. People say it’s an even playing field, but that’s not necessarily true; you still need a publicist and money, but things are evolving, and we have to evolve with them.
I try to be positive. If not, it’d be pretty depressing. It is hard to sustain an artistic career without positivity, because there is so much persistence that is required and rejection that you may encounter. It’s not always rejection per se, it’s that there’s not enough folks listening, which is almost harder than rejection. You need to have a lot of confidence and humility, and that goes along with gratitude and positivity, so I strive for that.
People will most certainly be listening on September 3rd when you play Rockwood Music Hall.
I am really excited to play NYC. I have played Rockwood before, and they have been very supportive and a big part of me building a fan base in NYC. I started on stage one, and it took me a few years to move to stage two, and I am really glad to be there. The NYC crowd is really a special one. They are really wonderful people who are astute music lovers who are loyal. They really embraced me.
Finally, I always love to know: What are you listening to now?
I’ve been listening to Jason Isbell’s Southeastern like crazy. I also like the Milk Carton Kids and Roseanne Cash’s new record. There is so much music I need to discover and dig into! Also, every month I kind of go back to someone I idolize and wear out their stuff. Lately I have been wearing out Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and Ryan Adams. Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, too. They’ve been killing me lately; they’re really talented!