Jessie Baylin will arrive in Atlanta on April 25, 2012 opening for The Fray with some dynamic new music in tow. Her self-financed record Little Spark is drawing critical acclaim and bringing new fans on her sonic musical journey. The alt-country songstress is untamed and beautiful, lyrically revealing her quietly dynamic songwriting prowess on the versatile sophomore album. She does not shy away when talking about why she chose to financially back her own project, what inspired her most personal lyrics and feelings about mediocrity in the digital age of music. Jessie Baylin may be a little spark but she is ready to set the music world on fire.
Have you always been interested in singing/being a music artist?
Yeah, when I was 18 in Los Angeles I started writing songs. I did my first residency when I was 20 at The Mint. It was about five weeks long and at the end of my five weeks I had record labels very interested in wanting to develop me. Even as a child I was pretty musical and loved to sing. That always brought me joy. Music has definitely always been a big part of my life. My parents had a vast record collection so I kind of have a song for every moment in my life. They made it that way.
Tell me about the writing process for Little Spark.
I’ve been on the road for a while and kind of stepped away from writing for a minute. I really wanted to figure out who I wanted to be and if I was going to do another record and I had to be really cohesive with my songwriting. I had to make something I wanted to listen to and wanted to make a big change sonically from “Firesight” to “Little Spark.” I was writing and kind of exploring and then I wrote the song “Little Spark” and that’s when I knew we were writing a record. That’s really where it started. Fast forward 4 or 5 months and then we have 24 songs for this project. I tried to dig really deep and be honest with what was going with my life and just shine a light on some moments that I felt like people may find intriguing and might want to listen to. I think truth is a pretty engaging thing to put out there.
You can feel when something is real and when something is contrived.
I’m so glad to hear you say that! I really wanted to make a complete album. I don’t feel like there are many records that are that way; it’s all about downloading one single song. I really wanted to make a complete piece of art. I just feel like there is so much mediocre crap out there. I did not want to put anything mediocre out there. I wanted to put out something that was a force, even if it was a quiet force.
Each song has a unique texture, a unique story. What inspired some of the songs?
I write about things that I care about in my life. For me, it’s the real stuff. Losing my grandmother was crippling for me. I really did not want to know life without her. I figured what better way to honor her than with this record and really dig into those emotions. Everything happens for a reason. Loss, grief…these keep coming up in my life for a reason. Someone else has to be experiencing these things too so I might as well say it. If I know anything in this life, I know that energy does not die. That sort of push that she always gave me if still there for me. I was able to make this album because of her, my grandmother with what she left me and some of my savings. That is the only reason I was able to do this. The record label is actually named after her, a nickname that she had as a girl.
She was the one blonde Italian kid in her neighborhood. People gave her crap about it so she decided to play tricks on people. She would leave a note that said “the blonde rat was here!” When folks went down to the river, she would steal their clothes. They would be looking for their clothes and there would be her note “the blonde rat was here!” She was funny, she was so sassy! After she found it she had cancer, which was right before Christmas, I called her at the hospital and she said “Merry S*it-mas!” The ID number for my record is also her birthday. It is a tribute to her. She’s why I needed to be honest with this record. I needed to go through this process to heal some of my wounds. It would have taken years of therapy, more time than I ever cared to spend on a little couch (laughter) or I could record my record and sing it out.
Was it scary to take on this project independently?
Getting out of my former deal was the easiest thing I had ever done on a soul level. I thought “I’m free!” It was after that when I had a manager who was doing nothing for me, no one was paying attention to the record when we were shopping it around and no one was paying attention because my manager was not doing anything they needed to. I let him go. Once I regrouped my team, I felt really hopeless and had to keep telling myself the right situation is around the corner and just be patient. Sure enough, a fabulous manager Kim came along and I am lost without her. We now have a great distribution company….if I could have cherry picked the perfect situation this would be it. It took a lot longer than I thought to get there but I got there. I was mentally prepared for it because I had went through all the emotions of feeling unwanted and questioning everything to get where I am now.
Tell me about the recording process. I found it so refreshing that you recorded on tape versus digitally.
Anything that I am going to be attracted to is recorded like this. You feel it on a whole other cellular level, the sh*t that gives you chill bumps, you know? Richard and Kevin were very committed to keeping it analog and I was so game for that. It’s a true performance. So much of it was done in the first take. It feels alive. I’m not being cut and pasted; it was one consistent moment that I am getting to share with the listener. That’s the magic moment.
Catch Jessie Baylin live on April 25, 2012 at the Tabernacle with The Fray