The Truth Is...Singer Songwriter Jessarae Is A Rock Star With Raw Energy
October/11/2012 08:28 PM
The Truth Is...Singer Songwriter Jessarae Is A Rock Star With Raw Energy
Interview and Album Review by Nicole Hanratty
Rock Star Music News
October 12, 2012
via Telephone October 2, 2012
Jessarae's charitable spirit at a young age is perhaps the most admirable thing about him, but his talent is the most striking. One song after the next on his album "Pilot" takes you on a journey through questions that revolve around identity, love, and challenges we all face regardless of age. He blends rock music with vocals and lyrics that play with a distinctive blues infused sound.
The songs on Jessarae’s “Pilot” album scream hot new artist on the rise. It's no surprise he has shared the stage with Stevie Wonder, Seal, Plain White T's, Five for Fighting, John Legend and The Roots, Gavin Rossdale, Sugar Ray and Matisyahu. "Seen It All Before" is a strong representation of all he embodies and after spending some time chatting with him, there is no question success is his to grasp.
Genres: Rock, Music, Alternative
Released: Dec 06, 2011
℗ 2011 Raystone Records
[Download Jessarae "Pilot" album on iTunes]
"You’ve been busy," I say as we get our lines connected. Jessarae laughs. It's clearly an understatement. "I know, yeah. I’m super busy."
My curiosity appropriately peaked after having listened to his music and watching a few of his YouTube music videos, I get straight to the point, "Tell me what you are doing, and start from the beginning. How did you get started in music?" He tells me, "I started writing songs and playing guitar when I was about nine years old. At that time, right before I started, my mom actually was in a band, and they always used to play shows and rehearse. I remember the feeling of just wanting to do that, wanting to be up on stage. I just love that energy, with having a crowd and everything. Actually a funny thing, what happened was I got the first Guitar Hero game like when it came out a long time ago and everybody was crazy for it. All my friends were playing it. I bought the game and I remember playing it at home and …playing all these old songs, and even though it was a video game I was like, I need to be a rock star, you know?" We both laugh. His honesty and sweet nature is refreshing.
Jessarae continues, "I remember telling my parents that I really want to do this. It was those few moments; it was like watching my mom play music and then getting Guitar Hero for some reason that like inspired me."
"How did you learn how to play guitar?" I ask. He tells me, "I remember after I got Guitar Hero I really wanted to learn the real guitar, so I bought one. I got I think like three or four lessons, but it didn’t really work out--the lessons--but when I stopped getting lessons I kept playing on my own. I just never stopped playing, you know? I’d take it everywhere with me and I still do now. I kind of just like learned chords on my own and learned how to play songs. I’d go on YouTube and look up songs that I really liked and watched how someone’s fingers [were] and where they hold the notes. I’d copy them, and then I’d be like, oh, there’s, you know, a C chord, or a D, or whatever."
Taking the guitar everywhere with him and his persistence to learn stand out. It's evident that passion fuels his talent. "That’s really amazing that you taught yourself," I comment. Jessarae's seemingly instinctive humility lends him to bypass the compliment, "Yeah. I mean, I used to be in a band with my friends at school too. If I didn’t know something some of my friends would be like, oh, like try this."
But Jessarae doesn't just play guitar, he also plays drums. "A friend of ours had a drum set at their house, but they didn’t know how to play and it was just kind of hogging up space. I was like, I’ll take them from you. (He laughs.) I’ve had them in my house for four or five years and I don’t know, I just, I really like it, it’s another instrument that I just kind of self-taught and I wanted to learn as many instruments as I could. I just found that when I’d start pounding on the drums it was just so much fun. I just, I still do that, kind of a hobby but for now I put it in my shows too."
"Yeah, I saw you in one of your videos in the Viper Room you have a drum solo in one of those songs. You’re good. It’s just amazing, you’re self-taught," I tell him. And this time he allows the compliment, "Thank you. Thanks." But then he quickly adds, "You’re coming to the show, right? On the 20th?" "Absolutely," I respond. (Jessarae is playing Genghis Cohen in Los Angeles on October 20th at 9:30PM.)
"It sounds like your family is super supportive and involved in your music career," I say and it is evident I've hit a chord with him that light him up. "Oh, my God, yeah. I’m so lucky, I would never be able to do any of this without them. I mean, I’ve had so much support and my parents have done their own thing. They let my brother act and do his thing, and never once tried to convince him to do anything else. As soon as one of their kids like wants or says, ‘Mom, Dad, like I’d love to do this,' they’re like, 'Okay, here.' They took my brother to acting school, and they let me do my thing and spend a lot of time when I could’ve been studying or something--which I still do a lot of--but you know what I mean."
We share a moment of laughter. Then Jessarae continues, "Yeah, but they’re definitely, they’re cool." As he says it the thought passes through my mind that this appreciative child must make his parents very proud.
The interview flows forward as if I'm speaking to a well-seasoned artist.
Nicole: You write your own songs, is that right?
Jessarae: Yeah, definitely. I think I started, when I was younger, and I still do, I listen to a lot of singer/songwriters. I thought if I’m going to get into this I want it to be something that I could really believe in and when I go up and sing I want to be passionate and bring something that’s my own to music. That’s kind of what got me into songwriting. I just find it to be so much fun, it’s a way for me to just say how I feel through music. That’s kind of how it started and now I just do it every day. It’s the only way I could let out a certain side of me. I don’t know any other avenue to do that other than through writing.
Nicole: The album, “Pilot.” You were just saying that you listen to a lot of singer/songwriters. When I hear that album I hear Jack White “Blunderbuss.” The music, it’s just so strikes me. Is that someone who you listen to or is an influence?
Jessarae: Oh, definitely. Yeah, I actually just, I saw Jack White talk--it wasn’t really a concert because he didn’t play music--but he talked about his career, and talked about how he grew up and how he made it and stuff. Yeah, it was super inspiring to see that.
Nicole: Do you have a favorite?
Jessarae: A favorite song on "Pilot?"
Jessarae: Hmm. For me personally my favorite one is probably “If I Know You At All,” just because it means so much to me, the words and everything. Actually, there’s a part of it, and that’s the only song I really have somewhat of a guitar solo on. I bought this thing called an EBow, which kind of makes my guitar sound like a violin/cello thing. I bought it the day before I went into the studio and came up with something, and then went in the next day and laid it down. It sounded so cool. It’s just what that song needed. I’m proud of the way that one turned out. Yeah, and also because it, I mean, I try to kind of tell a story about a certain time in my life in that album. I think that I know I’ll be older and be proud of what I have accomplished there. That being said I’m already on the next thing. I’m always like trying to outdo myself musically which is, you know, it’s fun.
(We both laugh.) Jessarae's ambition is palpable.
Nicole: That’s actually a good segue into my next question for you. I think I love the song “If I Know You At All,” and that was the one actually, when I first heard it, I went wow, his music is very akin to Jack White. I also really loved “Surrender.” There’s a point when you ask in the lyrics of that song, “Who am I supposed to be, when I’m afraid to see?” I think that’s an interesting question, but the answer always changes for all of us as we grow and change through life.
Jessarae: Absolutely. Yeah.
Nicole: I’m curious if I asked you that question now, right now in this particular part of your life, who do you think you’re supposed to be?
Jessarae: I think I try to set out to be someone, you know, and I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. I think be whoever you are organically, whatever, when you’re not trying to be someone that’s your best self. When I wrote that I just I wanted to write it because it’s something that everybody goes through, it’s like the identity thing, especially when you’re a teenager and you’re starting to become a man. That was just the one for me at the time. I wanted to make it kind of one that a lot of people could relate to in their life. By writing it, it gave me a little bit of peace of mind, for myself, you know?
We take a moment to think through what he has just said. It's important and a point worthy of reflection.
Nicole: Then your song, “The Truth Is I Hate You.”
Jessarae: (Laughter) Yeah.
It's evident, he knew the question was coming.
Nicole: It’s so much harsher, lyrically. I hear you laughing...
Jessarae: (He laughs more.) Yeah.
Nicole: It’s like a lot of your songs are a little more inspirational and that one just like lays out "The Truth Is, I Hate You," and it’s a great rock song. Tell me about it. Tell me about that song.
Jessarae: Honestly… I probably should’ve said something else. It’s because when I wrote that I remember playing it, and at first my mom was like, "No way, you’re not going to sing that," because I played it for her. I remember my family was like, "No, you’re not going to play that," but then they kept saying it. It ended up sticking. That was the part that stuck out to my parents or whoever I played it to in the beginning. I mean that was the one line where I was totally open to rewriting it and stuff, but it ended up sticking, that line. I thought it was like a good, just raw energy. Everybody wants to say that at one time. That’s the one, like if I could go back I might’ve changed something about that. To think about it too much would’ve been wrong for it. It was just the moment, you know?
Nicole: I agree. I get it. Because I think we do. We all have those moments.
Jessarae: Yeah. You’re just kind of like, you’re like, "Oh, I hate everything right now," you know?
We've all had those moments and it is immediately clear why his family couldn't help but repeat such a catchy line, "The Truth Is, I Hate You." It is raw, a reflection of the honesty we're forced to withhold, and a perfect expression of his passionate emotion that is well beyond his years. I take a moment to concur, "Mm-hmm."
Watch JESSARAE "Stuck On You" Beach Version on YouTube Music Videos:
Nicole: Okay, so another video you did was covering Elvis, "Can’t Help Falling In Love With You." Which, again, not an association I’m making with other 17 year old artists. Tell me what it is that’s drawing you to these classic icons and Elvis in particular.
Jessarae: Yeah, I mean, I’ve always loved Elvis growing up. The things I love in artists are the ones where someone could make a move or a gesture, or a say something, and it instantly you know who they’re talking about. Off the top of my head Elvis, or Michael Jackson, or just those kind of artists that stick. Elvis has always been a huge inspiration to me, and he’s so iconic. I love his songs. I love that lullaby, it’s such a beautiful song. I don’t know, I think I did that probably for my grandma. (He laughs.) Just because actually I played it in Canada [when] I went. My dad used to be a hockey player and works for the team that won the Stanley Cup. My grandma wanted it home, the Stanley Cup, in Canada because they live over there. I went with them and I ended up playing like a bunch of songs. I brought my guitar. They kept wanting to hear the Elvis song over and over. …It was fun. We were celebrating a victory in hockey and they [were] wanting me to play songs for them in like sort of a celebration thing. The song that it always came back to was, “I Can’t Help Falling,” yeah, that song.
Nicole: That’s a great song and you sing it beautifully.
Jessarae: Thank you. Thanks. Yeah, I really like playing old classics, but try to do them a little differently, like I did for “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” slowing it down, you know? I love when people do covers of songs that are just classics, but totally, you know, rework them to make them their own kind of thing. That’s what I tried to do.
Nicole: With your dad being a hockey player, was there ever any expectation that you or your brother would follow in his footsteps?
Jessarae: Honestly there was never any of that. People are always asking me that, how it was, but I don’t think my parents could be any happier just watching both of their kids kind of grow up and find their own thing and not forcing them to do anything but just watching us grow and become our own kind of people. Everybody’s different, I love music more than anything, and my brother loves what he does. My dad loves what he did. It’s pretty cool just all being different, and there’s no, it actually makes it so there’s not as much pressure too because I just do what I love to and enjoy it.
Nicole: What’s the last song or album that maybe you downloaded and bought and added to your playlist?
Jessarae: Okay, let me see, I think it’s called “Horse and I,” by Bat For Lashes. It’s actually a really cool song--I listen to all kinds of music--but I really like that band right now.
Nicole: Okay, so you did the Camplified tour, right? And you did some crazy good video singing Adele with the Varsity Girls?
Nicole: It just looks so natural, and you guys only practiced twice?
Jessarae: Yeah, I mean, those girls were so sweet and nice. We actually, I think we ended up playing that song that night for our concert. They invited me up on stage and I brought up my guitar and we played it for all the kids at the tour. It was one of those spur of the moment things where it was like, hey, you know, we should make a video since we’re playing it tonight. We should share it with my fans because I’m sure they would love that, you know? It was also because that Adele song ["Rolling In The Deep"] was kind of like the anthem of that whole tour because we’d go from place to place and all the kids were singing that song and they wanted us to sing that song every day.
Nicole: Did you work with any, or have you stayed in contact with any of the other artists from the Camplified tour?
Jessarae: Yeah, I have, I stayed in contact with some of the people too. It’s pretty cool to watch some of the peoples’ careers kind of grow and stuff. I remember I heard a song on the radio that was from that tour too. I was like, oh, that’s so cool, you know, to watch them kind of, from where we were to follow their career. I think we all have kind of been doing that too. It’s fun.
Nicole: You said something earlier about school. I’m curious, is it challenging for you to sort of keep a normal school routine? Are you almost graduating?
Jessarae: Yeah, I’m almost graduated. I started doing home school like three years ago. I mean right now the day in the life for me is I wake up at 9:30 and I do like three hours of school. Then play music for the rest of the day. It’s not too bad. (He laughs.) I’m getting close to graduating. It’s good. Yeah.
Nicole: Are you working on a new album now?
Jessarae: Yeah, I mean, right now I’ve really just been focusing on writing and trying to grow as a writer. Also I’ve been playing live all the time. I mean when I play live that’s the time where I could really tell if a song is worth playing, you know? I just keep wanting to get better and better. So right now I’m just writing all the time and I’ve got some stuff I’m really proud of. Hopefully, I get into the studio soon and, you know, share it with you guys.
Nicole: Do you have a band that you work with?
Jessarae: Oh, yeah. I have an amazing band. I mean most of the time I play with these two guys that I actually met like, I don’t know, maybe three years ago. Back then I put an ad out on Craigslist. I was looking for a band that could play with me a lot, and give a lot of their time to rehearsals and stuff. Sure enough a couple of people answered and the two guys just stuck, and we’ve been playing together since that. I can have them over a lot, and we’re always playing. I love writing a song and then working it out on my end and then bringing it. Having the drum parts in it is a pretty cool feeling.
Nicole: Is that who played with you on the Vans Warped Tour?
Jessarae: Yeah, I played with those guys. I actually had one extra guy who was playing keyboard. For the most part in my shows I play guitar and sing. I have a drummer and a bass player. It’s pretty much like a three piece. Then I do like a drum solo with our drummer. Yeah, for the Warped Tour I had an extra keyboard player.
Watch a clip from JESSARAE at the Vans Warped Tour 2012
Nicole: You worked with some pretty amazing artists like Five For Fighting, and John Legend. Do you have a favorite highlight experience you want to share?
Jessarae: I remember a show I played, the one with John Legend, that was really cool. That was actually at Sundance in Utah. I remember watching them get ready for their set that night. Just like how professional their band was and everything. I remember at one point he was like, all right guys, we’re going to do “Tonight.” I just thought that was so cool.
Nicole: So just because it’s always fun, when your new fans are reading about you, can I give you a few categories and you can tell me your favorite?
Jessarae: Sure. Let’s do it.
Nicole: Okay. The type of pizza?
Jessarae: My favorite type of pizza? Okay. I like New York pizza. I was in New York because I played drums for one of the acts that was on America’s Got Talent. That was a fun experience, [but] that’s a whole different story. I remember one day we had the day off. I went looking for a slice of pizza. I must’ve walked, I don’t know, maybe 10 miles looking for the best slice of pizza. I was on Yelp and everything looking at the reviews. I was just walking forever, and I finally settled on like Little Italy’s pizza. It was so good. Maybe I was just really hungry though, I don’t know. It could’ve been that it was really good or I was really hungry.
Nicole: (Laugh) You’re cracking me up.
Jessarae: It had this thin crust and everything. It was delicious.
Nicole: What’s your favorite holiday?
Jessarae: My favorite holiday? I really like Halloween. Is that a holiday? I like dressing up and getting candy and stuff.
Nicole: Yes, it is! What are you going to be this year?
Jessarae: Uh, I don’t know. Maybe a Power Ranger. (He laughs.) I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it.
(I immediately love his response and make a mental note that his classic costume choice goes hand in hand with his personality.)
Nicole: What’s your favorite place to hang out with your friends?
Jessarae: My favorite … could I do my favorite memory of hanging out with friends?
Jessarae: I loved, when I was starting in music I was in a band with my friends from school. Once a week on Wednesdays, as soon as we’d get out of school we’d all go to, a little like place to get kind of fast foodish type food next to our school. We’d go get food and come back and go in the band room where there’s always instruments hanging on the wall. We’d play music. It was actually like the two, like these two songs “Freebird” and “Stairway To Heaven” and we’d just play them over and over after school. That was so much fun then. I loved the whole like hanging and just playing music for fun and stuff. It was fun.
Nicole: Favorite sport?
Jessarae: Favorite sport? I like playing soccer. I used to play but I dislocated my thumb playing, which is horrible. I’m like, “If it interferes with music I have to stop playing.” [So] I stopped playing soccer. I also like to play a little bit of baseball, sometimes. I used to do that. Oh, yeah, I actually have a really good bike, and I ride around in our neighborhood. We live pretty close to the beach, so I like to ride along the beach and stuff. That’s how I get my exercise.
Nicole: What about a professional team? Like professional football, or basketball, or hockey or anything? Is there any team that you root for?
Jessarae: I am pretty happy that our hockey team, you know, the L.A. Kings, won the Stanley Cup this last season, so that was pretty cool. Yeah, but I’m not really good at following sports, but I’m good at following our home sports when they’re doing good.
Nicole: Did you go to one of the Stanley Cup games?
Jessarae: Oh, man, I went to like all of them. I think I actually missed like two or three concerts that I really wanted to see, but my mom’s like, “You got to come to the game with us.” Then I think about it, you know, the Kings have never won the cup before, so I probably should go because it’s getting pretty close. It was amazing, I actually flew, I flew to New Jersey where the New Jersey Devils team is over there. They were in the finals with the Kings. I flew and watched the game there.
Nicole: Stop. Really?
(It must be said, even though I realize that I'm interviewing the son of Luc Robataille--and nothing usually phases me--I'm in awe of the experience Jessarae has had in attending every single Stanley Cup game.)
Nicole: You flew to New Jersey?
Jessarae: Yeah, I actually flew like with the team though, which was awesome. We were in this nice plane, and then we got a police escort, it was so sweet.
Nicole: You flew with the team?
Jessarae: Yeah, yeah. Now I seem like a hockey fan, but I’m like, I’m not really a hockey fan, it was just a cool experience.
Nicole: Yeah it was!
Jessarae: How could I not be a hockey fan now being involved in that life so much? (He laughs.)
Nicole: I always ask every time I do an interview if somebody has a charity that’s important to them and close to their heart. I actually read that you work with a couple of charities, you work with WhyHunger and you started your own with “Dream Big.” Do you want to talk to me a little bit about these charities? Why is it important for you to make an impact on others?
Jessarae: Oh, absolutely. Giving back has always been a huge part of my life. My parents actually founded a few organizations, one that’s currently going on now is called Echoes Of Hope. They help emancipate fostered youths to get out of the system when they’re 18. They kind of help them buy books for school or just get their feet off the ground after they emancipate from foster care. From that experience I’ve met so many cool people and really got to get close to my brothers and sisters now that are a part of that system, we call each other brother and sister because we’re so close to the experience. It’s always been a big deal. I remember when I met the people at WhyHunger in New York, they were just so nice to me and so happy to let me be a part of it. If anybody wants me to be a part of anything I would never turn it down because it’s just, it’s good, it’s really important to give back. I feel like that’s the best way to be a person in this society is to try to give back and give as much as you can.
Nicole: “Dream Big.” Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Jessarae: Sure. I went to a bunch of different middle schools and high schools, and actually I think a couple elementary schools. The purpose was to kind of tell all the kids don’t be afraid to just … to explore every opportunity of life. I’m trying to do that by playing music. I go there and I’d play music and kind of explain to them what kind of guitar I was playing. In the end, the point was to give them a little bit of fun and to kind of let them feel like if I can do it then you can do it. It was kind of one of those things. I mean I went to a lot of shady schools too. It was definitely scary because I’d go there and a lot of the kids weren’t so accepting of me right away, which is to be expected because I’m this little like white kid coming in, I was probably like 14 or 15 coming in and trying to entertain all these kids that are a lot tougher than me, you know? I was just trying to give them a little fun. I met a lot of cool people and a lot of people opened up to me by the end of the day. I did that tour for a while. It was a great experience.
Nicole: That sounds like not only an amazing experience for the people in the schools, but also a learning experience for you.
Jessarae: Oh, man. Yeah. I remember my parents were totally supportive, and they wanted to be at every school with me every day on that tour. I actually went on a further tour with one of the Echoes Of Hope youths who was emancipated from the system. His name is Jevon. He kind of helped me through that whole thing, those kind of scary schools. He would kind of go and be like, hey, this kid’s cool. Let him talk and everything. They trusted him way more than me. I remember like going through the gates at some of these schools and seeing big signs like “No guns allowed,” printed on the doors. I’m like this is crazy, you know? (He laughs.)
Nicole: Wow, that’s a little different.
Jessarae: Yeah, yeah, to have to like put that on the door? But doing that and bringing all the speakers and the guitars, and bringing my band, it was something a lot of those kids have never seen, you know? It was cool.
And I'm certain seeing Jessarae play at Genghis Cohen will be like something I've never seen before... He's a rare find and a talented artist with his head and his heart in the right place.
See JESSARAE live in concert:
Jessarae is playing Genghis Cohen in Los Angeles on October 20th at 9:30PM.
The Charleston in Santa Monica on November 18th at 7pm.
ALSO see Jessarae playing at the EYECON festival in Atlanta on October 26th.
And the JDRF Walk To Cure Diabetes at Dodger Stadium on November 11th
For more information on Jessare please visit: http://www.jessarae.com
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JESSARAEofficial
Follow @Jessarae on Twitter
Subscribe to Jessarae on YouTube:http://www.youtube.com/user/Jessaraemusic
Also watch Jessarae's "So Magical" YouTube Music Videos
"WhyHunger is a leader in building the movement to end hunger and poverty by connecting people to nutritious, affordable food and by supporting grassroots solutions that inspire self-reliance and community empowerment."
Donate to WhyHunger
"Founded by Luc and Stacia Robitaille, the charity echoes of hope strives to awaken the spirit of hope in the lives of at-risk and emancipated foster youth by providing the resources, knowledge, skills, love, and support they need to reach their full potential."
Donate to Echoes of Hope