After premiering his single Suitcase Heart on A Music Blog, Yea? back in June, it was our absolute pleasure giving Los Angeles songwriter and singer Jesse Macht a call to catch up and discuss the excitement of his album’s upcoming release (out September 23rd). Enjoy the new exclusive interview below, as we spoke about the influence of Laura Marling, painted-on hearts, hidden treasures, and his talented family. Suitcase Heart is available for download here.
AMBY: Welcome back to our website!
Jesse Macht: Thank you for running that premiere. That was awesome.
AMBY: It was our pleasure. You soon release your sophomore album Suitcase Heart. Tell me a little bit about the record — what was the experience like recording it?
Jesse Macht: The recording was awesome. I recorded it in Nashville and in Louisiana. In Nashville I did it in a studio called Southern Ground and the guys playing on it and my producer did an amazing job; they heard the sound I’ve been chasing after in my head for a long time. It was great being in a different place, outside of Los Angeles, to really focus on the songs and try to help the songs get to their best spots. It was a great experience. I almost recorded in LA, but I felt like I really wanted to have a moment outside of the city I live in and have an artistic moment somewhere new.
AMBY: Your Facebook page lists some of your influences, and they’re all brilliant songwriters; Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Glen Hansard. When listening to your music, you can take away some of their nuances in your work. With that said, what influences can be found on the new album that might not be apparent to a listener?
Jesse Macht: I really like a band in LA called DAWES. I’ve been listening to that record a lot this year and I think the lead singer is just a tremendous songwriter. The whole band is great. I reached out to their producer, Jacquire King, on Twitter and he got back to me and gave me some really great notes and ideas for going into the record. DAWES and Jacquire really had an artistic influence on me. I don’t know if you know this girl named Laura Marling…
AMBY: I do! She used to sing in my favourite band, Noah and the Whale.
Jesse Macht: Was she in Noah and the Whale? I didn’t know that.
AMBY: She did backing vocals on their first record Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down and is actually the reason there aren’t any female backing vocals on their second record. She also sang vocals on Mystery Jets’ Young Love. Another band I love.
Jesse Macht: That’s so awesome that you know this. You’re a music blog, you know all about this shit.
AMBY and Jesse Macht: [laughs]
Jesse Macht: Laura Marling’s last record was awesome to me. I had a really heartfelt moment with it and that was super influential and she’s still influencing me. I think her songwriting is tremendous. This last year has been a lot of Laura Marling and a lot of DAWES.
AMBY: Suitcase Heart follows your 2012 debut solo release Acts of Providence. How do you feel the new album compares to your debut album? Where do you feel you’ve matured or allowed yourself to experiment more?
Jesse Macht: I’m super proud of my debut; I loved making it and it was really important to me. What I really love about this new record is that I took a lot of time with it and I got to work with lots of great songwriters. Half the songs on the record are my own and the other half I co-wrote with other writers. That experience really helped me improve as a songwriter and I really learned a lot about writing and the collaborative process in that way. I fell in love with that process. That being said, I had a heart surgery in December of 2012. You’re facing mortality with something like that, but it was a totally easy procedure and I had a ninety percent chance of recovering. Still, it was scary since you’re having work on your heart. A few weeks later, I had a really hard breakup with a girl I loved a lot. It’s a literal and figurative thing that was really tough for me. Going through that experience of dealing with my mortality with life and my mortality with love was a heavy time to be writing and thinking. By using all of these other songwriters and writing on my own, this record felt a lot deeper than the first record. It was incredible to delve into that and use that record to help me deal with some feelings, fears, and bring positivity back into my world.
AMBY: I see that those issues and experiences had an influence on your artwork — a lot of the artwork and promo shots have you painted in white with a painted-on heart.
Jesse Macht: Totally. The people who took the pictures – his name is Gregory Beylerian and his wife is Jude Beylerian – are wonderful photographers. I’ve known them since I was a little kid. They have always been a huge influence to me as artists and they have always talked to me about art. When I had the opportunity of creating an album cover, I felt like it was my time to get involved because I felt very much like I was burying a lot of my soul on this record. My idea was to be that way and be painted, and we went for the heart because I had so much going through that this last year.
AMBY: In anticipation for the album’s release, you’re currently on your Treasure Hunt Tour. Have you found any hidden gems or treasure as far as sightseeing, food, or anything touristy goes?
Jesse Macht: Oh my god. I’m so glad you asked that!
AMBY: [laughs] Why’s that?
Jesse Macht: The reason I called that the Treasure Hunt Tour is because some people feel like they can’t pay or they don’t have money for these shows. I’m doing all of these home concerts which is a really cool way to meet people and get my record out. I have advance copies of the record on me, just for these home shows, and some people don’t have cash with them or they want to do some sort of barter. I’ll say, “If you have a treasure for me or don’t have the ten dollars, let’s trade. You give me something that’s special to you and I’ll give you something that’s special to me”. I’ve had three treasures so far on three shows. I’m going to post a whole scrapbook with all of the pictures of the different treasures and the stories behind them. I got this really cool key chain from a girl who told me this whole story about her and her niece. In Portland, I got this scrabble letter A from this girl Annie. She just got married and is giving up her last name and she felt like this was something that represented her singularly and felt like this might be a good way to enter into her marriage. That was really cool.
AMBY: That’s wonderful! I never knew that was the story behind calling it the Treasure Hunt Tour.
Jesse Macht: I’m excited. I’m hoping that more people will keep bringing treasures or maybe ten dollars and a treasure… [laughs]. I think it’s going to be really cool.
AMBY: You’re a talented musician, your Dad is an actor, and your brother is an actor in the show Suits. Are there any other skills in the family we don’t know about?
Jesse Macht: I’m very close with my family. Each person in my family has incredible artistic talent. I guess I would say my other brother is a tremendous editor; every reality show you’ve pretty much ever seen, he’s had a hand in it. He hops from show to show and is a really great film maker and screenwriter. My sister is a great graphic designer; she built my website and she did the artwork for this album. I’m inspired by my father, but my mother is also incredibly artistic; her vision is her family. She has created, essentially, a family museum… I have a hundred and thirty photo albums from her. She’s made scrapbooks for all of us. In our immediate family, it’s inspiring to grow up around everybody.
AMBY: That must have had a big impact on you while growing up. Is that one of the reasons you chose to take an artistic route with your career?
Jesse Macht: I know that my mom always wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer for sure [laughs]. I think she’s proud of me even though I’m doing this. My family’s artist choices have definitely influenced me, and they all love music, but nobody in my family had the intensity about music that I always had. Something about music feels really specific to my individuality and my artistic choice. My brother gave me my first guitar and all of that stuff… But listening to music was my world.
AMBY: Well, I want to say thanks very much for your time today Jesse. Best of luck on this tour collecting treasures and the release of your record. I feel the only thing that’s left to ask is our signature question. Are you prepared?
Jesse Macht: [laughs] Okay.
AMBY: What’s something about yourself that most people don’t know yet?
Jesse Macht: I’m a huge baseball fan!
Thank you Jesse Macht, for giving us your answers!
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Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout