Monday, August 23, 2010
DA-PROFESSOR CHATS WITH SINGER/SONGWRITER JESSE-O
I remember when singer/songwriter Jesse-O gave me a copy of his debut cd "Exposure" 4years ago, and after listening to the single "Step To This," I was hooked. I was happy to hear an R&B/Pop Male using male references in his music, and I played that song constantly. Nine months later, I saw the Out Music nominated artist perform, and was blown away with his showman ship, and his ability to captivate his audience with his vocals and dancing. Born in Ghana Africa, and raised in The Bronx, Jesse's began to hone his singing, songwriting and dancing skills at a young age, and during his college years, he continued to develop his vocal skills be joining an accapella group at the college he attended. Upon graduating, Jesse began to write songs for several artists including American Idol Runner up Clay Akin, but decided to pursue his own solo career, and began to perform at various events opening for many hit making artists including Award Winning Dancehall Artist Sean Paul, and was signed to the music label Music Wit A Twist distriubted by Sony Music in 2007, and released his single "I Think I'm Falling In Love" which gained major play on several online podcasts, while the video was aired on the Logo Channel. He also appeared on Njohi's single "Brother." After taking some time off, Jesse-O is back with a new album "Love & Go Crazy" and doing what he does best, give a good show, and he was gracious enough to speak via email about the new phrase of his career, his hot CD and his influences and the situation with his former label.
DA-PROFESSOR: Hey Jesse Thanks for allowing me to interview you. How have things been going and what you been up too
JESSE-O: Things are going great. I’ve been performing consistently. I’ve sold a bunch of CDs on iTunes. I’m having a good time.
DA-PROFESSOR: Alot of people are happy that you finally came back out. How does it feel to be back on the scene.
JESSE-O: It feels really good. I’ve been waiting for this moment a long time. The moment I’d be able to share new music with the world. I’ve been so anxious to do so. And finally I get to. The response has been great so I’m really happy.
DA-PROFESSOR: You did your thang at the Mix tape party during Gay Pride and Black Music month and at the James Saunders Boat Ride. What was it like to perform your new and anticipated single and what was it like performing on the famous boat ride?
JESSE-O: Performing is where I have the most fun so those gigs were great to do. Getting an immediate reaction from an audience..there’s nothing like it.
DA-PROFESSOR: You dropped your album Love And Go Crazy this summer. What was the concept of the album?
JESSE-O: Well the title says it all. I wrote songs about falling in love and eventually going crazy lol…love can make you crazy and irrational sometimes. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that sentiment. Well the album follows a person from the first time they meet someone to becoming serious, to fighting, to breaking up, and to making up..craziness! lol
DA-PROFESSOR: You decided to release the album independently what happend with to the label Music Wit A Twist?
JESSE-O: Honestly Twist dropped all of its artists after the venture, I guess, wasn’t successful as they hoped. I believe one or two acts are still signed including comedian Kathy Griffin, believe it or not. She releases her comedy albums through them. But before she came around they signed 10 new artists to song deals including myself. And as far as I know they got rid of all of us. I honestly can’t tell you for sure why we were all dropped, but I gather it’s because of disappointing sales. It's sad, but I’ve since moved on.
DA-PROFESSOR: You decided to work with legendary producer Tori Fixx How do you linked up with him and what was it like working with him as opposed to producing the album yourself.
JESSE-O: It was great. He is so talented and totally gets me as an artist. And it takes a huge load of to have someone else take care of the production so I can focus on the singing and songwriting, which are the two aspects I love the most.
DA-PROFESSOR: I love the song Island Luv, what was the inspiration for that song
JESSE-O: Island Luv is personal. It’s based on a relationship I had with someone from the Caribbean. We’ll leave it at that lol.
DA-PROFESSOR: Another favorite song of mines is It's Over. I love the lyrics when you refer to the tramp as a piece of trade and trick What inspired you to use those references and do you plan on releasing that as a single and filming a video for that song?
JESSE-O: Thank you. I just felt like using those words. Of course I was giving the gay community a nod with that one. But anyone regardless of their sexual orientation could listen to that song and relate to it. And that’s how I like to write my songs. Give them universal appeal. And if a straight person heard the song and was curious what “trade” meant, I could educate them lol. I have a lot of straight fans which is great because they totally get what I’m doing cause I make the music relatable without compromising who I am. As of now, I have no plans to release the song as a single or to shoot a video. But if enough people request for that to happen, maybe it will!
DA-PROFESSOR: My other favorites are Sober and Keep It Together which has deep and touching lyrics about the struggles that many Gay males go through (depression, wanting to get back with your ex, heartache, trying to maintain insanity and surviving) and it reminds me of New Edition's classic "Can You Stand The Rain." What isnpired you to write those deep and inspirational songs with that vibe and will you release those as singles as well?
JESSE-O: I appreciate that you noticed that Keep It Together is reminiscent of “Can You Stand The Rain”. I actually modeled “Keep It Together” after that New Edition style and the producers’ Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ vocal arranging style. I idolize the work of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. I was inspired by things I was going through myself when I wrote those songs. As far as releasing them as singles, that remains to be seen. We’ll see
DA-PROFESSOR: You also collaborated with Rapper Shorty Roc and Alternative artist Baron. What was it like to finally work with those two talented artists and are there any other LGBT artist you would like to work with? It was a lot of fun working with Shorty Roc and Baron.
JESSE-O: Both those guys took the songs to new heights. So that was exciting.
DA-PROFESSOR: You mentioned that your released this cd independtly What's are the pros and cons with being independent as opposed to being signed with a major label?
JESSE-O: The advantage is that you have full creative control, and you can express yourself however you want..But on the flip side, without a major label you don’t have a large budget and are therefore limited in a lot of ways; The extent to which you can promote and the ways that you can promote. Budgets for videos, warbrobe, make up, etc are limited and you have to be creative and find ways to make things work despite the limitations; Pull favors and so on and so forth. Its tough but its great to see things work out and to see your vision come through. As an indie artist, because promotion is on a much smaller scale fewer people know or find out about you. Of course youtube is giving people the capability to reach bigger audiences if they create something original and captivating enough to attract a massive viewership.
DA-PROFESSOR: With the number of openly LGBT artists out doing their thing with their music is it still hard for Gay artists to be accepted and respected? Why?
JESSE-O: Yes its still hard. A lot of our world still doesn’t wanna hear it. Even some gay people don’t care to hear it. “Just give me good music, why does anyone need to know who you go to bed with” they will say. And they are right about on thing; the most important thing is that the music is good. However I think from a place of activism there is something important about an artist being open about their sexuality. The person is making a statement. They are saying “Im here and I’m wonderful as I am, I don’t have to make believe I’m something else to sell records”. I think that’s so important. I think most people, who are aware at all that there is a movement like this, don’t get it. But slowly, but surely, I think we are getting heard, and making a difference through art. And all we need is to make better and better art that people can really get into.
DA-PROFESSOR: In addition to promoting your album you also performed with another group a few weeks ago? Is that another project you do?
JESSE-O: Yes. I am a member of an A Capella group called “One Guy Upstate”..I was in an A Capella group in college and a few of us from the college group decided to put a new group together. We started the group last year and have done a couple shows so far. Its a lot of fun.
DA-PROFESSOR: What can fans expect from your touring?
JESSE-O: Well as of know I can’t say that I’m officially gonna be touring. I have sprinkles of shows here and there and fans can check out my schedule at jesseoworld.com
DA-PROFESSOR: I also see that you have a new set of dancers. When do you look for when it comes to recuriting dancers?
JESSE-O: I look for dancers who look good doing my style of choreography. That’s basically it.
DA-PROFESSOR: I know that you're influenced by many artists from different genres of music? Who are your influcences?
Janet and Michael Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terri Lewis, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Babyface, Lionel Richie, Brian McKnight, Beyonce, Missy Elliot, Timberland, Usher..just to name a few lol.
DA-PROFESSOR: I remember seeing you perform Marvin Gaye's classic "What's Going On." From your opinoin why is that song such a classic and how is it still relelvant?
JESSE-O: The message of that song will always be relevant. Particularly now you look at our world and you can’t help but wonder what’s going on, with matters such as the oil disaster, the middle east wars, etc.
DA-PROFESSOR: Would you ever considering redoing that song along with Brian Mc Knight's "One Last Cry?"
DA-PROFESSOR: Last year we lost Motown legend Michael Jackson. How did his untimely passing affect you and how do you think his and sister Janet's music are still making an impact on both the hetero and Gay community?
JESSE-O: Like most people I was deeply saddened by MJ’s death. I lost one of the most influential people in my life..That was difficult and strange. And offcourse, Michael and Janet’s artistry are the backbone of Pop/R&B culture. Their influence is universal regardless of the sexual orientation of the people they have touched and continue to touch.
DA-PROESSOR: Which mainstream artist would you like to work with?
JESSE-O: Beyonce and Janet Jackson lol.
DA-PROFESSOR: There are alot of artist who think they can make a CD and video on You Tube but they don't know that it takes more than having good looks and a tight body to be successful. How important is Artist development?
JESSE-O: Well at the moment, I develop myself for the most part. It’s so important to learn your craft. Getting voice lessons, going to songwriting workshops, performing as much as possible to step up your performance game up. As an artist, you can always be better and should always strive to. It's important to also figure out who you are as an artist and work on communicating your uniqueness effectively to the world. All of this is important in achieving success.
DA-PROESSOR: In addition to singing do you plan on writing for other artists and do you plan on doing any acting?
JESSE-O: I don’t have any immediate plans to do either but I’m very open to both!
DA-PROFESSOR: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
JESSE-O: Well I’d like to record a third album. I’d like to see my support base continue to grow. I’d like to travel and perform in other parts of the world. Basically I just want to continue to build on what I started and get better and better as an artist.
DA-PROFESSOR: What advice would you give to a gay kid who wants to pursue a career as an open artist.
JESSE-O: I’d say do it! I think its important. Its sets an example. It sends a message to the world that I am ok exactly as I am. I think that’s the main issue with LGBT life. There is a pervasive attitude that there is inherently something wrong with us. I think openly gay artists challenge that notion and help to raise the self-esteem of the collective. Don’t get me wrong this is a process that is not happening overnight. It will take time A LOT of time. But today is a start. And the more artists that are brave enough to be open, the bigger the strides we will make. I would say to any artist considering this path, it is very hard. Pursuing music is hard in and of itself but being open takes that difficulty to a whole other level. Doors will be closed and opportunities taken away. But if you see music as a vehicle for change, go for it!
DA-PROFESSOR: Thanks for allowing me to interviewing. How can viewers contact you and buy your music at?
JESSE-O: Thank you RaShawn..they can go to jesseoworld.com to contact me and purchase my music.