A quick introduction to the pure heart of Tobias Jesso Jr.
There is a striking humanity to the near-mythical tale of Tobias Jesso Jr. and his rise to prominence in the musical consciousness, as the heartbreaking balladeer ten steps away from the sounds of 60s and 70s singer-songwriters like Harry Nilsson, Todd Rundgren and Randy Newman.
The story of a young man from Vancouver coming to Los Angeles and trying to make it as a songwriter, who strikes out miserably, moves back to his childhood home with his dreams initially crushed, learns himself to play the piano and writes beautiful songs about heartbreak, gets in contact with famed producer idol that invites him to come and record with him, secures a record deal and catches the attention of the industry that initially rejected him, is a life-affirming meditation on the intricacies of adult life.
Being a songwriter myself that moved to LA at a young age, with heavy-headed dreams of getting into the industry and ending up hitting a brick wall along the way, it is a story of personal strengthening. But more importantly, it’s a testament to the ever-changing values of growing up and realizing ones mortality. Life rarely appears as a fully formed cape of certainty; no matter what you do, life depends on how you react to the constant landscape of change that rolls before your very eyes, and the constant search of identification that is part of being an adult.
Jesso’s songs reinforce the idiosyncrasies with the same sentimental flair that is all over his own coming-of-age tale. ‘True Love’, the song that got the initial buzz going, is a fuzzy demo with a clear-eyed introduction to a guy wearing his heart on his sleeve. It’s a flawed piece of songwriting in the best way possible: Much like any other piece of outstanding music – from John Lennon’s ‘Mother’ to James Blake’s ‘Retrograde’ – it cracks the ceiling by embracing the furthest thing from perfect.
‘Hollywood’ is a completely other beast. Comparisons to Billy Joel’s classic ‘New York State of Mind’ is inevitable, though Jesso makes sure to let his own self-doubt be at center. It is a song of raw honesty and personal defeat, a song of deep uncertainty and innocence. “I found the best advice: “Go and get a job” / But I don’t know if I can take it cause I never understood / How everybody lies in Hollywood,” he sings behind the piano in the dark, the spotlight turned off, the dreams of making it in the big city nothing more, but a mere oblivion.
The last song to première from Jesso’s forthcoming début Goon is yet an intense, oversentimental, ballad. ‘How Could You Babe’ is a mournful penetration of the relationship that broke his heart, or the heart that broke his relationship. It is an absolute power player of a pop standard, hailed by the Adele as the only thing worth ‘clicking away’ to, and sure to let the pure artistry of Jesso shine through in every way possible.
Tobias Jesso Jr’s début album “GOON” is out March 17th through Matador Records.