Jesse Labelle Interview

Ever meet one of those people that is just nice and homey? A genuinely nice person, and you get that coffee-shop warmth and home-cooked meal kind of down home feel from them? Jesse Labelle is exactly that person.

He’s a newcomer, just coming off a small tour with Emily Osment of Hannah Montana fame. His first entry into studio-recordings is titled “Perfect Accident EP”, and is a three-song sampler of what’s to come from the singer-songwriter. I’d call him a mix of John Mayer and Train, if only because I think John Mayer recycles material (albeit with a good sound), while Train brings something fresh to the table. If that makes any sense.

Jesse’s next studio release comes out in just a few months and I had the opportunity to sit down with Jesse in Toronto this past week for him to offer some insights on his life, the long road he’s taken to get to where he is, and just how he gets his songs from his head down on paper.

Eggplante: So you’ve got the EP out – that’s wild!

Jesse Labelle: It’s going really, really, really well. A lot of people don’t know that I’ve been doing this for ten years. When I was seventeen, I left high school early and I was writing immediately following high school. I went to University for Frosh week and I kind of enjoyed it but I was getting lost and I thought “I’m overwhelming myself and I’m throwing myself into University much too fast”, because I did fast-track to try and get through high school quickly. I went to York and it was way too much for me. So I said that I’d take a year off and try to write. And I started writing. And some of the songs that I was writing were noticed and they were picked up by an independent label who was looking for pop songs. A couple of them ended up getting onto various compilation CDs and I thought, “Wow! This can work! I can write music and if the right person hears it, you can get it out there!” That just completely changed my mind about wanting to spend time in University.

E: You’ve got this partnership with this massive star, Emily Osment, how is that?

J: She’s been super great to work with and really, really cool. She’s really supportive. I think she’s the coolest seventeen year old that I’ve ever met.

E: Well, you didn’t meet me when I was seventeen! So what’s it like to work with someone that you realize has a pretty big sphere of influence because she is who she is. I mean, she’s one step away from the monster that is Hannah Montana.

J: Absolutely. I actually don’t really feel it so much when I’m around her which is really cool because I haven’t worked with a whole bunch of stars, especially at her level. When we went on tour, we made friends online and I noticed that she’s hosting the People’s Choice Awards and I’m thinking, “I know someone that’s doing that? Thats wild!” She’s so down to earth, though. That’s the cool thing about her; I don’t feel like I’m in the presence of some mega-star when I’m in the room with her. Her and her band make fun of each other all the time; it’s just like talking to a much more mature person.

E: She does have years about her.

J: There’s something to be said about growing up in the entertainment business; I think you have to develop a personality a lot quicker. You do a lot of interviews and meet a lot of people. Working with her though was great in the sense that her fans were so welcoming and so responsive. At these concerts, they didn’t know who I was before I came on stage and by the end of it, they’re clapping along. Some of the girls were even singing some of the choruses, so it was really a good fit.

E: I will admit, when I first saw you, I thought “Okay, just an opening act,” which is what people think mainly when they see someone new. So I went there to shoot Emily and one of the photos I got was of you singing and, when you were singing, I could not get a bad shot of you. At that point, I was thinking “maybe I judged this guy too quickly”. I got the song stuck in my head after two or three listens, which is weird, because I hate opening acts! So what are the next steps? Where do you go from here?

J: Lots! We’ve got a lot planned. Basically, I’m going back out on tour for probably the next four months. We’re working on two different tours now. The key is playing live, which is what I really love doing. It’s really about getting out on the road, and this tour that we did with Emily was only about five or six days long and we both looked at each other at the end of it and were like “It’s over?!” I don’t know if it’s going to be with her, but we’re looking at a few more Canadian options to take me back out there. Some of the best responses we get are out of town. In Vancouver, we got such a warm welcome, for example.

E: So how did the music video go, since it was your first one? [Check out Jesse’s music video for his debut single, Perfect Accident!]

J: Yes, it was the first video. It was surreal. It was a little bit stressful in the sense that I had never done a music video before and here I am, we had a great director and a great crew, but a lot of making a music video is what happens behind the scenes. Shooting is probably the thing you spend the least amount of time doing; most of it is waiting! It was intense! When I saw everyone there and there was the food and everything, I thought, “Wow, they’re all working to capture me walking for thirty-seconds.

E: And yet you realize that without all those things, it would look so different.

J: Absolutely, but we had a really great team that did it. The director really captured some great shots in there. I was so happy with it when it was finished.

E: The lighting on it is all really nice. Lens flares, soft lighting, I like.

J: Thank you! A lot of it was shot outside, which is interesting because, well, it was November, so it was freezing cold!

E: Can we expect to see you at Canadian Music Week this year?

J: Yep! I’m going to be playing. I don’t know exactly which night it is, but there’s a showcase for the booking agency that I work with and they’re putting me on! The nicest thing about having the label is that I’ve done the music for such a long time that I know how to go out and play the show, but the business side of it, I’m not good at it.

E: Otherwise you wouldn’t need a label. But better to be good at the music, right?

J: Yeah, well a lot of the time, something will come up and I’ll be like, “Really? That was in the works? I had no idea!” I try to keep my ear to the ground and find out what’s going on around me but for the most part, you get so busy with just playing and now trying to get into the writing, I’m always thinking ahead. Even though the first album hasn’t come out yet, it doesn’t mean that I have to stop writing.

E: For sure! Well I guess we’ll be seeing you at CMW then!

J: I’m excited for you to see the whole band play because you’ve only seen one small show. And it’s totally different live.

E: Have you found your own live audience yet?

J: Not outside of this tour, no. We’re actually looking at putting together a charity show sometime soon, too. That would be the first one where we step out of the tour.

E: So you mentioned the songwriting process before; what is it for you?

J: I write from the basis of human connection. Whether it’s trust between two people or broken trust or it’s the experience that you feel from having an energy between two people, whatever that energy may actually be. I’ve tried writing about a lot of different things. When I was a lot younger, I was in high school, I tried writing about world events and my parents separating and such, but if I wasn’t actually a part of it, I never felt like I could properly express the feeling. So the first time I had a relationship, I started writing all these songs. The writing process is always different; I’ve written songs where I try and I sit down and think about what the chorus will be and the truth is is that those songs never really come across the way the magical ones do. The magical ones, which are pretty much all the ones that made this album are all when I got inspiration, I sat down and the words came out in five minutes. You have an idea in your head and it feels very heavy on your shoulders and you sit down and just blurt it out. The whole thing just bleeds out of you; the melody, the words, the chord structure, and it’s just done. All of the songs on this album have been written more-or-less in that way.

E: When is the album coming out?

J: The first week of April. We’re just finishing up now. We made a conscious decision about two days ago that I’m going to include some really acoustic stuff on the album, because the response to these acoustic songs where I break everything down and the band takes a break has been really high. I did a lot of writing over the last couple of years that was a little bit “folkier”, just acoustic guitar, one vocal, very honest, and down to earth. So we’re going to add about two of those to the album and we’re finished. The studio part is completely finished, though.

E: Awesome! So the question I ask, which is now an Eggplante staple, is: peanut butter or Nutella?

J: Peanut butter or Nutella? I have to pick one?

E: Well, yeah, because as much as it is about the music, people want to know the weird stuff.

J: I would have to say peanut butter because I had it this morning, I had it yesterday morning, you know. But if you asked me five to ten years ago, it would’ve been Nutella. I discovered Nutella at sleepover camp and everyone would dip their hands in and we thought, “What is this? Chocolate in a bottle?!”

E: Well that’s it! Thank you so much for the great chat! See you soon!

Be sure to check out Jesse Labelle on Twitter (@jesselabelle) and of course, Eggplante on Twitter and Facebook! There are some exclusive photos of Jesse that you can only see on our Facebook page, so be sure to become a fan and check them out!