Interview: Catching Up with Soul Man Jesse Dee

Jesse Dee performs tonight at Zydeco.

Jesse Dee performs tonight at Zydeco.

It’s undeniable that retro Rock and Soul sounds are prevalent in today’s music. Whether performed by Mayer Hawthorne, James Hunter, Fitz & The Tantrums or closer-to-home artists such as Alabama Shakes and St. Paul & The Broken Bones, the strains of yesteryear are making a comeback. Now, you can add Jesse Dee to that list. Earlier this year, the Boston-based singer/songwriter/guitarist released On My Mind/In My Heart [Alligator Records] and the disc is garnering critical acclaim from coast to coast. On Wednesday, August 14, Dee will give his Birmingham debut performance at Zydeco. Recently, we caught up with him by phone from Richmond, VA.

Brent Thompson: Jesse, thanks for your time. If you will, talk about the evolution of On My Mind/In My Heart. Have these songs been around for awhile or are they mostly newer songs?

Jesse Dee: It’s a mixed bag. Some of them we have been playing live for a couple of years and others had never seen the light of day until they got recorded. Some had bits and pieces and got refined for the record.

BT: Your sound has a timeless quality to it. Is your material an outpouring of all you’ve absorbed over the years?

JD: That’s certainly the goal or what I’m aiming for. As far as the elements of songs that could have been recorded 40 or 50 years ago, that’s the stuff I dig. Those are the parameters I start to create from. From that point on, the idea is to evoke the vibe of some of those great recordings as opposed to replicating them. When all is said and done, this is music being made in 2013 and it’s got to be relevant for me and the listener. So that’s my approach – to create the spirit of it. The goal is to come up with the sum of your influences – something authentic, something genuine. I’m sure that will be a lifelong process.

BT: How do you feel about the current musical climate? Do modern outlets – Internet, iTunes, satellite radio – benefit you or make it harder for you to get heard among the crowd?

JD: I would agree with both trains of thought. Music is more accessible than it ever was, no matter where you are. Also, there are more people making music themselves and putting it on the Internet than ever before. In that sense, it’s just as hard as it ever was to get yourself heard. The Internet is a tool to invite people to come out and see you play live, which is what it’s all about.

BT: How does a song stay fresh after you’ve performed it hundreds of times?

JD: Sometimes it doesn’t [laughs] and sometimes you just stop playing it. I’m always messing with the delivery or the melody. I like having a blueprint to work off of, but in the moment we are working off visual cues. We don’t necessarily play the tunes the way they exist on the record. If there are moments to ad-lib and incorporate the audience into the song, it can really help people connect with it.

Tickets to the 8:30 p.m. show are $8 and can be purchased at

About Brent Thompson

Brent Thompson is a contributing writer for You Hear This and WELD.