Jesse Lynn Madera’s latest, “Fortunes”
Jesse Lynn Madera creates songs with depth and thought-provoking lyrics, seamlessly blending country, soul, and jazz. Ever present in Madera’s songwriting, the piano became an integral part of her life thanks to family friend and mentor, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame pianist and songwriter, Johnnie (“B. Goode”) Johnson. Jesse’s latest record, Fortunes, is a lyrical and piano-driven album that makes a strong impression in its genre-defying, well-crafted conviction. Robert Earl Keen is a huge champion, sharing, “Jesse has a voice as clear and mellifluous as the first songbird of springtime. Her songs are intoxicatingly hypnotic.” Her latest single ‘Dante (Live)’ is an acoustic rendition of an album-favorite and shows Madera at her most soulful. Her musicianship sings from the second that the song opens with its sweeping piano hook and listeners are treated to a fresh take on an already powerful song.
Q: Could you share a little bit about your album Fortunes for new listeners?
Fortunes is a short concept album. Technically, because of its length, it’s an EP, but I see it as the full shebang because of its density. It’s string-heavy, with velvety, luxurious arrangements by renowned “one man orchestra” Stevie Blacke. Other than 72HVN, none of the songs were tracked to a click, so they feel different than a song that you might hear on the radio. They were intended to be imperfect in that sense, and I knew I was taking a bit of a risk there. There’s definitely a handmade, organic feel. There’s a ton of pressure to try to recreate what’s already out there, songs that people know exactly what to do with. I had no idea how this album would land with anyone, including people who’d seen me live and invested emotionally in what they’d heard. In fact, it was those people — people who used to follow my shows in New York or Los Angeles — who l was the most concerned about. They had been patiently waiting for a new release, and I felt like I owed the ones who’ve been so supportive something that they could still relate to. I’m happy with how it came out, and I sincerely hope they are too. I’m looking forward to touring because that will be the true test of the material.
Q: What was your songwriting process like for “Dante” and what led to you creating the live version?
I started writing “Dante” after an emotional falling out I had one evening with a producer in New York who, in a drug fueled rage, tore me to shreds. The abrupt ending of my business relationship with him was part of what catapulted me to Los Angeles. It changed my life. There was a period of time there that I felt sick even looking at my piano, and making business connections in particular felt incredibly difficult. I couldn’t trust anyone. It’s appropriate that “Dante” is the first song on the album. Leading with it, now that I look back, was symbolic, because it was not my ending. It was my beginning! When my team suggested I do a live version of one of my songs from the album, “Dante” seemed like the one. It’s the biggest sounding song with all the strings, and the way the intro charges in. So this is “Dante” as it sounded before it got all dressed up, as it sounds in my living room.
Q: How did the concept for the video come about?
I had the great fortune of being introduced to Jason Lee Denton. We hit it off creatively, and I put the aesthetic aspects of the video into his capable hands. I have a really great team who did the location scouting, and Kate Richardson found the loft we filmed in. It was perfect for the song because it felt like New York with its exposed brick.
Q: Can you share any behind-the-scenes details about the recording and filming for the live performance?
The piano was out of tune! Can you believe it? I had to laugh. I grew up with out of tune pianos, so I kind of loved it and we made it work.
Q: Can we expect to hear any other live versions from your album Fortunes?
Yes! I’ve got another coming out fairly soon. The next one is ‘Funny Man’, a song that is already stripped down on the album, so I just changed up the instrumentation a bit. I love it! Cannot wait to share!
Q: Will there be any new music coming out in the near future?
Yes, there’s ‘Funny Man’, as well as much more to come. 2021 holds so much excitement for me, personally as the artist. 2020 was a turning of the tap, and now the water is flowing. Thanks so much for listening.