“I’m stuck on every illusion…I’m stuck and lost in confusion. I’m stuck on you.”
–“Stuck on You”
Singer/songwriter/guitarist JESSARAE (JEZ-ah-rae) has been making music since he was nine, a true old soul in a young man’s body. The 17-year-old’s Raystone Records full-length debut, PILOT, introduces an astonishing talent whose guitar-playing can be felt in your gut and whose songwriting is felt in your soul. A raw, crunchy, garage-rock grunge that recalls seminal influences from Neil Young to My Bloody Valentine and Kurt Cobain, juxtaposed with a uniquely broad and meticulously controlled vocal range. This young, prolific songwriter has an unrelenting vision that shows the confidence of artists literally three times his age.
A fourth generation musician on his mother’s side–who doubles as head of his label–the son of an ice hockey great and brother of a successful actor, JESSARAE has grown up around professional performers his whole life, and knows how much hard work it takes to succeed.
“The thing is, we’re all having fun while we’re doing it,” he says of his family’s accomplishments. “We all had have our passions and love pursing them.”
That commitment to excellence and achievement is at the heart of PILOT, named by JESSARAE after the TV term describing the first of what will hopefully be a successful series. From the Jack White-styled punk-blues rave-up of the first single, “Stuck on You,” the in-your-face psychedelia of “Closer” and the sheer unbridled emotional intensity of “The Truth Is,” to the deliberately somber “Surrender,” the melodic “So Magical,” the yearning romanticism of “Trying to Meet Her,” and the rainbow-colored “Tangerines,” JESSARAE proves adept at any number of genres. And that’s no surprise considering his own favorites include such eclectic music makers as The Beatles (“of course”), Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Nirvana, Flaming Lips and, even earlier, Prince (whom he saw live as a youngster) and brooding Irish singer-songwriter Damian Rice. Pay special attention to the prodigal kid’s masterful skills on guitar, which range from the gentle strumming in “Starting Line” and the Hawaiian slack key lilt of “Tangerines” to the pyrotechnics of “Seen It All Before” and the squawking feedback in the coda of the title track.
”I wanted to make a whole album, not just a single or an EP. I set out to create something I would want to listen to myself,” he explains about the album, recorded at Stagg Street Studios in Van Nuys, CA with producer Danny Kalb, the one-time Blues Project member who has also worked with Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Beck, Wilco, Rilo Kiley and They Might Be Giants. “This is my way of letting people know I’m looking for a long, lifetime career playing music and making records. This is only one side of what I can do. I’m putting myself out there.”
JESSARAE, who was born in Pittsburgh, moved to New York City shortly afterward and grew up in Los Angeles spending two of those years in Detroit. He received his first guitar as a Christmas gift when he was four and at the young age of eight he had already made his first public singing performance, opening for his mom, Stacia. A recording artist herself, her father was the leader of the popular Hollywood-based ‘60s group The Pastel Six and grandfather was a singer/songwriter with the acclaimed Baltimore Trio.
By the time JESSARAE was nine, in 2005, he wrote his first song, “Please,” and performed his first live show as the entertainment for an event at the Gibson Room in Beverly Hills. At 11, he played three songs live on Canada’s answer to MTV, Much Music, before recording 12 songs with Cinderella drummer Fred Coury at his Double Forte Music studio, then beginning what would become his first EP, “Damaged Heart,” which came out digitally in March 2009.
A young veteran of the concert circuit, JESSARAE has shared the same stage with Stevie Wonder, Seal, Plain White T’s, Five for Fighting, John Legend and the Roots, Gavin Rossdale, Sugar Ray and Matisyahu, as well as performing at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, Chelsea Staub’s Harmonies for Haiti concert and L.A.’s Club Nokia. He’s also participated in the “Camplified” tour of summer camps, and his own “Dream Big” tour of local middle and high schools, where he encourages his contemporaries to follow their own passion, a message that comes through loud and clear on PILOT.
From the beginning, JESSARAE was intent on making it on his own terms, succeeding without relying on his dad, former L.A. King, Pittsburgh Penguin and N.Y. Ranger star Luc Robitaille, while his half-brother is Steven R. McQueen, one of the stars of TV’s The Vampire Diaries, and the grandson of the late actor (whose son Chad was previously married to JESSARAE’s mom Stacia).
“Whenever anyone asks me why I didn’t play hockey, I tell them, “I prefer to keep my teeth,’” he laughs. “From early on, I just knew that music was what I wanted to do. I looked to succeed, not because of any connections, but just because I could do it.”
With over 20,000 Facebook followers and people who have been following him on his own website (www.jessarae.com), JESSARAE dedicates PILOT to his fans. “Having a good piece of work is the important thing,” he insists. “I have so many people who believe in what I am doing and what I can do. I had a vision and hearing it all come together, I couldn’t be happier. ”
Having been pursued by major labels, JESSARAE admits that while such offers were flattering (and even at times enticing), at the end of the day it was about being able to make a life-long commitment to his music. “I’m about having a career for a lifetime. I have amazing grass-roots fan support and I have an album that I’m really proud of. If people are hearing about it by word of mouth, I’m happy with that. I prefer the more organic way of doing things.”
Call him the anti-Bieber. “When people compare me to him I think they are just fixating on our age because it’s the easiest thing to do.” says JESSARAE, and after listening to PILOT, it’s obvious that the comparisons end there. “I’ve been surrounded by amazing music and musicians my entire life and my style is influenced by everything that has ever moved me. I just want to share that with as many people as I can.”
From the sound of it, JESSARAE’s PILOT could well turn into a full-season commitment.