Posts Tagged ‘Jesse Malin’

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His third solo album, 2007’s Glitter in the Gutter, saw singer-songwriter Jesse Malin pay tribute to a friend and fellow tunesmith with a song he called “Lucinda.” It took another dozen years, but Malin and that song’s inspiration, Lucinda Williams, have finally found the time to collaborate on a full-length project. Sunset Kids, Malin’s recently released album on Little Steven Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool label, was co-produced by Williams and her husband, Tom Overby, and it’s easily the most potent collection of Malin music since that earlier breakthrough set.

Sunset Kids arrives a full four years after New York Before the War and Outsiders, the pair of albums Malin released during a particularly prolific period in 2015, and three since Nothing Is Anywhere, his 2016 reunion effort with D Generation, the glam-punk band he co-founded in 1991. He hadn’t planned on taking this long to make a follow-up solo recording, but life, as it often does, had other plans for him. One after the other, Malin lost important people in his life, including his father, Paul; his West Coast engineer, David Bianco; former bandmate Todd Youth and others. “When you’re hit with all these heavy things, you either get beaten down or you find a way to jump back,” Malin says. He weathered the losses and chose the latter path.

“When there are hardships, I look to life and I look to music and say, ‘Let’s make the best of it and try to find a way to smile through it a little bit because there’s a lot of dark shit.’ It reminded me of when I made my first solo album and I came out of being in bands,” he adds. “As scary as it was, there was something liberating about it. This batch of songs started to pour out.”

Williams was an obvious choice as producer yet, at the same time, she wasn’t. Malin was born and raised in the New York City borough of Queens and quickly gravitated toward punk and, later, what’s now called Americana. Williams, more than a dozen years his senior, was born in Lake Charles, La., and grew up largely in Arkansas before embarking on a career that has landed her three Grammy wins and another dozen nominations.

Malin recalls first hearing Williams around 20 years ago on a duet she did with Steve Earle, and while neither of them quite remembers where or when they first met—it may have been at a Charlie Watts jazz concert at New York’s Blue Note—at some point, they came into each other’s orbit and a friendship ensued. As Malin began gathering songs for what would eventually become Sunset Kids, the notion of working together popped into his head.

“My manager would come to my house every couple of weeks and say, ‘What do you got?’ and we’d sit around my kitchen table,” he says. “Then, once he felt like we had a good amount of songs, he said, ‘Think about producers.’ That same week, Lucinda Williams had invited me to come out to LA to see her open for what turned out to be Tom Petty’s final concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I said to my manager, ‘What do you think of Lucinda Williams? She’s somebody I really admire and look up to, and it might be an interesting thing.’”

“It just felt real natural,” Williams says. “Tom [Overby] and I had been working in LA with David Bianco, at his studio, and Jesse really liked the sounds we were getting on my albums that I was doing with David. Jesse said, ‘Do you guys want to help me do my next album?’ We said, ‘Yeah, we’d love to.’ But it wasn’t like this out-of-the-blue thing; it happened organically.”

“As people, we’re different,” says Malin about Williams. “We come from such different places. We’ve met up on the road a lot and, if we are in the same town, we’ll go out and listen to music. And Tom is a really great guy. He’s a real fan and a deep listener of music and he had a lot of input in the record.”

Williams’ involvement wasn’t limited to sitting behind the board. She co-wrote two of the album’s key songs, the harmony-rich “Room 13” and the swampy rocker “Dead On,” and contributes vocals to those two as well as “Shane,” the album’s richest ballad. She also offered some sage advice on the lyrical content of the songs, which vary dramatically in style.

“He writes like crazy; he’s so prolific,” Williams says. “He would bring a song to me and have the melody and the structure of the song. He’d have a whole bunch of lyrics and a refrain. He brought ‘Room 13’ to me and said, ‘I’ve got all these lyrics. Can you help me go through and kind of narrow it down?’ So I asked him: ‘What are you trying to say in the song, exactly?’ I wanted to wrap my head around it and get inside of it. We’d go back and forth.”

“She’d be talking about this line or that line,” recalls Malin about the shaping of that same track, “and the next day, she took my six verses and said, ‘These are the three you should use.’ There’s something really open about sitting around with an acoustic guitar and a drink and just going through your stuff. But I was nervous. Even though she’s my friend, I was like, ‘Whoa, the body of work she has.’ But when you have somebody like that it makes you want to do better.”

Once they settled down to actually record, “There were different things going on in different studios,” says Williams. “He was still finishing songs and writing new songs as we were recording.” Most of the music was cut live in the studio, with some overdubbing. Several of Malin’s pals, including Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur, lent a hand with vocal or instrumental parts.

“With her instinct—from being around music or just having that kind of deep soul or some kind of Southern thing—we’d go in and record a song and do three takes,” says Malin. “We’d record to analog tape. Then we would listen and see if we nailed it, and if she was dancing and grooving her hips and moving, then we knew we had a take.” They recorded about 25 songs in all, with 14 finding their way on to the finished album.

“I know I was involved in the album, but Tom and I think this is the best album he’s made,” says Williams.

Jesse Malin’s official music video for “Room 13 (featuring Lucinda Williams)” from his new record “Sunset Kids”, available now on Wicked Cool Records.

Jesse Malin considers his video for the new track “Room 13” premiering exclusively below from his upcoming Lucinda Williams-produced album Sunset Kids, an impressionistic “little tribute” to some favorite films, including Midnight Cowboy and Paris, Texas.

Directed by Dito Montiel, a friend from the punk rock scene (Gutterboy, Major Conflict) turned filmmaker (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Empire State, The Clapper), the clip also nods to Malin’s habit of booking himself into hotels to do some songwriting in isolation. The various character plots pay homage to those older films and feature cameos from friends such as Malin’s D Generation bandmate Howie Pyro, the Dickies’ Leonard Graves Phillips and more.

“It was just a great time to make a video in there with (Montiel) and his eye,” Malin says, “Hotels are a place I sometimes go to write in to get that blank canvas feeling. It’s just this empty space. We’re in such a world with distractions, your phone and computer and all the social media. Sometimes if you get far away, in another time zone, you’re in a place where you’re forced to deal with yourself, thinking about that matters in life, who you care about, what really sticks when there isn’t as much noise to deal with. That’s what I’m getting at there.”

“Room 13” is also special to Malin because it’s the first song he and Williams worked on for Sunset Kids, which is due out August. 30th. The two have been friends for years, since Malin’s days in D Generation, and while having dinner in Los Angeles during the summer of 2017 (after Williams opened for the late Tom Petty’s final concert at the Hollywood Bowl), they began talking about having her produce Malin’s next project.

“Then Tom Petty’s (death) happened, and then what happened in Las Vegas (the Route 91 Harvest Festival shootings), and there was a very heavy emotional kind of pause for everybody,” Malin recalls. He and Williams finally got together, with engineer David Bianco, the next February and began working on songs, knocking out “a handful” and continuing to write throughout 2018, negotiating their two schedules as they crafted the 15-track album. “She has a real fearlessness and attention to detail — just a combination of hard work and gut instinct,” Malin says of Williams. “She’s very free, and I think there’s something to that, but yet really worked hard on the writing and crafting of the songs. Every time I’d see her I would have a couple new songs, and if they hit her she’d go with her instinct. ‘Listen to your heart’ was something I got from her, don’t be so over-analytical. We’d do three takes of a song and then go into the control room and see if we nailed it, and it was like, if she was moving her hips to it, that was the one we went with.”

Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, another old friend, co-wrote and sings on the Sunset Kids‘ track “Strangers and Thieves,” while Joseph Arthur appears on three tracks. Malin will be doing some dates this summer with Justin Townes Earle and with Arthur, while an album release show is slated for Sept. 14 at Webster Hall in New York City. And while Sunset Kids‘ title is a salutary reference to Petty and other artists and friends who have passed away while the album was being made, Malin says there’s also an implied salute to those who are still around.

“We all have people we look to, like Keith Richards — of all the people, this guy keeps going,” Malin says with a chuckle. “I sang at Shane MacGowan’s 60th birthday party thinking ‘Oh, this guy’s not going to make it,’ and he’s still here singing — and drinking. And from the hardcore scene…New York was a pretty tough place. A lot of us came from dysfunctional families that didn’t give you the tools to deal with pain and stuff. So when you see anybody who’s still here and made it through, that makes me happy.

Jesse Malin’s official music video for “Room 13 (featuring Lucinda Williams)” from his new record Sunset Kids, available August 30th on Wicked Cool Records.

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Jesse Malin has unveiled his new single ‘Addicted’.
The song will appear on the singer’s forthcoming album ‘New York Before The War’, which is due to be released on March 30th. According to Malin, the song was inspired by the loss of his friend and neighbour Arturo Vega, a graphic designer best known for creating The Ramones’ logo. “All my music is personal, but this particular song captures a lot of the changes and struggles over the last few years between records,” said Malin in a statement.

‘New York Before The War’ is the native New Yorker’s first album since ‘Love It to Life’ (2010) and will feature guest input from guitarist Wayne Kramer and REM’s Peter Buck.