Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon…
- Posted on Aug 20th 2008 4:15PM by David Chiu
"I basically took my time," he tells Spinner, "and started writing songs that I cared about. I just needed to find myself in some kind of way. Somehow it turned into a full-fledged project."
Thus began Jessee's new band Hotel Lights, which put out its self-titled debut in 2005. The group's second album 'Firecracker People,' was released this week and features Jessee's lead vocals, acoustic guitar and songs. The new album's atmospheric, subdued and sometimes melancholic sound is a departure from the rock music of his former North Carolina-based band.
"That's just how I've always kind of worked," he says. "Ben [Folds] was the primary songwriter for that other band. So I think that's the big difference. This sound of Hotel Lights is something I've been doing since about 2000, just kind of refining it and working on it."
Jessee has heard often that Hotel Lights' music has a cinematic quality to it. (One of the group's songs was used on TV's 'Grey's Anatomy'). In fact, Jessee wrote the new album's title track for an unreleased Hollywood-styled film entitled 'Basmati Blues.' "Basically it was something fun for me to do to step outside from my usual routine with Hotel Lights," he explains, "trying to write for characters in a musical. But then I would hear the song and I thought I can actually pull this off too, so that how it kind of ended up on the album."
'Firecracker People' also marks the official recording of 'Amelia Bright,' a song that dates back to Jessee's Ben Folds Five days. It was previously performed live on the group's final tour with Ben Folds singing the song. "Some of our hardcore fans had been excited about that song for a while," Jessee says. "I always liked the song and I always wanted to do something with it. It seemed enough time had gone by and I always wanted to record a version on my own."
Jessee, who co-wrote Ben Folds Five's popular hit 'Brick,' says that he didn't have any designs for becoming a singer and band leader while drumming in his former group. "I don't think I knew what I was getting into," he admits. "I just wanted to sit around with my headphones and write songs on my 4-track. It's been a really fun transition and enough years have gone by now that I have a great band."
"I felt like I had these songs I wanted to write," he continues. "I think searching for that kind of led me here. It is very different. People seemed to like it, so I said 'OK, it's alright.' Another thing lately is just me being at peace with everything from my past -- just accepting how much good it brings as well as whatever baggage from people having expectations of me.'