From: Bellingham, WA
When singer/songwriter Jesse Morrow moved to Bellingham from Michigan, he was excited to accept his ideal job as an art director at a local church. He knew no one and knew nothing about the Seattle area, but it was a job opportunity he could not pass up. A few years later, he is leaving that same dream job and the family he built in Bellingham to pursue a more full-time music career in the Seattle area. He has been recording his third album since he moved down to Seattle in September, and said it looks like it will be released in March if everything goes according to plan.
Helping Jesse record his third album is none other than Brian Fennell, vocalist and piano player of Barcelona.
A LITTLE HELP FROM A FRIEND
When Jesse moved to the area a few years ago, he met Brian after a Barcelona show at Western Washington University, where Brian received one of Jesse’s albums.
“I gave him my CD and offered to open for him,” Jesse said. “It was totally cheeseball and I did not expect anything out of it.”
Brian said he loved his voice right away, loved his whole vibe, thought the songs were good and immediately wanted to work with him. Jesse has lived all over the country, which helps his sound be unique to him instead of becoming ingrained in one place for a long time, Brian said.
“I couldn’t tell where he was from through his music, which I like,” he said;
This new album is the second album Brian has helped Jesse record. Brian mostly helps with the production aspect of recording: putting the songs together, choosing the “sound palette,” and on Jesse’s album actually plays some instruments and sings a bit. Brian currently uses the Wiseman Studios on the East side of Seattle.
Jesse described Brian’s contribution to his music as the paint filling in a line drawing.
“He is a talented musician so he hears guitar parts, piano parts, and harmonies that I don’t necessarily hear,” Jesse said. “His influence shows up the most in what he adds to the music.”
Brian’s help and passion for his project impressed and humbled Jesse. He takes the time to listen to his home recordings and rough takes on songs, and “has a knack for picking up on the gems,” Jesse said. Also, when his second album dropped, Brian posted it on the Barcelona Facebook page, which he said left a huge impression with him.
Jesse isn’t the first musician Brian has helped record, he has worked with quite a few bands and musicians over the years, he said.
“Not that I am some genius with a secret formula that will instantly make music better, but it’s a community I care about and I want to use what I have to try to make music what it wants or needs to be,” Brian said. “I’ve also been able to meet some good friends in the process.”
Brian said their first project together (Jesse’s second album “Come On, Speak Up”) built a great trust between them so they could stretch outside what’s comfortable for the both of them. This allowed them to take his songs to a new place while still retaining what makes Jesse’s music his own, he said.
Jesse said with new material there is always a challenge with making the tracks come alive for the listener, and to make the songs stand out from the last album.
“Different risks were taken on this album that weren’t on the last,” Jesse said. “I think the risks in this case have shown growth for both of us.”
A DIFFERENT TONE THAN EVER BEFORE
In the past, Jesse’s style has been acoustic singer/songwriter love songs. His new album is a bit heavier, darker and with less love songs. On the previous albums, every song had an acoustic-guitar-driven feel. This one only has acoustic guitar on about half the songs.
“But it’s my music, so it’s still not too tough,” Jesse said.
Even the content is darker. Jesse said as he was writing these songs, he watched many friends and family members go through difficult times. The last year or so was rough for Jesse and many people close to him. He felt like he should be writing his typical happy love songs. but he couldn’t find the inspiration. He hopes it evokes some feeling from the listener.
“I was told ‘just write happy songs,’ but I’m not happy. I’m pissed,” Jesse said.
This album is an honest representation of the last two years of his life, and what the people in his life have experienced.
Or sometimes his songs are completely fictitious stories. He writes songs that he hopes anyone can relate to and that people can play in their cars. Listening to his songs on previous albums, you can not help but wonder what or who his songs are about.
“Most of my songs are totally fiction. I just write about things that are interesting to me. A lot of it is observation about other peoples situations,” Jesse said.
There was one song that was slightly more personal. Jesse revealed the meaning behind his song “Hourglass,” which was written about a girl he started hanging out with right before he moved to Bellingham.
“I was a total emotional basket-case,” Jesse admitted about how he felt around the time he wrote the song.
Contrastingly, the song “I’ve Got You” was written about a girl he had only hung out with a few times.
“We hadn’t even gone on a date or anything, and that song totally suggests otherwise. See? Total fiction,” Jesse said.
MORE TIME SPENT ON MUSIC
He is excited to be spending more time on this album compared to the others. He recorded the first two in less than three months, and he is taking his time with this one.
When Jesse lived in Bellingham, he was working a full-time job along with taking on freelance projects. Now with the freedom of working on only freelance projects in the basement of his home in Ballard, he is able to spend more time on his music. Jesse is the lead designer for Live to Love Apparel, and also does video work for organizations. Recently, he got to spend time in Tanzania with Bellingham non-profit New Vision and create a video project for them.
He funded his third album entirely by Kickstarter, the website that enables anyone to fund a project solely by their supporters. If the entire Kickstarter goal is not met, none of the money gets collected. Jesse met his $5,000 goal halfway through his campaign, and ended his campaign at well over $6,000. His campaign lasted from Aug. 7 to Sept. 6. When supporters donate, they get something in return for their pledge. Jesse’s Kickstarter offerings for higher pledge donators included having their name in the album credits, an exclusive acoustic E.P. of unreleased songs, handwritten lyrics, a personal Skype concert or interview, or even a home concert.
He said the support he received from the Kickstarter campaign blew him away, and made him determined not to let his backers down.
“This being my second full band album, it is important to improve and make something different, show growth, but not get too far away from who I really am,” Jesse said.
Brian said with what he knows of the music industry, since the chance of selling or making millions is small, all one can hope for is a fun and healthy journey.
“Jesse is a kind soul, and I hope that he continues to spread his magic potion across this country and this world,” Brian said. “I have complete confidence that he can and should do that.”