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On her sophomore album, contemporary singer/songwriter Jessie Baylin finds herself on the Verve Forecast label, home to Ledisi, Liz Wright, Dion, Brazilian Girls, Zucchero, Kate Walsh, and Steve Winwood, to name a few. Firesight is also Baylin\'s first album to be released as a physical object; her debut, You, was produced by Jesse Harris and released exclusively through iTunes. Harris is still in the picture here — he co-wrote four of the album\'s 11 cuts, and plays guitar on them — but it\'s Roger Moutenot in the producer\'s chair this time out. Moutenot\'s résumé is wildly varied. In addition to producing six albums for Yo La Tengo and The Hot Rock for Sleater-Kinney, and the New Amsterdams, he\'s been an engineer at least as long as he\'s been a producer. Some of his clients include Elvis Costello, John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Paula Cole, Patti Scialfa, Freedy Johnston, Gillian Welch, Josh Rouse, and Heather Eatman. Moutenot has taken these strictly modern urban pop songs and made them almost extraordinary. Baylin is 24 as of this writing, and while very talented, she writes with the angst and wiry, unfocused passion of an artist who has many heroes but hasn\'t found her own voice — yet. Moutenot knows how that sounds and how to record it. The proof is in the very first track, \"See How I Run.\" He took those feelings and the accompanying identity crisis — portrayed by very clever turns of phrase in a country-ish tune — and framed them into a reverb-laden but sparkling midtempo ballad (co-written with Harris, who provided the gorgeous melody). It\'s got a lot of the loose backbone that Lucinda Williams displays in her melodies, but it\'s more urban than that. It\'s followed by another Harris collab in \"Leave Your Mark.\" One of three songs recut from You, it\'s adorned in enormous cellos, shuffling trancelike snare drums, mandolins, acoustic guitars, and banjos, underscoring and surrounding exceptionally unhinged lyrics. It feels like the Laurel Canyon sound of the 1970s brought home to the 21st century. Baylin and her small band wrote a strictly \"modern rock\" tune in \"Not a Day More\" (a song that was made for a movie soundtrack if there ever were one), and Moutenot gets the right rhythmic pulse down cold. He wraps her voice in just enough smoke and mystery to get her lyrics across, and transforms the guitars to sound like extensions of Mick Ronson playing with David Bowie. But there\'s more than this — the piano ballad \"Lonely Heaven,\" written with Greg Wells (with Will Kimbrough guesting on guitar), brings her limited vocal range to bear in a vulnerable, tender, but streetwise ballad. You can hear traces of Carole King but also Marianne Faithfull in her delivery, with its reedy low-end warble. Ultimately, Firesight will appeal to those who bought Rachael Yamagata\'s Happenstance or even Norah Jones\' more rootsy material with Charlie Hunter. The songs are well-crafted, carefully arranged, and beautifully recorded. The appeal lies as much in Jessie Baylin\'s delivery as it does in her songwriting and Roger Moutenot\'s recording.
\"It\'s a collection of a bunch of moments in my life,\" Jessie Baylin says of her Verve Forecast debut Firesight. \"I\'m just trying to be as honest as I can, and hopefully people will connect with the songs and recognize moments of their own life in them.\"
Firesight makes good on the critical praise and grass-roots fan support that\'s already been heaped upon the 24-year-old artist. The album offers a vibrant, soulful showcase for her talents as both an uncommonly insightful songwriter and a deeply expressive, effortlessly charismatic vocalist.
Recorded in the artist\'s recently adopted hometown of Nashville with noted producer Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo, Rogue Wave), Firesight features contributions from some of Nashville\'s most respected rock players, and songwriting collaborations with such notable co-writers as Whiskeytown member Mike Daly and Grammy-winning songwriter/performer Jesse Harris, L.A. troubadour Zack Hexum and the Rembrandts\' Danny Wilde.
All-star support notwithstanding, it\'s Baylin\'s lyrically incisive, melodically intoxicating compositions and bracing performances that make Firesight such a revelation. Such tunes as \"Leave Your Mark,\" \"Lonely Heaven,\" \"Not A Day More\" and \"See How I Run\" boast a level of emotional insight that\'s rare in such a young artist.
Although Firesight shows her to be a natural songwriter and performer, Jessie Baylin\'s road to a musical career has been an unconventional one. She gained her initial performing experience during early childhood, singing for customers at the Fire Sight Inn, the New Jersey restaurant/jazz bar that her parents owned. It was there that she developed her lifelong affinity for music, as well as gaining some early insights into human nature by observing the establishment\'s colorful clientele.
\"That\'s why I wanted Firesight to be the title of the record,\" Baylin explains. \"It\'s where I come from, and it\'s who I am.\"
As a child, Baylin felt a deep connection with the honesty and intensity of such classic jazz and pop divas as Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, whose influence would later inform her own singing. She also demonstrated an early penchant for introspection and self-examination, writing poetry and keeping personal journals while still in elementary school.
Shortly after graduating from high school, Baylin demonstrated her iconoclastic spirit by deciding to leave her family and friends behind to move to Los Angeles. \"I was really comfortable at home with my family,\" she explains, \"and I really needed to get uncomfortable and take a big risk. It was nuts, but I just felt as though it was something that I needed to do. L.A. was completely alien to me. I didn\'t know anyone when I moved there, and I didn\'t make any friends there for about a year.\"
It was after arriving in L.A. that Baylin stumbled upon her gift for songwriting. \"A friend came to visit from New York,\" she recalls, \"and he brought his little baby Taylor guitar. We were sitting around singing some of our favorite songs, and then he started playing this melody and I picked up my journal and I knew the words that needed to go with that music. I started singing them and it all just connected. That was the first song I wrote.
\"I knew right away that this was what I was meant to be doing,\" she continues. \"I had been searching for my purpose, and it smacked me in the face. It was scary, because I didn\'t know anyone in the music business. But I knew that it was what I was supposed to do, so I just went with it.\"
After an extended period honing her budding songwriting skills in solitude, Baylin recruited a band and booked her first show at the L.A. club the Mint. Almost immediately, she developed a local buzz and an enthusiastic following. \"When I started playing out in L.A. and finding myself as an artist, it was the first time in my life that I actually felt like me,\" she says. \"I could walk into a place and feel like all of me was there.\"
She soon became a fixture at the Hotel Café, emerging as a pillar of a vibrant grass-roots scene of young singer/songwriters. Before long, she was receiving offers of record deals, but passed on them because she didn\'t feel she was ready yet.
\"The Hotel Café was a really amazing scene,\" Baylin states, \"and it\'s great that it sprung up in L.A. yet had very little to do with the music business. Everyone was being offered record deals and turning them down. We were just trying to figure out a way we could just have it be our own thing.\"
In 2007, a co-writing session with songwriter/producer/recording artist Jesse Harris (best-known for his Grammy-winning work with Norah Jones) organically grew into a recording project that became Baylin\'s first album, You, which received a low-key independent release. In addition to demonstrating her evolving songwriting and performing abilities, the project also saw Baylin recording with such legendary veteran musicians as Jim Keltner, Van Dyke Parks and Leland Sklar.
Baylin continued to win new fans on national tours with James Morrison, Brett Dennen and Cranberries singer Dolores O\'Riordan. She was also a featured performer on the 2006 Hotel Café tour and its 2008 sequel, alongside such Hotel Café alumni as Cary Brothers, Ingrid Michaelson and Greg Laswell.
With Firesight establishing her as one of the year\'s most exciting new creative forces, Jessie Baylin is eager to share her songs with rapidly expanding fan base.
\"Listening to this record still sends a chill up my back,\" she says, adding, \"I think that most artists struggle with fear and insecurity, and I certainly do, but I\'ve never felt more confident and comfortable on stage than when I\'m playing the songs on Firesight. It just feels so good and so right; I just fall into it, and I\'m in the moment and it\'s beautiful.\"
Firesight makes good on the critical praise and grass-roots fan support that\'s already been heaped upon 24-year-old Jessie Baylin. The2008 album offers a vibrant, soulful showcase for her talents as both an uncommonly insightful songwriter and a deeply expressive, effortlessly charismatic vocalist. Recorded in the artist\'s recently adopted hometown of Nashville with noted producer Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo, Rogue Wave), Firesight features contributions from some of Nashville\'s most respected rock players, and songwriting collaborations with such notable co-writers as Whiskeytown member Mike Daly and grammy-winning songwriter/performer Jesse Harris, L.A. Troubadour Zack Hexum and the Rembrandts\' Danny Wilde.
Artist: Jessie Baylin
Date Of Release: 2008
Genre: Indie Rock, Folk Rock, Folk Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Americana
Bitrate: VBR --alt-preset extreme