In the first week of his new album release “Higher”, I caught up with recording artist Jesse Sarvinski to see what inspired the album and what makes him tick…
1 – What music did you grow up listening to?
My parents pretty much always had the radio dialed to the country station so that was kind of the foundation of my music listening but I was exposed to a lot. My older cousin kept up with the current stuff and listened to the pop station, I spent a lot of time with her so I listened to a lot of that too. Country is really good at telling stories, kind of letting the narrative unfold in a really cinematic way. Pop music is all about the hook, the chorus that really gets stuck in your head. Later in my early teens I got more into rock, reggae, and alternative, much of which was classified as grunge back then. The first few albums I owned were pretty random though. It was something like Ace of Base, No Doubt, Green Day, Real McCoy and Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill – which had a profound effect on me. I remember hearing “Hand In My Pocket” for the first time and immediately asking “WHO IS THIS?” She was a great storyteller. But even like Ace Of Base for example, the beats were so solid. The music just got into your bones and I really love that too. I grew up on everything and I still to this day listen to everything. If it’s a good song, it doesn’t matter to me which particular genre it belongs to.
2 – Who taught you to sing? What inspires you to write songs?
I don’t know if I was ever actually taught. It was just kind of like this “I want to sing so I’m going to” type of thing. My voice was shit when I first started out because I was primarily interested in getting my thoughts out and a lot of times there was no resemblance of a melody and it could have been so off key that it was painful but I just told myself, “Bob Dylan was off key. Johnny Cash was off key. Lots of people are off key.” I made it about what I was saying but never stopped trying to develop my voice. I remember a lot of people asking me “Have you ever thought about being a songwriter, like, JUST a songwriter?” And I would be like “No, I’ve never thought of being JUST that, but thank you.” I kind of knew that I was never gonna be the guy who was doing all these complicated runs with his voice and being some Luther Vandross character and I just accepted that. As I got older I started training my voice much more and working with a coach and it’s kind of like working out at the gym. You have to do it on the regular and if you do, it can only get better and better. I’m inspired by a lot of things, sometimes it can be that I’m out to dinner with friends and someone will say a phrase or a sentence and it will ring a bell in my head, and I think “that’s a really good idea for a song,” and then I’ll run with it. Sometimes it’s a real experience I’ve had, maybe let’s say with a relationship, and there are those things that I think but that I really don’t necessarily want to say to that particular lover so I write about it. Or maybe it’s just a heightened take on an emotion that I’m feeling for one night. It’s always just a snapshot. That’s the great thing about a song. It’s not forever. Like just because I may write something that’s on the melancholy side, doesn’t mean I’m a melancholy person in general but in that moment I was feeling melancholy so I wrote about it. It’s all just catharsis.
3 – How do you stay fresh and on top of new sounds, and trends?
I don’t anymore. Trends come and go but speaking your truth will always be in style so I try to just go with that and if I like something then I do it. A friend of mine is a pretty well-known songwriter and I remember her telling me one day “just go with your gut.” So that’s what I do. And that seems to work best. If you try and analyze and say “oh I gotta do this, be like this person, give it this feel” you will miss the mark. You can be inspired by something but mimicking never ever works. My songs usually start with a beat. A producer will give me a beat and I write the lyrics and melody on top of that based on what the music emotes for me.
4 – Why is your new album called ‘Higher’?
I’m a seeker. I’m always happy to be where I’m at but I’m also aware that there is always more to be experienced so I’m constantly trying to rise towards whatever that may be. Many of the songs on the album are about those types of journeys. We’re kind of on this staircase and you don’t just get one step upward and think, “Okay, well I’m here now. I guess I will just sit at this step for the rest of my life.” For me it’s more like, “Alright. I’ve accomplished that. Now what!?” I’m always making little tweaks to make things better for myself. I also believe in a Power that is beyond what is just inside me and I’m constantly aware of signs that there is something higher at play than just the world we see with our eyes on a day-to-day basis. There is something out there and you don’t even have to give it a name. It’s just a light inside all of us that is working toward some greater good. Those themes are woven throughout.
5 – What’s the hardest song to sing off the new album?
“Inferno”. It’s so high. I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote it. Hah. Also, “The Stories We Tell Ourselves”. That song is pure raw emotion for me.
6 – How do you overcome performance anxiety?
Sometimes I’ll have a little bit of whiskey butI like to be pretty clear for the most part. I love being on stage, you kind of have to if you want to be in this business. There’s always a bit of a thought process beforehand though. I want the audience to enjoy themselves so I think about that. I get really silent within for a minute and just think about connecting with people like we are all old friends at a house party.
7 – Do you think artists should give their music away for free?
I think that if people knew how much money the artist put into making that music they would be more inclined to buy it. But people just don’t know. They aren’t aware of what went into that song. I don’t get upset about it or anything. “It is what it is.”But I do often think about how I can’t go into a restaurant and ask a chef to prepare me his favorite meal for free because he loves food and he’s good at it. I don’t go to a tire shop and ask my mechanic to work on my car for free just because he is passionate about automobiles. I don’t get free haircuts. Why? Because that person went through training and certification and hour after hour of perfecting their craft to make me look stylish. So isn’t it funny how it’s so different with music? MUSIC! The thing that every single person in the world loves, that can take you from sad to happy in an instant or transport you back to a time in your life that you remember fondly. For me, I look at it like this; I’m taken care of. Always. I always have enough. I get to do cool things and play my songs for people and that’s pretty cool. For me, it always comes back around. What I give, I get back.
8 – Everyone has a secret, What’s yours?
Everyone has multiple secrets but mine wouldn’t be secrets if I told you them now would they?