See what Jesse Macht had to say about the inspiration behind his latest album and head to iTunes to get Suitcase Heart now.
What got you interested in music?
Jesse Macht: I always played music as a kid, I know that's an old story, but I played piano as a really little kid and violin and sang all the time, but what got me into it really was being in a band. When I was in high school I was in a cover band and we added a guitar player because, at the time, I wasn't really good enough, and he came into the band and was like "you know, we can write our own songs". For some reason - I had been a huge classic rock fan, I loved Jimi Hendrix, I loved Zeppelin, James Taylor, and listened to all this music - but, for some reason, it never dawned on me that I could write my own songs so, when he said we could write our own songs, that sort of blew my mind and we wrote a song and after that I was hooked. He took me to go see a band called Kara's Flowers in LA and they were like a high school band, a few years in front of us, and watching them do their thing was pretty cool because I was just in awe that somebody that was like my neighbor could do it. Kara's Flowers turned out to be Maroon 5 so, for me, they were just great mentors, just seeing all those things together.
How would you describe the sound on this album?
Definitely a bit melancholy; now it's been about eight months since I actually tracked it, so it's interesting to hear, you know, to hear how your mind changes from writing it and tracking it and everything. I think there's this sort of ambient familiarity, like an ambient classic rock sort of vibe but they're love stories and it's love/loss. I went through a rough break-up so that's where the heart and the intention of a lot of the songs came from, but they're also dealing with bigger questions, like what sort of love forces you to question: it forces you to question who you are as a human being, and your business, and your life's intention, and why you exist, and what you want. Love was the impetus.
How does this album compare to your last one?
This one just took definitely more of a chance with what I had to say and what I had to ask myself. I loved making that last record, but it was my first record and it was sort of a flag in the sand. I was in a band for awhile, in a pop band, and that was my first adventure outside of it and, even though I loved the songs and it was an important record for me to make, this record was a little more focused and exactly what I was trying to communicate with the songs, which really was this idea of who we want to be and how are we willing to get there or what are we willing to sacrifice and, you know, what do you have to sacrifice to get there and it hurts and it feels good and it's all of these things, but how do we live up to the expectations of the life we want to live?
How has your sound evolved since leaving the band and starting your solo career?
It just got me confident, I would say. When you're first doing something on your own, I think there's a lot of blind faith, which you need to, you know, to jump off the cliff, and that band gave me that and the ability to get going. I think now, where I'm trying to evolve to is, the courage to be as honest as possible, to trust that if I really speak from the heart and really trust people and share what questions I have and fall into that, fully, then that's going to make my music a little more experimental, both lyrically and musically, and it'll be that much more genuine. I think when something is truly genuine people can't help but connect to it, they can't help but love it. Anybody, I think, who looks down on somebody who's truly and genuinely putting their heart on their sleeve, they themselves don't have heart. It's just really hard to do that, for any human being to get up and really share something and I think, now, having the courage to be on my own, having that first record under my belt, it's just life experience that gave me the opportunity on this record to just put myself out there and really go the extra mile.
What do you keep in mind while writing new songs?
People are a huge inspiration for me, other people, friends, family, strangers: I'm just interested in their stories. I think looking at other people and looking at their stories and the interactions I have with those people - I try to reflect on just some of the philosophy I have in life and, you know, where I'm going and why I'm going. There's a lot of 'why'; what are we on this speeding rock for and, you know, if we're going to spend our time doing something it better be something that inspires us every moment. So, I'm just inspired by other people's inspiration and I'm inspired by why people are up and positive and why people are down and melancholy and I'm just so interested in the drama of life and helping people and myself to sort of ask the questions of what makes us take that next step.
Are there any current artists or new releases you can't stop listening to or might take inspiration from?
Yeah, I mean right now I'm listening to some oldie stuff but the woman who I really, really wig out for is Laura Marling; she is so wonderfully in touch with this haunting affair she has with life and she's so complicated in her analyzing of her childhood and of her womanhood and the interactions she has. She's just so brutally honest with it that it forces her to be this really haunting character and that comes through in her guitar playing and the tunes she plays with and the lyrics she uses and that just inspires to no end because she fully is unapologetic about the trajectory of her life and how she's trying to move her way through. I think we're always on a journey to try and be that genuine truth and she's really in the thick of that now and so, yeah, she inspires me a lot. She was a huge influence on the record.
Have you got a favorite song from Suitcase Heart to perform live?
Yeah, I really love "Broken Faith", which is the first song on the record. It hits the nail on the head of what I was trying to sound like, for sure. I recorded that at the Zac Brown Band studio in Nashville, which was a super cool place - it was featured in Dave Grohl's Sonic Highways TV show that's on HBO right now. "Broken Faith" came really to me because it really was an honest conversation; it comes from this idea - which is a little bit of a bummer, I think I'm healing - but, when I was going through the break-up with this girl, part of the stuff that really broke us down at the end was when we would sort of argue and conversate about all we were going through. She got to this point when we were talking - and she was the one girl, the one person, in my life who I could be fully vulnerable with and share with her my weaknesses and my doubts and frustrations and anger, all the things you hold onto when you're in the middle of a public conversation, even with close friends sometimes you don't let go and, with her, she was the first person I really have given to - when we were falling apart, she had sort of said, in passing, like 'sometimes you were more vulnerable than I could take you being and I needed you to be strong for us because we're both artists and I don't know if I can live that life where you have that vulnerability' and that really just pulled the rug right out from under me. I thought, 'oh, shit, even in love I can't be fully vulnerable with somebody; I have to be protected and have to be this, you know, virile, male protector. That sucks'.
That's really where I broke my faith; I lost that idea that, in love, you can be fully vulnerable and now I think I'm trying to be fully vulnerable in my music because, that, at least, is under my own volition and music can't be taken away from me, I can play that no matter what. I think I need to heal that and learn that maybe in another relationship or any other person I can be that vulnerable, but that song really was, like, the impetus of the whole record and the sound and it was a really honest moment of that philosophy of what a bummer it is to lose that vulnerability.
What do you want listeners to take away from your album?
I think I want people to hear the stories and see if they can relate to them and know that there's somebody else out there who's going through it in that voice, with that perspective. Also, even though some of the things might sound down or melancholy, they'll find inspiration that we share the same struggle, everyone's going through the same thing, and that in all the songs, even in "Broken Faith", I do have a genuine optimism that lives inside me so when I write, I write out of loss or vulnerability but I can't help but always find the optimism. Sort of like, we'll get through this eventually but this sucks right now. I have a lyric in "One More Call", which is the fifth song on the record, and it says "if it's impossible to love me I won't make you live this lie but I will force you face to face with your reasons, and if you push me to the right you push me away, and you'll prove that you're not worthy of this hope I build inside" and that's kind of, like, those three lines are sort of how I feel about life like I don't want to force anybody into something, but I am going to be vulnerable, but if you're not willing to be that friend to me or to be that person then you're not worthy of the life I have inside of me, and I want other people to realize that.
If you can't fully be yourself around somebody, a parent, a family member, a friend, if you can't fully be that sad face or happy face or whatever is truly you, that person can't build you up for those things that are truly you, then they're not worthy of your life; they're not worthy of your inspiration and you have to be worthy. Hopefully I, as a song-writer, am worthy of those people listening to my record and vice-versa; hopefully they are willing and worthy of listening.
I'm going to be on tour in January and in Spring so hopefully people can come out and see that and I've got a song called "This Light" that is coming out in the next few weeks for the holiday season, which is essentially a song about the holidays and how wonderful it is to be around the people you love during this time. All those sort of holiday ideas, but there's no mention of Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanza or anything like that; this song is all about light and how this time of year is so much about light and how it forces you to reflect. That song is coming out in the next few weeks, and the video too; I'm excited because it's got a lot of family footage and all that.