Jessie Bridges Lets Her Music Breathe
Hailing from a family where music has always held a prominent presence can offer a valuable head start when it comes to picking up an instrument. But, it is what you do with the instrument that really counts. In Jessie Bridges’s case, she has channeled her burgeoning musical prowess into an inflicting new recording that she has recently taken on the road. The album she has been out promoting is titled Let It Breathe and it follows a 2010 EP, titled Jessie Bridges.
The new album was recorded in Vancouver, but Bridges didn’t head north specifically to make a record. While working as an assistant on a film with her father, actor and musician Jeff Bridges, the singer-songwriter decided to eek out some time away from the set to record a song she was working on. S0 pleased was Bridges with the results, that she decided to stay on in Vancouver to record a few more tunes before returning home to San Francisco. It wasn’t long before the project evolved into an album. Next month Bridges takes to the road again when she heads out for another run of shows with Jeff Bridges & the Abiders. Accompanying Bridges on guitar and pedal steel will be fellow San Franciscan Tim Marcus, with the duo set to undertake a little musical abiding all their own.
Brett Leigh Dicks: You have previously released an EP and are now brandishing a full-length album. Tell me a little about the genesis of the new record.
For the past three movies, I have been working as my dad’s assistant. That’s been incredible because it has allowed us to spend so much time together, but it’s also been really cool because it took me to some amazing locations, the last of which was Vancouver. The filming of the movie took about four months and, in the middle of the filming, I was inspired to write a song, “Let It Breathe.” Because I was inspired to write it there, I wanted to record it there. So I got together a group of genius musicians and a producer and we recorded the song. As the movie got closer to wrapping, I realized I wasn’t ready to leave because I had fallen in love with the city, so I extended my stay until my visa expired. I found a new apartment and stayed two extra months and ended up making an entire album.
Who produced the album and how did you initially cross paths?
When I am in a new location, I try and get as much information as I can out of the locals because they are the ones that know all of the cool places and all of the cool people. I became friends with a guy working on the movie named James Williams, who is a musician that I would play guitar with. I told him I had this song that I really want to record and asked him if he knew anyone who could help me wrangle some musicians, and he said he had the perfect guy for me — a guy by the name of Mike Rogerson who is a teacher at a music recording school in Vancouver. Mike and I had a conversation and immediately hit it off. He completely understood my vision for the song and the direction I wanted to take it, and got the ball rolling.
Apart from the song you wrote while in Vancouver, did you already have an album’s worth of new material, or was there subsequently more writing that needed to be done?
I released an EP in 2010 and the whole purpose for making that recording was to experience what it is like to be in a studio. Since I had that under my belt, I knew I wanted to do more recording. I learned how to play guitar when I was 13 or 14 and I have been writing songs since I was about 16. So I have a catalog of old songs and song ideas. But what was so cool about this album [is that,] other than two songs on it that I wrote while in my early twenties, they are all new songs that wrote during my time in Vancouver. So a lot of the record came from my experiences there.
I live in the Bay Area. Being born and raised as a Southern California girl, after graduating college I immediately wanted to go and live in San Francisco. I didn’t really know what I was going to do, but I saw it as a pit stop and that I would keep going up the northwest coast. Maybe it would take me to Portland or maybe Seattle, I didn’t know, but I knew I was over the Southern California thing. [Then] the Bay Area became my home and I didn’t feel the need to move anymore. I guess Vancouver scratched that itch I initially had. It is the perfect blend of being metropolitan, but it is also surrounded by nature. I loved being able to go out to Grouse Mountain or Vancouver Island. It’s the perfect blend of everything I love.
And it must have been very inspiring for your music to immerse yourself in this different environment and have it resonate so deeply with you on a personal level …
Oh absolutely! Another thing that resonated with me was the people. I just love Canadians! They are the coolest, friendliest, down to earth people that I have ever met in my life, and that made it so hard to leave. That is one of the reasons the project worked out as well as it did. I was surrounded by awesome people.
You alluded to starting to play music when you were in your early teens. How exactly did music enter your life?
My dad gave me a Yamaha guitar. It was a lightweight, easy to play guitar that was just awesome for beginners. And he started teaching me cords and we would play some songs together, and he was really encouraging. He was always telling that I was picking things up really quickly and that I was really good. But I was getting really frustrated with bar cords and would tell him it was too hard. He constantly encouraged me to stick with it and that it would get easier. So I stuck it out and, at some point in high school, I was moved to start writing songs. I have been singing since I was a toddler, so to be able to blend the two was so cool for me and something that was uncharted and untapped. Once I discovered that medium of self expression it was like a whole world had opened up to me.
You hail from Santa Barbara and, just like your dad’s band, your album has a Santa Barbara presence too in that Gabe Lackner mixed the album. How did Gabe’s involvement on the record come about?
My dad’s drummer is Tom Lackner. About two years ago, my dad asked me to sing back-up at a few shows he was doing in the Bay Area and Gabe came to watch one of the shows, and that’s when I first met him. Then we realized we both live in the Bay Area and planned to hang out together. It never happened and the idea just fizzled. But, once I got back from Vancouver and had all this material, the only thing that was missing was someone to help with all the post work. Gabe not only lived in the city, but has a studio there and our chemistry, both personally and professionally, was spot on and that made it really cool to collaborate. And it was especially nice since our dads work and play together.
What is the next step for the album and your music?
That’s a really great question because I am trying to figure out what the right move is for myself. I am getting a lot of positive feedback and that’s really exciting and the fire underneath my butt has been well and truly lit. So now I’m going, but where I’m going I don’t really know! I guess what I’m trying to do is set myself up to succeed no matter what ends up happening. To that extent I am getting out and playing more shows. Coming from a famous family, I don’t want to be known just as the daughter of Jeff Bridges so I am conscious of doing things on my own terms. I really want my songwriting to speak for itself and be acknowledged on its own merit because ultimately I think writing is what my calling might be.
Jessie Bridges and Tim Marcus join Jeff Bridges an the Abiders at:
Horseshoe Casino – Hammond, IN – August 22, 2014
The Pabst Theater – Milwaukee, WI – August 23, 2014
Pantages Theater – Minneapolis, MN – August 24, 2014
Ryman Auditorium – Nashville, TN – August 27, 2014
The Paramount – Huntington, NY – August 29, 2014
The Wellmont Theater – Montclair, NJ – August 30, 2014
The Bichmere – Alexandria, VA – August 31, 2014
City Winery – New York, NY – September 2, 2014
The Wilbur Theater – Boston, MA – September 3, 2014
Mohegan Sun Casino – Uncasville, CT – September 5, 2014
Ridgefield Playhouse – Ridgefield, CT – September 6, 2014