Jesse Fischer Looks Ahead
It’s very new to have other people in the mix where I make a decision and then they sort of have their own point of view. In the end, we come to an agreement that is beneficial for both of us. But I’m just not used to that process because it just takes a longer time than what I was used to as like a single-man operation. ObliqSound is not a huge label. I can only imagine what major label artists are going through, having to get things cleared through like 30 layers of bureaucracy. My experience has been great. The head of the label is a musician and engineer himself, so he understands what that whole thing is about. And it’s been great for me because I’ve been buying his records for years without ever knowing him. I always knew that if I saw that logo, it was going to be a quality record. I knew from the beginning that he has this brand that’s very focused on a specific type of quality, so I knew it was the right place for me.
Your overall sound is definitely a hybrid of varied influences, perhaps falling under the category of acid jazz. Is that something that you always set out to do with Soul Cycle?
It was more, “This is the way that I hear music.” I just really enjoy so many different influences and being able to combine them. It really seems like the best works of art, of anything, come when there’s many different people bringing their own values and their own ways of doing things together. That was just the way that I grew up because I had so many different influences. If you want to talk about music in the house, my dad was playing Baroque music with his friends, and then we would go to some Romanian folk dances. I would hear rock music and then I’d hear hip-hop and jazz, everything was kind of all combined. I didn’t really think about just doing one thing. I was always just trying to do everything all at once, which has its limitations.
In your collaborations with vocalists such as Gretchen Parlato, Mavis “SWAN” Poole and Rachel Eckroth, your music really brings out the strengths in their vocals. What’s it like to work with and arrange for these talented vocalists?
When I collaborate, I always have to be a fan. I [was] such a fan of Gretchen’s voice, even before I met her and got to work with her, same thing with Mavis. Everybody that I’ve worked with, vocalists or instrumentalists, I feel like a fan of their music first. And then we get to the point where we’re working together. It’s such a pleasure to work with all of these musicians because they bring something very unique to what they’re doing and they challenge me to either arrange or write something for them that’s very unique. For instance, with Gretchen, I had seen her in concert a bunch of times, I own all of her records—even her first record before she was on a label. I knew what she did and I wanted to do something that would suit her but I also wanted to do something that was different from what she had done before so we could sort of both grow in that record.
What inspired you to incorporate pop music into your work?
I’m such a fan of pop music. I love songs with words and melody. I was such a socially awkward kid growing up, and songs were the only way I could connect with people. To be able to walk into a crowded room and no one knows who you are, you sit down and play a song and instantly people know it, you get this connection with them. It’s almost this magnetism that is very addictive. So that’s one reason why I always like to include popular songs. Jazz music has always been like that, I think, less so in the last forty years. People have strayed from the popular repertoire but for a long time, jazz was always about reaching people in this medium that everyone has access to because a lot of people know pop music. Taking a song like “You’ve Got A Friend” or on Retro Future, we took “Aquarius,” which is almost this very hokey song but it has this really interesting theme to it. A lot of people have this strong connection to it and it allowed me musically to do something fun, interesting and challenging to it. When you do a cover song, there’s always this aspect of bravado like ‘How can I do something new and interesting to it.’ A lot of people fall into the trap of that being the only focus. That’s definitely part of the vibe but for me, it’s more about the meaning of the song. And especially for a song that other people know, they have their own individual meaning attached to it, I have my meaning. I didn’t even plan to do “Landslide” on this record. The record was finished and there was something that was missing from the record, like a personal aspect of it. There was a lot of stuff that was very personal to me on Homebrew. With Retro Future, the record was a little too cold. I was just thinking about what I was going through this year, transitioning into a new part of my life, feeling like I’m not the young cat on the scene anymore and in my non-musical life—I’m getting married in three weeks. I’ve got to start thinking and seeing things differently. “Landslide” stood out to me because I’ve always loved that melody but also the bitter sweet quality to it. A lot of the songs that I like sort of have a bitter sweet quality like you’re giving up something and [yet] you’re getting something new. I think Stevie Nicks was writing about leaving someone so she was sort of scared to start a new part of her life. I think a lot of people can identify with that.
Retro Future’s expected release date is Oct. 30th. The first single is going to be officially released on Sept. 4. Promotional downloads are available at Jesse Fischer’s official website.
—Shannon J. Effinger
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