Jessie Baylin Leaves Her Mark
Soulful, introspective, and wise beyond her years (she’s only twenty-four), Nashville-based artist Jessie Baylin is much more than just Scarlett Johansson’s best bud and Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill’s fiancé. Set to release her major label debut Firesight this summer and with it a nationwide tour, Baylin is fast on track to becoming the next big thing in the music industry.
Already a star in her own right, Baylin has amassed an intense grassroots following on the strength of both her debut album, You, as well as high-profile touring slots with musical heavyweights John Mayer and former Cranberry Delores O’Riordan. But success wasn’t exactly buzzing around the corner of her hometown, Gillette, New Jersey. Like many an artist, Baylin had to pull herself from the comforts of home and set out on a journey that sent her California bound. Headed for the ever-bustling city of Los Angeles straight out of high school, Baylin says she simply felt “like there was something bigger for me out west. I packed up a U-Haul with all my clothes and books and drove across the country with my parents. I wasn’t [as] intimidated by Los Angeles as I thought I’d be. I was more inspired than anything else which was reassuring.”
It was in LA that Baylin’s publisher, Kathleen Carey, put her in contact with Grammy-winning songwriter and Norah Jones collaborator Jesse Harris. What began innocently enough as a “songwriting date” soon blossomed into a prolific songwriting relationship, soon evolving into Baylin’s debut album, You, as well as her major-label debut, Firesight. “It happened quickly and organically. [Harris] walked in to my old apartment, and I had just come up with this lyric and melody and I started singing it… twenty minutes later we had a song (“The Glitter”). He then recorded a guitar part he thought I could write some lyrics to. I recorded his part onto my tape recorder—and I’d never worked like that before, with just a track—but again, that song happened naturally, and turned into “See How I Run.”
But perhaps Baylin is most at home on stage, where she often performs barefoot. Having toured extensively with artists such as Newton Faulkner, Teitur, and James Morrison, she has also been a part of the Hotel Café Tour (“Hotel Cafe is where I’ll always go back to. It’s more than just a music venue, it’s a community and a little world in itself”), and will also be performing at the much anticipated Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee. And as if that’s not enough, Baylin was lucky enough to tour with alt-rock legend Delores O’Riordan from The Cranberries. “Dolores was lovely to be around and had a lot of wisdom to give me… the girl has sold millions of records, was broken by the business, and had willingly stepped back into the beast with four kids in tow. She didn’t seem afraid and I liked that. She had her kids on the bus with her, and I thought that was the sweetest thing and very inspiring.”
One listen to Firesight and it’s clear that Baylin is the real deal. Her voice, smoky and deeply evocative, is capable of communicating more than just the lyrics allow. No surprise then that Baylin’s idols are of the highest order: Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Billie Holiday, and Barbra Streisand. “When I listen to them sing, [I] can hear them put their guts into the song and the performance. It melts your heart because they’re so believable. My goal is to keep digging deep and going to that unpredictable place as a songwriter and as a performer. I want to be surprised by myself, so that I’m along for the ride as well.”
Text by Bruce Scott
Photos by Laura Crosta