Words By/Robert Frezza
Photos By/Dove Shore
Ladygunn recently sat down with Rising Star reality singing competition winner Jesse Kinch to talk about the music industry, growing up in the social media age, and his Jim Morrison-esque fashion vibe.
Growing up on Long Island did you always picture yourself as a rock singer?
Yes, but that was just part of my personal blueprint. I was playing guitar as early as age 6 and began singing at age 11. I began writing songs at age 12. It was impressed upon me at a very early age that I should strive to be the complete artist and performer. I heeded that advice and that has always been my focus. I have many layers as a singer and many have taken notice of this.
You were featured on ABC’s reality singing competition Rising Star. What was that experience like?
It was a great experience and I was supercharged and ready for it. The show was almost a perfect fit for me. Almost all of my song choices were accepted and the musical director of the show, Ray Chew, and I quickly developed a friendship and great respect for each other. Ray realized I knew exactly what I was doing and fully trusted my musicianship and song arrangement ideas. With his great band behind me and our mutual trust and respect for each other, I was able to be fully ME on the show. I formed many friendships with other contestants on the show and also with host Josh Groban, judges Brad Paisley, Kesha, and Ludacris. Playing live all summer to 5 million people a week and winning the competition wasn’t bad either.
Following Rising Star, you signed with Capitol Records, then left due to creative differences. Can you explain what happened?
A record deal with Capitol Records was part of the prize for winning Rising Star. The very next day after winning Rising Star I was called into the offices of Dick Clark Productions/ABC and was promptly greeted with, “How do we fit a square peg into a round hole?” You see, everything I stood for and represented on Rising Star, everything that 5 million people a week embraced and voted for with great passion, Capital Records ignored. I went on to Rising Star with a platform to show that there are REAL artists out there that can play an instrument, write and compose their own songs without multiple co-writers, and perform them without a mass contingent of dancers spinning on the floor and jumping out of the ceiling, the unbearable auto tune and so much more that lends to the word FAKE. I still feel the music consumer is screaming for REAL.
Long story short I was asked to cut my hair, dress differently, and accept and follow the manufactured cookie cutter mold. I was asked to abandon all that won me Rising Star, I was asked to turn my back on all the fans who supported me every week and who had sent a clear and powerful message to the industry as to the kind of music and music sensibility they voted for and wanted. The powers that be turned their backs on me and to the millions who voted for me every week. I could not and would not SELL OUT at any price. If an artist does not paint his or her own canvas then they should not call themselves such. Thankfully I was signed to a new label (Curb Records) who understood and supported my music vision 100%. My debut album I’m Not Like Everybody Else is available in record stores, Amazon, on both vinyl and CD, and on iTunes, as well as, other streaming services.
Were there any challenges in putting the album together? Did you listen to anything prior to the writing and recording process for inspiration?
There was some urgency early on to possibly get all the tracks down and presentable within 30 days and also coming in on budget. We accomplished the miracle of getting the tracks down in 30 days and the album also came in under budget. We were a precision team in the studio 13 hours a day seven days a week. My inspiration for the album came from everything I had listened to, admired and absorbed, since age 6 and by the many greats who paved the way and are embedded in my musical soul.
You grew up in such a different time where everything is social media and where viral videos are the big thing. What are your thoughts on that?
The plusses of social media are numerous and obvious for music artists. However, one must be very careful with overexposure. What is missing today is the mystery, anticipation, and imagination in this time of social media… like opening a Christmas present and wondering what is so special inside and being so happily surprised at what you see. There is a coldness to some aspects of social media and the way we buy music. Going to iTunes and simply downloading music is just cold and empty. For example, I love buying a vinyl record or CD and opening them like a Christmas present and then seeing all the songs inside, the names of the songs, the writers, the credits, the lyrics, the artwork and pictures.
What is your fashion sense when touring? What is your favorite thing to wear on stage?
I love a free flowing look, I love long hair, love long sleeve button down shirts (Zara, Robert Graham, INC, Guess, John Varvatos, TopMan) I love cool things on my wrist and sometimes neck, love Frye Harness Boots love the layered look too with a smart rock look jacket. Love boot cut jeans. My favorite thing to wear on stage? Hmmm… A Fender Stratocaster or a Gibson Les Paul guitar.
You can catch Jesse Kinch on tour in Bethel, NY at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts where he will partake in a Woodstock 50th Anniversary Commemoration Concert.
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