Comin’ Back Again
by Deborah Wagner
At the age of 21, this kid has done a lot. From TV to Broadway, the silver screen, and now the release of his third solo album Departure, Jesse McCartney is flying high with a hit single “Leavin’” and an exciting new page in the book of his career.
After launching his solo career with his debut recording of Beautiful Soul in 2004 and his sophomore release of Right Where You Want Me in 2006, Departure offers an edgier, more mature sound that is receiving rave reviews from fans and critics alike. With R&B sounds and beats unrepresented in his past work, Jesse feels passionate about this music and thinks it represents where he is in life right now. He’s excited to share it with his fans worldwide.
While co-writing most of the music on Departure, Jesse is showing off another side of his talent by establishing himself as a confident songwriter. In addition to the new album, he is composing for other artists including Leona Lewis’s recent number one single “Bleeding Love,” which he co-wrote with Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic.
When we recently sat down with McCartney to see what’s going on in his life, we learned that he is enjoying this departure in his career and the changes that have come along with maturity. At 21 years old, life is good….
You were on Broadway, in daytime TV and in your first band by the age of twelve. How did you get involved in show business and did you always know you wanted to perform?
You know how some families are into sports? My family was just really musically inclined. Both of my parents played an instrument, sang and wrote songs. I was just kind of engulfed at an early age in the whole music world. [I] grew up listening to a lot of classic records and eventually, like you said, I started doing a lot of theater. At first it was community stuff with my family, and I was just doing it for fun. Then I really started loving it and I eventually I told my Mom and Dad that this is something maybe I’d love to do do for real real. That was kind of the beginning of the end. But I’d say it was at about eight or nine when I was doing all these community productions with my family and that was the turning point.
Before you went solo, you were with the band Dream Street. What kind of learning experience was that?
Well, that was exactly what it was. It was a learning experience. I was pretty naive and green with the industry at that point and didn’t know much about it. But for me – I was twelve, thirteen and we were selling records and we were signed to a label. I was young and it was all just sort of magical. More than anything, I learned and recorded for the first time behind a microphone and made an actual record. We were dancing 5 days a week. Our group was choreographed, and we started touring around the country. It was definitely a learning experience and prepped me for what was to come.
In 2004 your single “Beautiful Soul” was getting played all over the radio. How surreal was it to have the song break so big and suddenly be all over Radio Disney, MTV and other stations?
It was crazy! It still is crazy. You never get used to that feeling. When I first heard it, actually I was in San Diego. What really put it in perspective for me was hearing it in between an Usher and an Alicia Keys song. I had to think, “Oh my, who’s that guy in the middle?” It was really kind of funny.
Beautiful Soul and Right Where You Want Me were quite different from the new CD Departure? Obviously, the name Departure is reminiscent of the music content. What has changed for you that is now reflected in your music and lyrics?
I think the natural progression of things is enough for me to change my sound. But I’ve always felt more comfortable in the R & B, rhythmic world. In my free time, that’s what I’d sing about, I’d write about and listen to. I grew up listening to that style. It’s definitely the most comfortable I’ve ever been. I wanted to make a record that was that of a 21-year-old and had a bit of an older sound to it. The fans that were around when I was sixteen and were fans of Beautiful Soul are now 21 too and probably want something a little bit different. So, I made the conscience decision to change it up. So far, the reaction has been incredibly positive – so it seems to be working out.
You co-wrote several of the songs on the CD? Is that something you enjoy doing?
Very much. I’ve been writing for years now and I definitely have a handle on it. It’s really fun to collaborate with other writers too. It’s always a different dynamic to walk into a new studio with someone. When two minds are being creative together some pretty amazing stuff can happen.
What are you telling us about your life with songs like “It’s Over” and “How Do You Sleep?”
Everything you hear on the record is an emotion or a feeling that I’m familiar with, you know. I’ve been in and out of relationships in the last few years and I feel like I’m just good at writing about that stuff. I feel like I’m pretty dialed in when it comes to relationships and certainly at my age, I think I have a firm grip on what it’s like being with a female.
Do you have a favorite song from the CD or moment making it? Did you learn anything new about yourself during this experience?
That’s a tough question. It depends on the day you ask me. I think that “Not Your Enemy” is the best written. Lyrically and melodically it’s definitely a little more advanced. We really took our time with it and it has more of a classic tone with it. But I think that overall … man…. maybe “My Baby,” track seven on the album. J.R. Rotem produced it. I wrote it with him and Evan Bogart, his writer. It’s just a really fun song. It’s very synth driven with heavy shameless sounds that are kind of reminiscent of the late 80’s, early 90’s.
What was it like working with so many incredibly talented industry members like Sean Garrett?
It was great. Sean is definitely someone who has become a mentor to me, and he’s written so many great songs. His work ethic is different. He works so slowly. When we got into the studio together, I was pulling my hair out like, “Why is he so slow?” Then when you get your final product and you finished your record with him, you realize why he’s one of the best writers out there, because he knows exactly what he wants. There is no pressure and he doesn’t push himself too hard. He’s really relaxed in the studio. It’s a great dynamic. I definitely look forward to writing with him again in the future.
The new video for “Leavin’” is much more mature than you have shown in your past releases. Are you concerned of losing some of your younger audience?
No, I’m not. I really don’t know how much that is going to happen. I feel that even my younger audience is fifteen, sixteen and seventeen. If that happens, then it happens, but I think that naturally this record is going to reach out to an older crowd. I’m prepared for that. The decisions I made though were not made based on who I’m going to lose but who I am going to gain and really welcoming any fan that would like to come in. Once again, I think that most fans were my age when Beautiful Soul came out and they’re now all twenty or 21.
Lately, you have done the voices for two animated characters as Theodore in Alvin and the Chipmunks and JoJo in Horton Hears a Who. Was that a fun experience and would you like to do it again?
Absolutely. Animation is incredibly fun. You get behind microphone. No hair and makeup. I like it. (laughs) You know, Fox has been really good to me and always supportive. When they called and asked me to be part of Alvin and Horton it was a real pleasure. I got to work with some really cool people too, so I definitely will be doing more of that in the future. Absolutely!
Well, great. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my five-year-old son loves you as Theodore and insisted I tell you, “You rock!”
That’s cool! (laughter) Tell him thanks!
You have done all forms of acting from theatre, TV and film. Which do you prefer, and will you be doing more acting in the future?
I definitely want to get my hand in a little further with the film career. I think that that’s something I haven’t totally gotten to yet. It’s tough when you are trying to balance all of these different things together. Right now, the music is taking the front seat. I’ve been working on this record and have had to make some sacrifices in the last couple of years but definitely after this album, I’m going to be doing some more film work.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask something about your personal life for all of our female readers. Is there anyone special in your life right now?
Hmmm…. No, there isn’t. I’m just kind of single and enjoying myself.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love sports. ESPN and I are friends right now. My TV doesn’t really divvy away from that channel. I like to kick back and watch sports, but I also like to play sports. I love to play baseball. I love surfing. I love to be outdoors.
You have had a lot of success internationally. Will you be doing another international concert tour as the CD comes out?
Without a doubt. I’ll probably be doing US, Europe, Australia and Asia again.
Do you still live in New York?
No, I’ve lived in LA now for about four years.
Do you miss New York and the New York lifestyle? It’s quite different from the LA lifestyle.
Yes, and I do miss it very much. You know, I love LA and I think LA is great but you’re right, they are very different. When you grow up a New Yorker, I think New York is always home.
Is your family at there too?
Yes, yes … everyone kind of moved out west. It was pretty crazy.
You have already done so much in your career including acting and music. What is the next big step for you?
You know, to be honest, I couldn’t tell you. I’m sort of rolling with the punches and learning as I go. As much as I’ve done so far, I do think I’ll branch out and do some other things. Maybe write, maybe direct. Maybe produce, maybe get behind the camera a little bit. Right now, I am just going to be enjoying what I’m doing and loving it. These are really good days and I’m just enjoying the ride.
What would you like your fans to know about you that they don’t already?
Umm… I love to cook!
Really! That’s so cool!
Yeah. I have my kitchen now. I’m in my new place and you’ll find me at two in the morning online on Top Chef or Iron Chef looking up recipes.
Any favorite thing to cook? Italian? French?
I like Italian but I think French cuisine is my favorite.
How would you like people to see your music?
My goal with my music career is when someone hears a song, even if I’m not singing it and it was written by me, I want them to be able to know that it’s a Jesse record. Have something that [makes] people go, “Oh okay, I get it. That’s a Jesse record.” Or if I am singing it, I want people to know that I have established a new sound.
Are they any misconceptions you would like to clear up?
Not as of now. (laughs) Get back to me in a week. You never know.
|#1 © 2008 Hollywood Records. All rights reserved.|
|#2 © 2008 Hollywood Records. All rights reserved.|
|#3 © 2008 Deborah Wagner. All rights reserved.|
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|#5 © 2008 Hollywood Records. All rights reserved.|
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 28, 2008.