You wouldn’t necessarily know it by listening to his newest record but Jesse Malin was this close to hanging up his guitar for good after having traveled the world in support of his 2007 record Glitter In The Gutter and his ambitious covers album On Your Sleeve.
From his beginnings in NYC band Heart Attack through glam punks D Generation, music has always flowed through Malin’s veins: He has shared stages (and studio time) with people including Ryan Adams, The Hold Steady, Lucinda Williams and Counting Crows.
So it seems almost incomprehensible that he would willingly walk away from the music business for good as recently as two years ago.
“I was in weird place once I came off the road,” the talkative Malin begins from en route to a show in Chicago. “I really didn’t know what my next move would be.”
To help fill in the uncertainty he felt towards his career, he found a few different things to occupy his time:
He began work on a documentary on DC hardcore band Bad Brains while he contemplated other options ranging from going back to school to becoming a wedding DJ.
It was the late JD Salinger who would inadvertently bring Malin back to the world of making music. When asked by a friend to compose a soundtrack to a film about the reclusive author, Malin traveled to New Hampshire hoping to speak with him.
But instead of having the opportunity to speak with Salinger, Malin instead found himself jailed, charged with trespassing. Fortunately for Malin, the cops who arrested him looked him up on You Tube, found a video of him singing his track “Broken Radio” with Bruce Springsteen and let him go free, convinced he was who he said he was and that his purpose for trying to speak with Salinger was for research purposes after all.
“I’ve been in jail in New York City; jail in New Hampshire is very much different,” he laughs.
Two songs (“The Archer” and “Lonely At Heart”) would be the result of his experience in New Hampshire and form the basis of his excellent new record Love It To Life.
The most significant shift for his latest record isn’t necessarily musical at all; it comes in the form of the label it is being released on.
Glitter In The Gutter was released on Green Day’s boutique label Adeline while his newest record finds a home with the burgeoning Side One Dummy Records, home to The Gaslight Anthem and Flogging Molly among others.
So how does a punk-folk singer-songwriter fit in with a primarily punk-oriented label?
“I never would have thought I would find a home with Side One either, to be honest with you,” Malin says.
“I had the opportunity to tour with some of their bands and in the process, had taken notice that their roster had changed and was moving away from solely being a ‘punk’ label.”
“The people who run Side One Dummy were fans of mine so it just made sense to align myself with someone who would give their best to promoting my new record.”
Indeed, his newest record finds Malin traveling down the musical roads of his past, reconciling his influences with his own musical history.
“I think my writing reflects hard times and what people do during hard times,” Malin says. “The backdrop of this new record is undeniably New York City but the fact of the matter is, it could be anywhere.”
“There are definitely some raw feelings at the heart of this record. I hear my whole life being reflected in the finished product.”
“For so many people, music is a place to turn to for the good times, the bad times, everything. I just wanna create anthemic songs that people can relate to and hold on to.”