THE FINE ART OF SELF PRESERVATION: JESSE MALIN

Jesse Malin is coming to town – there’s a sentence I must have written more than half a dozen times in the last few years. Old school in every way, the New Yorker is ten times better live than on record. The records aren’t bad, though, it’s just that performers like Malin have to be believed in, to be seen. By Alan O’Hare.

The word ‘anomaly’ is a noun and it means something (or someone) that deviates from what is standard, normal or expected. Jesse Malin, the New York singer/songwriter, has released two albums in the last year, is back in the UK next month for his second European jaunt of 2016 and is promising to throw his set-list open to the crowd each night on this upcoming tour. “I love going out after shows to little bars in Liverpool and watching kids dance around to soul and r&b – with some ‘All Mod Cons’ thrown in,” laughs Malin, talking about his upcoming date at Arts Club on Seel Street. “Liverpool is a music town: working class and real. I’ve played there twice on my birthday in the past and it was my favourite stop in the UK.”

‘Working class’ and ‘real’ are descriptions you could attach to Malin’s music, too, but this is no po-faced songwriter with an acoustic guitar and a cob on. Malin plays hard and, more often than not, brings a rocking band with him across the Atlantic to do justice to his melodic shaggy dog stories.

As the game changes, and touring overseas become a Herculean task for those who don’t sell millions of records or tickets, it’s a measure of the man that this will be his umpteenth jaunt around this island in the last decade. During that time, he’s played and produced records with Ryan Adams, recorded with Bruce Springsteen, been feted by the grown-up music monthlies and been joined on stage by Shane MacGowan. True, his records haven’t always maintained the gold standard set by ‘The Fine Art Of Self Destruction’ or ‘The Heat’, but his latest, ‘Outsiders’, is a return to form…

‘Outsiders’ is your second album in a year… did you hear a clock ticking?
I hadn’t made a record since 2010 and during that period a lot built up in me – a lot of stories, a lot of songs and a real need to get them out. I didn’t really plan it that both would come out in a year, but, with the music business being anything you want to make it these days, I felt that ‘Outsiders’ was something that would be good to follow my previous record, ‘New York Before The War’, because it was more free and loose, with songs like ‘You Know It’s Dark When Atheists Start To Pray’.

We love those titles. Was ‘New York Before The War’ everything you wanted it to be?
Looking back at it a year later, I might’ve made it a bit shorter… but I love the songs on it. It was hard to let go of some due to the fact that I didn’t have a record out in a while. All the anger and disgust for the current planet kept me writing and looking for some light in the tunnel.

These dates will certainly offer that… what’s the thinking behind this ‘request’ tour?
I did request shows twice on the East Coast a few months ago and it pushed me to play stuff that I would never consider. That made the show quite interesting and got me to live in those old stories for a minute.

A greatest hits record is coming, then?
Not really a ‘greatest hits’… more of a ‘greatest bits’!

What kind of stuff have people been asking for? 
B-sides and outtakes. A lot of the B-sides came out on a UK single-only basis. Having the vinyl reissues of my first two records coming out has given me a good chance to put all those extras in one place… I guess a song called ‘Holy Ghost’ is one of my favorites from ‘The Heat’; there’s ‘Cigarettes And Violets’ from my first record and ‘Russian Roulette’ off of ‘On Your Sleeve’, my covers album.

On the reissues, how do you feel about your debut album a decade or so later?
It still holds up. I’m proud of it, as it was my first time standing alone, telling very personal stories. I can hear the growing pains and the flaws, but I do feel proud when I play the songs live. We did that record in five days – Ryan Adams’ generosity gave me a rebirth into the next chapter, following my punk rock days with D Generation X.

I remember five star reviews for your second record, too… 
The ‘deep’ fans would pick ‘The Heat’ as their favorite. It’s a record that I got to tell stories more about other people than myself and there are a lot of different sounds and textures, too. It’s the only thing I’ve produced that I’m aware of!

What’s happening in New York that we might be hearing about soon?
Anthony D’amato, who has a record on New West, is great. There’s Don Dilego and the Touristas, who are touring with me now, and a cool band out of New Zealand and New York called Splashh.

We’ll have a Google. Liverpool and New York… there’s something there.
They both don’t mind having a pint with me after the show!

You really do love it over here, don’t you?
My first album came out here before it did in the States… and this was the first place that I was appreciated in the press and on the stage. The crowds are really passionate, they come early, know the words and have been super dedicated.

Jesse Malin
Monday July 11th 2016, Arts Club, Seel Street, Liverpool
Get tickets

Pic courtesy Wall Of Sound PR

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