It is an age-old story. A record company enthusiastically embraces an emerging talent and promises them the world. When the relationship sours, the corporate suits move onto their next infatuation, leaving the former love to pick up the pieces. But, with the imminent release of Wanderland, singer-songwriter Jesse Rhodes lays the legacy of his former musical entity, Stegosaurus, to rest.
And he does so in the finest way possible. Bristling with 14 immaculate popular gems, the Carpinteria musician has delivered an album destined to captivate all who cross its path. The album is not only a testament to Rhodes’ immense musical talent, but also to his unwavering belief in music.
Over six years in the making, Rhodes is ready to launch the album to the public and, as we will no doubt see on Tuesday night at SOhO, he too is ready to take on all that lay before him.
The songs on this release span quite an extensive period of time. You mentioned earlier that the origins of the work stem back five or six years. Why has it been so long in the making?
I was a little a shell-shocked after the whole Warner Brothers thing so I stopped doing music for a while. But occasionally songs would happen and I would have to record them and I wouldn’t pursue it past that and move on and then another song would come and I would record that too. After a few years, they started adding up and when I started listening to them, they reminded me that I really love making records. So, two or three years ago, I started thinking about working toward a record.
What do you think is the greatest legacy of working this way as opposed to being bound by a timeframe?
I knew that I didn’t have to force anything. I didn’t find myself having to create anything just to fill a space. And that was a luxury. In the beginning, the songs came slowly, but towards the end it really picked up.
And now that the recording is mastered and pressed and ready to be shared, are you ready to get back out and take these songs on the road?
That’s what I would really like to do. I love playing music for people and I love traveling and meeting strange new people. And getting out and playing acoustically recently has been great. To be out there playing and feeling it is so essential. It is terrifying and beautiful at the same time.
How were you first introduced to music?
My mom plays cello in the Symphony and my sister plays the violin so I have always been surrounded by music. I took piano lessons pretty early and always loved going into the lounge room and hearing my Mom playing chamber music with a quartet. And then I got into the Beatles and Led Zeppelin and all I wanted to do was play guitar.
You didn’t harbor the desire to follow your mother or sister into a more classical route?
You can’t create your own stuff so much in that world and I was too much of a troublemaker for that. I went to an imitation Led Zeppelin show at the Lobero when I was 11 and it just blew my mind. So after that, I started playing guitar and, by the time I was in high school, I had become obsessed with it.
Exactly how much of a troublemaker were you and how did that manifest itself musically at the time?
When I was in high school, we would have these horrible hair bands come and play at lunch. My little rocker guitar buddy and I couldn’t stand them because they were so bad so we would crawl under the stage and pull the power. It would be so funny to then go back and watch because the guitars were dead so they would go into this extended drum solo for the next 10 minutes. I am sure that I got a lot of bad musical karma because of that.
You are launching the album at SOhO on Tuesday night, April 24, and I understand that it is going to be a rather unconventional evening. If I understand this correctly, you are playing solo, but also with two different bands behind you.
It is due to logistics. James, the bass player in the first band, can only play for a three or four songs and I really wanted him there. And I don’t have anywhere to practice, but another drummer I know does, so I am going to play with him and his bass player too. There will be other people joining in too. I have someone coming along to play a Native American flute and Anna Abbey will be playing a little grand piano too. So it will be an interesting night.
Do you find that each of the different bands suits a different selection of songs?
It is hard to say. The first band is a little grungier. But ultimately they are all songs that I wrote. They all come from me. And it’s not like one band is going to play classic jazz standards and the other going to rock out or anything like that. There is a difference there, but it is subtle.