Jesse Marchant (known as JBM, his initials) has never made an album before. He never had any intentions of doing so. His youth led him to become classically trained in guitar, it was his instrument that came first. When the lessons stopped, he kept going, experimenting with different genres and gravitating to the musical styles that he loved while retaining knowledge of the musical pieces that hovered over his youth.
“I still love to play those pieces,” Marchant said. “One of the things I gained from the experience is that I use my right hand a lot to develop my finger picking style. But my tastes are a mix of classical and other things.”
The “other things” extend into the blues and people like Buddy Guy to the more elaborate folk artists like Nick Drake, Neil Young, and M. Ward, the type of people you would expect him to listen to after diving in to Not Even In July (Partisan Records). Spending most of his life looking down at his guitar, this album gave him a chance to get away from the intricacies of the music and add vocal talents to his repertoire, as the two go hand in hand in this case.
“I did play and sing when I was younger, but not so much,” he said. “I was not really into writing songs on my own and developing my vocal style. Playing guitar was my primary focus. Singing came as a consequence to that.”
But here he is, presenting his debut full length. The album represents not just a time in Marchant’s life, but a piece of himself. You feel the cold winter nights from his time growing up in Montreal and the Adirondacks. The summer breeze blows across the lake and surrounds you on songs like “Going Back Home.” And life’s joys and pains haunt him on “Friends For Fireworks.” These are tales from the journey of a man. This is the output of Marchant’s mind and experiences.
“It makes you grow,” he said. “I never even knew I was making this album when I was writing the songs. It effected me in a lot of ways.”
Going from Montreal to Los Angeles, Marchant lived a three-year solitary existence in a city full of people. Retreating back to the mountains and his family’s home, he began to see the realization of his songs and how they could eventually play out.
Unconditionally Marchant’s songs become your songs with his soft and subtle way of making things seem so easy.
“The flow of the songs are what feels easy. I don’t try to make changes or force something out of nothing. That is not easy. They had to sit right with me before they made it on the album. When it is right, it’s right. The songs were written during a period of my life surrounded by elements that are similar. An album has to be consistent as textures and colors are introduced, but they have to feel that they belong together.”
The opener leads us into this frame of mind as the instrumental “Years” prepares us like meditation for what is to come. We don’t actually hear Marchant’s voice until almost two-and-a half minutes later with “Cleo’s Song.” For him, doing that was not deliberate, it’s just how it came out.
“I wrote the instrumental separately, but played these two songs together during my live show and realized how nicely they flowed into one another. It just felt right to keep it that way and help move the piece along. When I recorded it, I had it as one long song, but decided to split it into two songs.”
As Marchant continues to play live and become more comfortable and less self-conscious in this new lifestyle experience, he looks back happy with what he created as heartache and life’s contemplative desire turns to pleasure like a passenger looking out of a window.
“Now that it’s done, it’s like keeping a photograph.”
JBM is currently on tour with A.A. Bondy.