Nashville singer-songwriter, Jessie Baylin, practically grew up in a New Jersey bar. Her parents owned the restaurant and, subsequently, had to spend nearly all their waking hours there. Baylin, as a result, was treated to life lessons and people watching in the establishment that would stay with her throughout her years.
Today, relationships (and food) matter significantly to her.
She prizes interactions that feel familial, warm. This energy permeates Baylin’s forthcoming re-release of her record, Pleasure Center EP, which the musician composed with the now-late producer, Richard Swift.
Baylin will release the EP in stores on Oct 24th and digitally October 30th and we’re happy to premiere the video for the EP’s track, “Storms,” here today.
“It was like a saloon,” Baylin says. “As if a Colorado saloon dropped in the middle of Northwest New Jersey. Bikers would pass through on weekends – it was a cool way to grow up. I learned a lot real young there. Little did they know I was soaking it all up – I never knew loneliness as a kid.”
Outside of the bar-restaurant, as a young person, Baylin studied acting and performance in school in Manhattan. At 11-years-old, she began commuting to New York City where she met other up-and-coming artists. Later, at 18-years-old, after high school, Baylin moved across the country to Los Angels. With the help of a friend from her high school, Baylin got situated. She found a place to live. She got a job in hospitality. She wrote songs. She got a publishing deal and began playing gigs around the city. She’d been inspired by her time in Manhattan and now she was ready to bring all she’d learned to her music.
“Everything fell into place,” Baylin says. “Now, with a daughter of my own, I’m horrified that my parents let me move to L.A. But, as my mom said, I was like an old lady by then, so it was fine. Thanks, mom!”
In L.A., Baylin found her own watering hole where she would hang out. She says she would sit at the end of the bar (not necessarily drinking) and play rudimentary video games while eating meatballs made and dolled out by the bartender, Rhonda, to regulars. But it wasn’t until she met Swift that she really found her niche in the City of Angels. Some artists like to work with any- and everybody they meet. Others, though, like Baylin, like to find their crew, their chosen few of close collaborators with whom they click. For the songwriter, Swift was one of those people.
“Richard and I adored one another and enjoyed one another’s company and loved creating things together,” says Baylin. “It just felt so warm and complete.”
Early in her career, Baylin recorded a an album, Firesight, which never quite sounded right to her. She felt “green” on the album, as if her true self wasn’t properly present. But not too long after, she recorded an album with Swift, Little Spark. The record thrilled Baylin, she says, showcasing what the duo’s creative sonic chemistry could produce. In between Firesight and Little Spark, however, Swift and Baylin produced another collection, a five-song covers album: Pleasure Center EP. They had the album up online for free but took it down after a short period of time. Now, Baylin is ready to re-release it and re-introduce it to the world.
“I have children now, we have a puppy,” Baylin says of her home life, which includes husband, Nathan Followill, drummer for the popular band, Kings of Leon. “My house is a zoo! But when people like Richard’s wife reached out and asked if we had anything – any unreleased music. And I thought of Pleasure Center.”
Swift, who has worked with many notable bands, including The Shins, Foxygen, Damien Jurado, Nathaniel Rateliff and many others, had a true gift. Baylin says he was skilled at creating a space where artists could just be themselves. She remembers a time in the studio where Swift had to leave for about two weeks and, while he was gone, she was supposed to record vocals. But she couldn’t muster the energy without him and his flair for inspiring confidence.
“We were both on the same page,” Baylin says. “Just don’t think too much, let it flow. Just be in the moment. If you believe it, everyone else will, too.”
The Pleasure Center EP, which Baylin and Swift recorded in Nashville, sounds like it could have come from any era. It sounds as if it’s played through an AM radio, no matter what speaker you listen to. As Baylin says, the music “hovers within all the decades.” The re-release, which features cover songs from Thin Lizzy to Stevie Nicks, also includes a new track, which wasn’t on the original EP: a scratch demo of the song, “Black Blood,” that Swift and Baylin recorded on a cell phone. But there’s an acute tenderness and timelessness in the recording, it’s a microcosm of their relationship.
“That little voice memo captures the way he and I dance together as singers and as collaborators,” Baylin says.
Today, remembering those sessions from a decade ago, Baylin is reminded of the great times amidst the feelings of loss for her friend. After completing the EP back then, she remembers going out to eat with Swift to celebrate, sharing several dishes, including some fried mushrooms that she can still taste to this day. It’s sensory memories like these that stick with her still, sustained and complemented by the way music connects them.
“I love the way music attaches itself to moments,” Baylin says. “To wonderful moments, bad moments. It can really linger and it’s something you can hang onto for a long time. In a way, the songs you listen to tell your own story.”