By Joe Watson
July 22, 2013
23-year-old, Philly-bred singer-songwriter Jesse Ruben is an excellent example of how an artist can make it in the music industry on their own. His persistence in non-stop touring and online networking saw Jesse expand his following and on his own manage to sell 5,000 copies of his debut album Aiming For Honesty. His second album The Ones That Matter was released in 2010 so we decided to catch up with Jesse about his future plans.
I guess even after 10 years I’m still trying to figure out what “my sound” is. I love so many different types of music. Pop, folk, jazz, country. All those influences end up in the writing. I can’t help it. Maybe by the time I’m 65 I’ll know what a “Jesse Ruben” song sounds like. But right now, I just want to write songs that I am proud of that have an impact on people.
Q) You are preparing a new album; due out in 2014. How far into that are you and what can you tell us about it?
I’m currently in the very exciting (and occasionally overwhelming) part of the process where I’m open to everything. I haven’t finished writing it yet, I’m figuring out where I want to record it and who I want to work with. I do have the title though. There’s this amazing quote from Leonard Bernstein, “This will be our reply to violence, to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” I saw it after the Boston Marathon bombings, and the school shootings in Connecticut, any time something truly devastating happens. So the record will be called A Reply To Violence. It’s going to be a commentary on how we deal with difficult situations, from something as huge as a terrorist attack to something as personal as a break up. It’s helpful and very important for me to have a context for making it.
Q) Just over 6 months after the Boston Marathon tragedy there will be the NYC Marathon. Tell us what you will be doing on that day?
I will be doing the same thing I’ve done the last 3 years, which is run the NYC marathon as part of Team Reeve, which supports The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. I’ve been working with them for about 5 years now, ever since my best friend Zack suffered a spinal cord injury (MTV interviewed us). I wanted to do something to raise awareness and money for a cause I believed in so strongly. At first it was CRAZY. But now? The NYC Marathon is part of my calendar every year. I’ve had 25 people run their first marathon with me over the last few years. It’s been incredible.
Q) We also heard about you leading an elementary school fundraiser. Tell us a about that.
Sometimes, you have a vision for a song, and if you’re lucky, you get to see that vision realised. I wrote a song called ‘We Can’ after I ran my first marathon. I wanted to write something that would give people permission to go after the things they’d always wanted to do but were too scared. A small wonderful town in Courtenay, BC in Canada found my song while they were starting an “I Can” Initiative at their school to inspire students. They asked me if I would visit to see all the amazing work they’ve done. It was one of the best experiences of my life. The entire town rallied around the initiative, and me, and the song, to do some amazing community work. They raised money for charities, built community gardens, and donated food to the homeless. I was blown away.
I recently went back to perform a series of fundraising concerts to help them raise money for a playground at one of the elementary schools. To be able to give back to a community that supports me so much was a gift. I loved it.
Q) You have given so much back and then you give away the best of your catalogue for free (here).The world really has benefited from the term “Free” thanks to the internet. Do you find that the respect gained from that lets you do what it is you do?
It’s a hard thing to deal with, giving your work away vs. making people pay for it. But we live in a world right now where music is just not something people feel like they need to spend money on, because there is so much available for free online. As someone who makes a living exclusively through music, you have to plan for that, and find different ways of creating income. But the other side of the coin is that the internet makes the songs available to everyone all over the world, instantly. I don’t know if people respect me more because I gave a bunch of songs away. I hope they respect me because I put a lot of time an effort into writing the best songs I possibly can.
Q) I know that you have several dates on the road in the U.S but being a predominantly based U.K publication I need to ask, do you plan on visiting us anytime soon?
It’s been a dream of mine to tour in Europe. I’ve been trying to get over there for years. I’m hoping to do my first UK dates later in the autumn.
Q) Tell us about your goal for dancing on T.V.
Ha. There’s a thing that Ellen does on her show where she dances with her guests. I don’t really care whether or not I get to do that, but after all the I Can stuff happened in Canada, I started getting requests from other teachers and principals to bring the initiative to their school. There will be approximately 20 schools starting their own projects in the fall. I would love to bring this stuff to as many people as possible, and playing “We Can” on Ellen and talking about it would be a huge help in that regard.
Q) Our readers love a secret. Do you have any?
I love terrible Nicholas Cage movies. I’ve read the entire Harry Potter series 8 times. My left foot is 2 sizes bigger than my right. How’s that?