Underappreciated Artists/Artists We Love: Jesse Valenzuela10th July 2015 • 4 comments
Every so often we feature an artist whom we struggle to classify. Having just released his second record as a solo act, Jesse Valenzuela certainly falls into our Artists We Love category, which aims to shine a light on some of our favorite new(ish) music that we can’t wait to share with our friends. That seems easy enough but when you consider that in his other gig, as guitarist and chief songwriter for Gin Blossoms, he’s amassed multi-platinum sales, gotten a Grammy nomination, gone on several world tours, and done television appearances that number well into quadruple digits he seems pretty well established. Our Underappreciated Artists features have always focused on artists whose overwhelming talent never received the public reception of which it was worthy, which also doesn’t entirely apply to Valenzuela. So here it is, our first ever Underappreciated Artists We Love hybrid. To honor the longevity of career and contribution to music but also make a lot of you aware that Jesse Valenzuela also has a solo career you may not know as much about. Onwards and upwards ~XO
For over twenty years Jesse Valenzuela has written many of the songs you know by heart. The songs that served as the background music to your fondest memories, your heartbreak, your joy; the soundtrack of your life. Perhaps unknowingly, most people can sing along to songs he’s written or collaborated on as they’ve become the songs that just kind of exist in the ether. Songs such as Gin Blossoms 1995 hit Til I Hear it From You are still mainstays twenty years later and the band still tours consistently throughout the year and continues to release new material.
2002’s Tunes Young People Will Enjoy seemed like a natural evolution from Gin Blossom to solo artist. It had the expected jangle and catchiness, but with more of Valenzuela’s personal influences at the forefront. Tracks like Spark and Lucky Stars anchored a record which, for the most part offered the sweet melancholy that has come to be expected from Valenzuela. Andale Pues, on the other hand, seemed to show that without the confines of a band and its vetting processes, Valenzuela was willing to push boundaries further than many people realized.
Hotel Defeated is very much an expansion of that mentality. With songs that are influenced by a myriad of styles and artists, it’s as if Valenzuela realized he could make exactly the record he wanted to make. Released on June 22, Jesse Valenzuela pulled out all the stops on his sophomore solo effort making an album which is an amalgamation of Americana, blues, rock, pop, and a splash of mariachi (for good measure).
Sound of Temptation is a bluesy affair with subtle notes of Brian Setzer’s guitar, while Keep Falling could easily fit in on a Ryan Adams record with Valenzuela crooning: “But if you’re asking I’d just as soon stay home with nothing to do. I lie here in your bed, radio on, I keep falling in love with you.” Tragic Hero proclaims: “Here’s a little tragedy that goes like this. It starts sweet enough with a little kiss. Before too long, you’re craving her like water, you’re craving her like air.” Blue Town and Lightning Bar Blues provide all the jangle-pop hooks few deliver as well as Valenzuela, but the album’s title track, a collaboration with fellow Tempe music icons Lawrence and Mark Zubia, is the most varied on the album. Melding lyrics in English and Spanish and accompanied by mariachi folk guitar, this song is best listened to while drinking margaritas on a summer evening. The album draws from genres and styles that may not symbiotically work together but Hotel Defeated presents as a fluid, cohesive record that gets better with each listen.
Jesse Valenzuela is currently on tour with the Gin Blossoms. Check out their tour schedule HERE
There’s currently no info on a solo tour but to get the most current information follow Jesse on Twitter HERE
Here’s a throwback to one of the times I met Jesse backstage at some festival or event or similar.
If you have a few minutes to spare, check out this songwriters showcase