When Tobias Jesso Jr. first started putting his songs up on YouTube as bedroom-made demos about two years ago, the recordings were rough, amateurish masterpieces. The simplicity of the songs was presented in a big, thrilling way, and people caught on pretty quick.
Jesso was signed to a Beggars-affiliated label, started recording with Chet “JR” White, and prepared to release one of 2015’s most anticipated albums. The final result, Goon, came out earlier this month – and unlike our first glimpse of Jesso via YouTube – the material on Goon shows sprawling instrumentation, skilled production, and an earnestly polished performance.
On his current tour in support of the new record, each performance features Jesso and his piano – nothing more. In fact, the piano that he brings to each show is the same one he uses at home in Vancouver.
At Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn Friday night, Jesso shared this bit of information with the sold-out crowd of less than three hundred. “So… welcome to my bedroom!” he said laughing.
And that’s what his entire sixty-minute set felt like – hanging out with Jesso in a comfortable, intimate space while listening to him play stripped-down versions of songs everyone in attendance knew by heart. Between songs, Jesso would chat with fans, explaining how certain songs were written and answering questions shouted from fifteen rows back.
There’s a sense of incredibly palpable honesty that shows through Jesso’s music, and it became even clearer watching him from ten feet away. On paper, Jesso’s lyrics aren’t anything special; they’re not particularly complex and they represent fairly common themes and emotions, but they’re expressed in such an audibly genuine way that they become something completely different. It’s a seriously intriguing kind of music, and his personality is one component largely responsible for it.
Jesso’s current tour will run until mid summer, moving over to the UK, Europe, and ending at Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. Find tickets to upcoming shows here and stream the entirety of Goon here.