Boston rhythm and blues artist Jesse Dee will be making another appearance in Bethlehem this year, this time performing as one of hundreds of artists to fill the Musikfest lineup at 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2 at the Aetna Americaplatz.
Dressed in a suit with white button down shirt, tie and slacks, Dee performed with his six person band including guitars, horns and drums at the Blast Furnace Blues Festival in January of this year.
“We had a great time there and want to come back for sure,” Dee said of Bethlehem. For the soul musician live performances are where he can connect through his music with the audience; the connection of being on stage drives his creativity and fluidity of sound.
“One of the things I [concentrate on] while performing is making a connection with the audience. That can happen in a variety of ways, with various different people,” he told Berks-Mont Newspapers in a recent phone interview. “Music can be very powerful and the messages within it can have the largest affect when they connect with people -- [it’s] very true with soul music, as well.”
With his music, Dee creates a modern sound heavily rooted with inspiration from past greats to create a retro reverb that you must hear live to believe.
“I look at these songs as living organisms that change with each performance. I don’t necessarily sing the same song the same way twice. There’s a... structure laid out but the nuances change with the performance,” Dee said. “The idea is we’re trying to make music in the moment.”
Like so many self-proclaimed music lovers, Dee believes music is a living entity that creates its own identity and experience. Dee’s songs are constantly evolving with each performance and album. Dee has two recorded albums “Bittersweet Batch” (7nöt records/2008) and “On My Mind/In My Heart” (Alligator Label/2013) and currently is working on his third album, which he anticipates will be released sometime during the beginning of next year.
“The stuff you hear on the record is a snapshot of what that song sounded like on the day it was recorded,” he said.
Stage performances provide the backbone for his rhythm and blues sound. People experience music in different ways and audiences differ at each performance. Dee’s state of mind changes the experience of the show for both the band and listeners.
“I like playing live to try to make those connections with people, to affect them [with his songs],” Dee said. “There’s also a very large enjoyment more personally for me just getting up there and getting lost in the music, it can be a nice escape.”
Dee believes the rhythm of music is powerful and when people enjoy one beat together that is the core of interaction throughout the human experience.
“Rhythm is a very powerful human thing, that’s an amazing feeling to be part of something like that...any time a large group of people can congregate together and be locked in to the same space, same rhythm.”
When the guitarist is on stage with his band baring his soulful sound, he embraces the challenge to unify the people throughout the venue.
With an audience enjoying the show, it is “something that you only hope to see and strive for... when it comes down to it not everybody is always into it to that extent.” Watching the crowd to see that not everyone is feeling the beats only encourages him to rock harder. “It’s a challenge I embrace and enjoy,” he said. But with the wholesome sound, it would be difficult to not connect to the honesty the artist produces.
He finds inspiration through his own personal experiences but also “observes what friends and people around [him] are experiencing.” Personally Dee listens to a range of musical genres and his top artists are “changing all the time depending on the day.”
Currently artists George Jackson and Al Green are at the top of that list, with his dream artist to collaborate with being the late Bobby Womack. With the spirit of the blues, Dee leaves songs up to interpretation of listeners. He aims to “allow the song to take on whatever role somebody wants it to” even if the message changes its direction.
“The beauty of songs is what they can do.” Dee appreciates when fans of his music compliment the concert or the music for making their day a little better. “That’s a special thing that I certainly can’t put into words or can’t anticipate when writing or singing the song.”
Dee has been singing since he was a child and picked up the guitar when he was around 17 or 18. Music was around the house when he was growing up and he credits the radio with playing “a large part in the beginning of catching that bug, so to speak.”
As a professional performer, Dee writes the lyrics and music then collaborates with his band on specific musical parts, finding where the other instruments fit into place.
When asked who should venture out to his show, Dee responded “we don’t discriminate, music is for everybody. I think that if people who like music and like live music should take a chance.”
Many of his songs induce a positive message through an upbeat sound, but he would not be able to define himself as a blues artists without those bluesy, sad, depressing songs mixed in.
Lyrics to his song “Alright,” released on the “Bittersweet Batch” album, showcase his ambition to stick through the hard times to come out the other side. “I know it gets so hard to see/ When you’re in a spot that you don’t want to be/ but I got you and you got me/ Don’t you give up on that fight/ it’s gonna be alright.”
“A lot of the songs that I sing that have a positive message are certainly songs that I need to hear myself,” Dee said. “[The lyrics] remind myself certain things... to hang in there and keep going, if others [tap] into that message too, it’s a very gratifying thing.”
For a feel good experience, come out to see Jesse Dee at Musikfest on Aug. 2.
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