Photo Credit: Earl Gibson
In a family overflowing with creativity, it shocked no one when Jesse Palter started to show an interest in music. We started our chat diving into her family’s artistic gene pool, dipped our toes into what made her want to settle down out west, and rode the waves towards her 2022 release, ‘Nothing Standard.’ All of that and then some is below, so keep on keeping on to get a bit more acquainted with this jazz singer-songwriter.
Kendra: You’ve got creativity in the family, but more on the fashion side of life. What or rather, how did you come to find your musical side?
Jesse Palter: My dad’s side of the family has both fashion and musical DNA; my great-grandfather was a shoe pioneer (invented the platform shoe, the slingback, and the peep-toe and founded one of the first luxury shoe brands; Palter Deliso), and my grandmother was a professional childhood opera singer. Both my parents LOVE music with a capital L. While my dad followed in his grandfather’s (and father’s) footsteps and went into the shoe business (currently works for the great Steve Madden), he always (secretly) wished he could be a radio DJ – he still to this day is obsessed with music and sleeps with a radio under his pillow. He, near-daily, sends me YouTube clips to listen to, and his ear is insane – he has perfect pitch and a really lovely (raw/untrained) voice, so he must’ve inherited the muscle from his mom.
My mother is a music fanatic and exposed me to a lot of my favorite songwriters like Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and The Beatles to name a few, and though her voice leaves something to be desired (love you mom!), she sang to us Palter kids ad nauseam when we were babies so we were thoroughly exposed to songs and singing. She’s also a fantastic writer and helped me cultivate my love for songwriting.
Anyway, it’s all there in my history somewhere and I was bit by the music bug from the very beginning. Grateful to say, my folks fostered and supported those innate musical, performance, and writing sensibilities. And the rest is history!
Kendra: It’s sort of funny how things align because you’re the second jazz artist I’ve talked to as of late! How do you feel jazz fits into the musical landscape of today?
Jesse Palter: I love to hear that – I love that you’re supporting jazz and jazz artistry because it’s a beautiful and important art form, and it’s alive and vibrant (though currently, like so many, in a tough spot due to the effects of Covid on our industry).
To be honest, I have spent a good deal of time in the last few years trying to unlearn how to think about how things fit into the musical landscapes of today – and I’m not certain what the landscape even is at this current (unprecedented) moment. My efforts have gone into turning inward, trusting my gut and creative instincts, growing as an artist, and being the most authentic version of myself. That’s why I knew my next career move was to release this retrospective record – because jazz is such an important part of my story, it’s the very core of who I am as an artist and a composer and my approach to the aforementioned, and it does nobody any good sitting on a shelf collecting dust.
And for a while, because the emphasis was placed on “the musical landscape of today” by those around me, I was encouraged to omit jazz from my narrative. I’ve come to find that as an artist if you fight for your own authenticity (and sometimes that’s an internal battle), stay in the game (ie: don’t quit before the miracle), keep your eyes in your own lane (and competition just ain’t my bag) and GO GO GO full steam ahead, the pack will come.
Kendra: You’ve got a new album out this year called ‘Nothing Standard.’ Since, again, you’ve got these roots in it and love fashion, if you had to compare ‘Nothing Standard’ to an era of clothing, which would it be and why?
Jesse Palter: Interesting question! I’d say the glamor and experimentation of the ‘20s, the groovy vibe of the ‘60s mixed with modern contemporary from today.
Kendra: When did you decide to relocate to Los Angeles? Any lifestyle/culture adjustments you had to make coming from Detroit?
Jesse Palter: It was always a dream to live in LA. I used to come here to record when I was 14 and I loved it! I made the leap in 2010 while I was pushing my collaboration with Sam Barsh (pianist/keyboardist/producer), Palter Ego. We spent a month here in May of 2010 being creative and networking, and this city fit me like a glove.
Again, I took the leap in October of 2010, so I’ve been out here for a hot minute. It’s a very different creative scene than Detroit and a very different city overall. I think the tradition/history/and focus on etiquette coming up as a musician in Detroit benefited me as I transitioned to the LA ways. The first major adjustment that comes to mind; leaving enough time for traffic to arrive early at gigs – I had to learn that one the hard way.
Kendra: On top of fashion and music, you’re also big into mental health and being an advocate for such. Are you working with or planning on working with any organizations aimed at spreading the importance of taking care of one’s mental health?
Jesse Palter: I am always open to speaking about/collaborating with organizations aimed at spreading the importance of taking care of one’s mental health. That has been near and dear to me long before we had a pandemic in the mix. Right before we shut down in 2020, I sat on a panel for MusiCares and felt blessed to speak openly about mental health as it pertains to the music industry and artists – I feel I MUST use my voice to be open and honest in this way because my mental health has been a work in progress and I still work at it weekly (I have virtual therapy in an hour).
MusiCares is an amazing organization and if you’re reading this and you aren’t hip to them – you must get hip! And, if you’re looking to read a little more about my POV, here’s an op-ed I penned for Thrive Global that speaks to some of how I feel.
Kendra: Side note – with February being right around the corner, I’m asking everyone if they could please share what they believe to be the best love song and a bit of insight as to why they believe that’s so.
Jesse Palter: Oh goodness, since it’s near impossible to pick THE best, I’ll just list one of my favorite standards, top of mind – “My One And Only Love” by Guy Wood and Robert Mellin. The Coltrane/Johnny Hartman version is one of my all-time favs.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Nothing Standard’ out in March, what can fans both new and old expect from you as we dive deeper into the start of 2022?
Jesse Palter: JP being unapologetically JP. That means that I’m going to release this record in March to give you the full picture of who I am and where I come from as a vocalist and songwriter and follow wherever the muse takes me thereafter. I don’t really hear music in terms of genre; I like to think I’m genre-fluid, so there’s no telling what’s going to come out. As long as it’s a direct download from the heart, that’s alright by me!