Vulnerable, urgent, tender and raucous, Jesse Denaro’s “Dear, Love” LP is real. On the album, set to drop May 13, Denaro combines unvarnished rage with delicately voiced 11 chords and the kind of songwriting smarts that made John Mayer’s “Room for Squares” so immaculate. Denaro as an artist captures a special sense of balance by unashamedly expressing messy inner turmoil through not-so-messy songwriting tactics. As a result, “Dear, Love” takes listeners on a captivating, welcoming and delightfully challenging ride. I had the opportunity to speak with Denaro and, among many topics, we discussed the inspiration for his songs, his musical past and what it means to be a genuine artist in the age of social media.
Denaro’s music, specifically that off of “Dear, Love” is largely inspired by contradictions – the idea of pain helping him grow and humor helping him through struggle. Denaro talked about the track “Break Your Heart,” inspired by “a really bad relationship with this girl.” As Denaro described, “I had to break my own heart, and now as I grow and I’m much older I realize that you have to hurt yourself to grow.” Other tracks, like “Grand la Monz” are of a “confessional” nature, as Denaro put it. With “Grand La Monz,” Denaro said the track addresses “heartbreak, struggling with whatever you believe in, coming of age and all the terrible things that come with it.”
For Denaro, music allows him to put himself in other people’s shoes. He explained, “My songs, some of them are just experiences I’ve seen through my friends… (It’s) my time to be a different person within a song.” Still, above all Denaro wants to be real, something he feels comes across fully in the live setting. In regards to his recordings versus his shows, Denaro said, “I’m not as sad, or as gloomy, or as boring as the song might make me out to be. Live, people would get a different view. My music’s sad and painful, but there’s a redeeming aspect to it as well… Yeah, you go through all this shit, but there’s also a part where it’s like, ‘You’re going to grow and it’s going to be fine.'”
While Denaro embraces social media as a means for promotion, he also tries not to take it too seriously. He explained, “I don’t really understand the new artists that come out and just make a Facebook with a cool picture and no music. They release one song and then they forget about it. Music is so beautiful, it’s how you connect with people. Spend time on it.” It’s not that Denaro couldn’t follow the social-media-celebrity route. “I could do a Miley Cyrus cover and sell out,” he said. Rather, Denaro emphasizes “playing live shows and making good music.”
Denaro’s experience as a gigging musician stems from Von Wolfe, a band he formed when he moved to school in Florida. Denaro explained that with Von Wolfe, “I started on drums, the first instrument that I ever learned, my most comfortable instrument… We blew up in the Southeast… I learned firsthand that you just work hard and then make your Facebook.” As Denaro said, “My music might sound mainstream, but my attitude and my approach towards it is very D.I.Y.”
As for the future, Denaro’s still learning and embracing his own growth. “I have friends that are making really awesome indie-folk music, and I have friends that are YouTube famous and are playing on the Ellen Show,” Denaro said. While he would sometimes try to emulate the sound and direction of his friends’ music, Denaro eventually realized he had to “stop trying to write for a specific genre or sect of music.” He explained, “I definitely try to stay away from writing music for a certain type of person… I want to keep my integrity.”
Jesse Denaro’s LP “Dear, Love” will be released on May 13. For more information on Jesse Denaro, visit www.jessedenaro.com.
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the class of 2017.