Jesse Lee relies on a simple philosophy to create music: she writes and sings what she knows best. By doing so, she has not only remained true to herself, but she's also captured the feelings of a generation of young women who are finding their place in this world.
Her debut album on Atlantic Records serves as a musical diary of her life's adventures, vividly describing the excitement and heartbreak that has come her way. There's a chorus of twenty-something women seconding those emotions everywhere she turns.
"My music is me: it's young, real, fun and relatable," says Jesse Lee, "When my parent's friends ask them what's happening in my life, they say, Just listen to her music.' It's really just my story and what I've been through. It's a wide range of emotions dealing with love, friendship, sadness and regret. A lot of the songs I wrote for myself, but there's nothing like having someone come up to me and say, I feel like you wrote that song for me.'"
Jesse's first single, the light-hearted female anthem "It's A Girl Thing," pokes fun at the differences between the sexes: "We love romance, and candlelight/ You like a cold beer, we like a fine wine/ You hardly talk, we can talk all night/ You wanna fix it, we just wanna cry/ It's a girl thing." She says, "This song is my personality in a nutshell. It most represents who I am not only as an artist, but as a person."
Her voice, which has garnered comparisons to Dolly Parton's rich vibrato, bridges the gap between traditional and contemporary country by creating country music with an edge. Onstage, her beauty and exuberance make the first impression and what an impression it is -- but it's her poet's sensitive heart and a competitor's fierce determination that make the lasting statement. And it's this passion and drive that have propelled her during the last decade as she's honed her songwriting craft and earned the respect of the country music community at a young age. "I've always wanted to do this," she says. "I realized it at a young age and did everything I could to follow my dream."
Perhaps there is no better testament to her talent and promise than the list of those who are lining up to work with her. Her debut album was produced by Grammy Award winners Mark Bright (Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts), Paul Worley (Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride) and Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift). She's already amassed an impressive catalog of songs, most of which remain to be heard, and her co-writing sessions read like a Who's Who of Nashville hitmakers. She's written songs with American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi, as well as Hillary Lindsey, who co-wrote "Jesus, Take the Wheel" for Carrie Underwood, and Liz Rose, who co-wrote "Teardrops on My Guitar" with Taylor Swift. She's also created compositions with Luke Laird (Underwood's "Last Name"), Chris Tompkins (Underwood's "Before He Cheats"), and Rachel Proctor (McBride's "Where Would You Be.")
"Writing is therapeutic and comes naturally to me," Jesse says. "The first thing I think about when going through heartbreak is grabbing a guitar and playing what I feel."
While growing up in Northern California's Palo Alto, she was surrounded by music. Her father was a rock guitarist and her mother was a torch singer. Jesse's early influences were Garth Brooks, LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain and Reba McEntire. "I can't remember a time when I wasn't singing," she says. "My brother and sisters thought I was so obnoxious because I would make up new songs all the time and sing them at the top of my lungs. My mom finally had to make a no singing at the dinner table' rule."
By age 11, Jesse was performing 30-minute sets at state festivals. At age 13, her family moved to Florida where she enrolled in a performing arts high school and thrived in the supportive community of teens who shared and understood her passion and drive. Soon she began opening shows for artists such as Willie Nelson, Ronnie Milsap and Clay Walker.
Jesse Lee made her first visit to Nashville at age 14 to record a demo. By age 15, she was spending extended periods of time in Music City, where she was readily embraced by the songwriting community and gained performance experience at such venues as the historic Ryman Auditorium.
After high school, she enrolled in Belmont University's music business program. She took classes only on Tuesdays and Thursdays so she would have more time to write songs and perform at Nashville songwriters clubs such as the legendary Bluebird Café. During her spare time, she delved into the music of Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Rhonda Vincent and Vern Gosdin.
Her big break came when she was discovered at a Jacksonville fair and shortly after was invited to perform for an Atlantic Records executive. She performed four songs and was signed on the spot. "Atlantic hadn't had a serious presence in the country world for nearly a decade," says Atlantic Chairman/CEO Craig Kallman, "but the moment I heard Jesse I knew we had to have her, and she became the inspiration for my decision to plunge back into country in a major way. She reminds me of a modern day Patsy Cline, with an amazing voice and a magnetic personality that transcends genres. Add her great songwriting ability into the mix, and Jesse arrives as an authentic, compelling artist with a brilliant career ahead of her."
When she assembled her debut project, she wanted to record the songs that best captured her observations, emotions and thoughts.
The sweet "Like My Mother Does" poignantly describes a mother's unconditional love and profound influence on her daughter's life. "I played this one for my mom after I recorded it and she cried."
"Talk to Me," one of Jesse's favorites on the album, is a sexy exploration of love and a woman's desires, whereas the saucy "Cry Baby" depicts the newfound tough attitude of a heartbroken lover whose heart has turned as hard as steel guitar strings.
"There's so much I want to do with music and so much more I have left to say," she says. "It's crazy to think that I've barely even broken the seal and I'm already thinking about my second record and continuing to grow as a songwriter."
"I have been blessed with an opportunity that not many people in this life are given, and the last thing I'm going to do is waste it. As long as someone cares enough to listen, I'll keep doing what I was born to do music. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!"