Singer-songwriter Jesse Palter is shifting gears.
The West Bloomfield native has returned to metro Detroit to celebrate the release of Paper Trail, her debut full-length solo record which serves as a transition from classic jazz to pop balladry. Palter's journey to the creation of Paper Trail is, in many ways, the emotional source material for the album itself.
She jokes about the pace of the music industry (”you know, the overnight sensation that took 20 years”) as being the reason Paper Trail took nearly three years to materialize. It could be said that her debut is the culmination of decades worth of work as the classicly trained jazz artist began writing music at just 13 years old.
“I just started writing whatever came out and I guess you could call it pop,” Palter says of her 13-year-old self. “The side note is that I'm learning more and more I have a very difficult time hearing music in terms of genres. Music is sort of this fluid experience for me. I'm able to very easily like differentiate jazz because it's a language that I studied so I'm able to honor the tradition of jazz and I take it very seriously. But besides that, it's just colors and sound for me.”
In 2006, Palter teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Sam Barsh for the hook heavy and bubbly pop collaboration, Palter Ego, which is the same project that drove the metro Detroiter to move to Los Angeles in hopes of getting the duo's feet wet in the production and songwriting worlds. While they would go on to release a pair of records and a pair of EPs that call to mind Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, both of whom were breaking through the pop/singer-songwriter scene around the same time, Barsh landed opportunities writing for Aloe Blacc and landed on Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly and Anderson. Pakk's Malibu.
This left Palter to do some musical soul-searching ... and a gig with jazz zaddy, Jeff Goldblum, who she describes as being a “total pro” and a “constant professional.”
“He's exactly who you think he would be,” she gushes. “He's hilarious. He's so passionate about everything that he does. even the music, he takes it so seriously. We had the same vocal coach for a while, so he got introduced that way and then I think he knew that I like really take to jazz, like he knew that I could scat and he was like, I want you to come to sing on this jazz gig. He's so serious about it, considering how amazing of an actor he is and how beloved he is. You would think He's like really trying to go be the most, you know, heavy hittin', swingin', New York jazz musician.”
So, post-Palter Eago, she made a jazz-heavy record that boasted a few of what she calls “cross-over” songs, incorporating her love of tradition and her inclination to lean into her pop sensibilities. She endured some false starts, industry setbacks, and recorded and reworked an unreleased record which she is still sitting on and still very proud of.
”I felt like, you know what, I got this, I'm going to write a record myself. I'm going to do this all myself and I'm going to prove to myself that I'm the artist that I want to be and that nobody is telling me what to be.”
Her journey came to a head when she was signed by the Artistry Music Division of Mack Avenue Records, an independent record label out of Grosse Pointe in 2016. It was a perfect fit as they were in search of a crossover artist capable of writing mature pop songs.
“It felt a little bit like mission accomplished. Even though once you get to that top of the mountain, then you see there's an entirely new mountain that is even bigger and it's even harder to climb," she says. "It's just this constant journey.”
Ahead of the release, Palter was most anxious to get the music off of a hard drive and into the world. Though, she admits, the excitement has come at a cost of having to put her ”expectations at bay.”
"I'm really just incredibly grateful," she says. "I'm journaling about it and really trying to reflect on everything that's out of my control, like who will listen to it, how it will be received. Like I can't expect any of that stuff."
"But the win of being an artist and having a dream and having this exist in the world, and possibly, make somebody happier too, is the fact that I got to have that experience, that's something that I've dreamt about since I was a little girl," she says. "And I feel like, for my 13-year-old self who I think about all the time, I feel like I'm like giving her a hug and just like a high five and being like, girl, you did it."
Jesse Palter will perform at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 23 at the Magic Bag; 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-544-1991; themagicbag.com. Tickets are $15+.
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