Band: Justin Jeansonne EP Release Party
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 8 p.m.
Venue: The Peoples Room of Mobile, 78 St. Francis St., thelisteningroomofmobile.com
Tickets: $25 at the door or by calling 251-367-4599
A familiar up-and-comer on the area’s country scene will be celebrating an EP release in the sonically pristine confines of The Peoples Room of Mobile. Justin Jeansonne and his music partner in crime Jacob Hall (The Red Clay Strays, Paw Paw’s Medicine Cabinet) will be introducing the masses to the “River House Sessions” EP with an intimate performance. The “River House Sessions” came to life at the Flora-Bama “River House.” Flora-Bama regulars, Jeansonne and Hall were spending the weekend at the River House at the same time a friend/studio engineer was scheduled to record in the area. Ultimately, the recording session did not happen, and Jeansonne had the opportunity to record.
“I had a bunch of songs written up and hadn’t done anything with them,” Jeansonne said. “I think Jacob Hall was like, ‘Why don’t we demo some of the new songs?’ We sat down with an acoustic guitar that I borrowed from our buddy. I wasn’t even using my guitar. Jacob had a Kurzweil keyboard through a Crate amp and had four mics for vocals, guitar and piano.”
The River House transformed into an impromptu studio. Jeansonne and Hall decided the tracks would thrive in a live recording environment. Throughout the process, they tried to keep the tracks as raw as possible. Pulling inspiration from old-school country songwriters such as Hank Cochran and Mickey Newbury, Jeansonne and Hall laid down the tracks that would become “River House Sessions.” The session left Jeansonne eager to release these original tracks as a harbinger of his upcoming full-length.
“We had been playing them, just me and Jacob Hall, for a couple of months and really fell in love with them,” Jeansonne explained. “I got caught in the moment singing them. When we were doing the demos, it all kinda came together. Just playing them hit me like that. We listened to a bunch and thought it sounded pretty good. We thought, ‘Hell, why don’t we put it out as a preview of the album that we’re recording?’”
From the album’s opening track (“It’s Been a Long Year”), this album establishes a raw, casual context for Jeansonne’s classically inspired country tunes. Pulling vocals from Roger Miller, his luxurious, countrified baritone lyrical delivery slides across gentle guitar runs through each measure and establishes an instant emotional connection with the listener. This heartfelt vibe continues with “If These Words Were Like Rain” before brightening the album with the upbeat track “Porch Song,” both of which were written on Hall’s back porch.
The tracks also represent Jeansonne’s mindset at the time he wrote them. “It’ll Happen Again” pulls exotic guitar work straight from Willie Nelson’s playbook. “River House Sessions” concludes with the catchy, country anthem “Sweet Company.” Filled with warm acoustics, mellow countrified piano and subtle double harmonies, “River House Sessions” showcases a young country up-and-comer who has mastered composing earnest country ballads filled with honesty and tradition.
Jeansonne’s journey to this EP began in a childhood surrounded by music. He recalls his father always keeping a guitar around the house. In addition, his uncle Michael Jeansonne was a country artist who was once courted by Sony Nashville. As he watched this uncle perform in various projects, Jeansonne decided to pick up the violin in sixth grade before replacing it with the guitar. As he sang in the high school chorus, Jeansonne began to compose songs and establish his songwriting method.
“I kinda write melodies and lyrics simultaneously,” Jeansonne said. “Sometimes, I’ll have a hook or a line in my head. Most of the time, I’ll have an idea and pick up the guitar and pick around on it for a minute till something comes up that I like.”
While his life revolves around music now, this country singer-songwriter originally wanted to focus on a military career and joined the U.S. Marines. Throughout his stint in the military, Jeansonne continued to compose songs.
After losing interest in a military career, Jeansonne decided to experiment with a music career. As with many up-and-coming country artists, this decision led Jeansonne to Nashville. However, this relocation left him dissatisfied with a life in music. Instead of writing and performing in Music City, Jeansonne said he spent 60 hours a week working a regular job. The disillusionment with Nashville led him back to the military. This time, he joined the U.S. Army and found himself at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. However, he was still dissatisfied.
“I couldn’t find what I was looking for,” Jeansonne said. “It wasn’t like it used to be when I was young and in the Marines. Maybe it was the place and the time. I came back and decided to start playing music full time, because I had done it before and loved it. I regretted leaving it.”
Since then, Jeansonne has maintained a regular gig at the Flora-Bama. He says the gigs at this beachside roadhouse have established him a listening audience across the country. Jeansonne says the Flora-Bama also has provided him with “tools and help” that has benefitted his career. However, he also realizes the need to expand his live shows beyond the Flora-Bama is very important. This idea inspired him to hold the EP release at The Peoples Room of Mobile, as well as tour as much as possible.
“We haven’t really played a lot in Mobile this year, and there’s reasons for that,” Jeansonne said. “Jim [Pennington, owner of The Peoples Room of Mobile] and I have a good relationship and wanted to do something for our fans over there in Mobile. We really only play at the Flora-Bama around here.”
After the EP release party, Jeansonne will concentrate on a touring route through Texas. As he courts venues in the Lone Star State, he will also focus on preparing a full-length album for release in the near future. Jeansonne says the final tracks have been laid already. He adds that the next step in the process is to find the right person to mix the songs. Until then, Jeansonne will be performing his original tracks around the area and beyond.
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