Jesse Thomas Brown says he’s not nearly as interesting as the characters he describes in his songs – which may be true.
Or, it might just be that the tenacious singer-songwriter is far more comfortable sitting at a keyboard than selling himself to the masses.
“I’m not great at self-promotion,” he said. “It’s hard to try to convince someone to listen to you without sounding arrogant.”
Brown, 32, has just completed his second album of piano-driven pop-rock. An Idiot’s Tale is named from the opening lines of Shakespeare’s MacBeth and dedicated to his hero, comedian George Carlin, who died during its production.
“It’s an obsession,” he said of his self-recorded work. “I started playing the piano when I was 14 and once I got good enough at it that it was fun, it (became) an all-consuming thing.
A composer since the age of 16, Brown has been compared to everyone from Bruce Springsteen and Elton John to James Taylor – comparisons that highlight a style not as common among today’s emerging artists.
“He almost has an old-fashioned sensibility and approach to his music and a kind of theatrical flare, which is what I enjoy about it,” said Lap of Luxury Sound Studios owner Scott Bennett.
He and engineer Scott Henderson worked on the recording of Brown’s 2008 CD, Tanglewood.
For his latest disc, Brown consulted with Henderson and Bennett and recorded both the instrumental and vocal parts from his Saanich home.
“I think of myself as a songwriter who sings,” Brown said. “To me, singing is just a means to expressing a song. I’m certainly not a great singer by any stretch.”
The only instrument he didn’t play on An Idiot’s Tale is drums, a role filled by his second-cousin, Grade 12 Belmont band student Lucas Johnson.
“It’s real. It’s not the hip hop stuff you hear on the radio that’s over-produced … It’s well thought-through and well-written and actually means something,” Johnson says of the music.
“Instrumentally, it’s different. You don’t hear piano (with) singing much anymore. It’s really refreshing to hear that, instead of (the) auto-tuned dance music you hear on the radio.”
Both of Brown’s albums have sprung from a 65-song repertoire he wrote over 10 years. While he doesn’t officially launch his second CD until this weekend, he already has half of the recording finished for his third, tentatively titled The Passenger Waits.
Never too far from his home studio, Brown, an avid reader and lover of figure skating – he’s a former skater himself – can be found walking his dog, Ainsley, and listening to his current favourite artists: Randy Newman, Eleisha Eagle and yes, Lady Gaga.
“He’s highly dedicated to that calling,” Bennett said of Brown.
“He’s a pretty genuine singer-songwriter kinda dude. I haven’t run across anyone quite yet that spends that amount of time in the writing of the material.”
Check it out
• What: An Idiot’s Tale CD release party, with special guest Katie Schaan
• Where: The Fort Café, 742 Fort St.
• When: Sept. 10. Doors open at 7 p.m., showtime at 9 p.m.
• Tickets: $10 in advance at The Fort and Picnic Café, $12 at the door.