7 Questions With Singer-Songwriter Jesse Lafser
Country singer Jesse Lafser will visit Philadelphia for the first time to perform songs from her latest record, Raised On the Plains, at World Café Live on July 15th. Lafser uses a blend of folk and blues to take listeners on a self-reflective journey through the American Southwest. Here’s what the Nashvilian had to say about the inspiration behind Raised on the Plains and her current tour, which began with a contemplative solo road trip through the desert.
Can you describe the writing process for Raised On the Plains?
I did a tour a couple years ago, where I just went out in my Jeep completely by myself. It was like two and a half weeks long. I went out West and it became almost a pilgrimage. I think things are different when you just go out on the road completely alone. I remember pulling the car over at one point along this back mountain highway between Taos and Raton, New Mexico. There were buffalo roaming to my left and mountains to my right. I just had to stop the car; it was so beautiful. I realized at that moment that that was the kind of sound I wanted to create on the record. After that tour I got home and the songs started to pour out.
Did you write the songs on your trip or wait till you got home to start writing?
I had carried a little notebook with me so I would jot down notes and little lines here and there. A lot of times songs come to me when I’m in motion, like when I’m driving or walking, which isn’t always the best time to write. So I would just record stuff on my phone here and there. Mostly it was kind of all in my head. The best songs come to me all at once in a creative flood.
Why do you think the road trip was so impactful?
I had reached this point in my career where I realized no one was going to help me if I didn’t help myself. I was kind of waiting around for someone to help me book shows and all of that. I finally realized, “No, I need to do this for myself.” So I just booked the whole thing by myself and decided to do it. I think I was looking at it as a writing experience and also just a touring experience as well.
In what way does the album reflect that journey?
There is something about the Southwest. The landscape is so vast and wide and lonesome and I think it’s just incredibly inspiring in that way. Just to be out there completely alone, like away from Nashville and the scene and all that. I think I’ve sort of developed this character or artist self out there that kind of went in to all the songs.
Did you meet anyone along the way that made it into one of your songs?
There was this man in a tiny little mountain town called Madrid, New Mexico. He was old, had silver hair, a long braid down his back, and a huge cowboy hat. I sat down with him in the coffee shop and he was just telling me about his life on his farm and all his horses and everything. He was super interesting; he had this aura about him. He had tons of stories. We connected and he came up in a lot of the music.
Tell me about the music video for your single “Jack Hat Blues.” What was it like working with Brittany Howard?
I didn’t want to do a typical music video. So I had this vision for a documentary-style kind of montage piece that told the story of my life here in East Nashville and also on the road. Brittany is a friend of mine, so I was lucky enough to have a bunch of great friends come out for the shoot.
We had three different people shoot footage for it, so there were different perspectives. And then Weston Heflin with Strange Bird Media edited the whole thing and gave it this cohesive style. It was definitely a collaborative effort. And I was pretty involved with the shoot: All of that footage of me in the car I took by myself while on the road. That was just me on my iPhone.
How does this album differ from your last album, Land in Sight?
I think that this one is a little more introspective and more contemplative, just because of the way the inspiration happened and just traveling alone and having all that time to think. Land in Sight is more of a heart record and Raised on the Plains is more of a mind record. It’s definitely a little more heady in certain ways, but I still think it’s emotive and intimate. Land in Sight was more thought out and produced, and Raised On the Plains I wanted to have a live energy. Just sort of cut loose. I didn’t worry as much about arranging production parts in the studio it was more just like this live raw energy that I wanted to capture.