'I hope my music will give people the answers for me'

“A lot of people just know me as the smoothie guy, or the poetry guy, or the guy with a cute cat. But I’m a musician,” Jesse Cale says. The 29-year old is getting ready to release his first solo album in eight years, after writing and producing for film, television, and other artists for the last decade. “I released 12 albums between the ages of 11 and 21, and then nothing of my own since,” he says, “This album is a personal victory.”

It has taken Jesse a while to finish the ‘LNF’-album. LNF stands for Late Night Feeler, and it is something he identifies himself as. A deep feeler. He hopes the music will resonate with other deep feelers, that it will be something they put on at night, or whenever they need it. “It moves me so much. I hope it moves other people that feel similarly, people that connect deeply,” Jesse says. “Every note that I chose is based on a feeling. It’s so vulnerable. It opens with a minute of me crying.”

Setting unrealistic goals

Feeling everything very deeply is part of the reason why it took Jesse longer to finish the album than he had planned. Originally he had wanted to release it about two years ago, and one year ago he even played a release show for the album, without the album being finished. But, “life happens,” Jesse says. On one hand many circumstances prevented him from being able to work on his music, such as moving across country, touring in Europe, having to hold down a job to earn money and other impacting changes in his personal life. On the other hand, Jesse admits, he wouldn’t have been able to finish the album by the original release date even if there had been no obstacles. “I set myself an unrealistic goal,” he says. “I think it’s common amongst creatives, to set unrealistic goals. I was setting myself up for failure.”

Giving people the answers they need

Being so close to finally releasing the album now, Jesse feels very excited. With this album being such a personal victory, he is pumped for people to hear it. He wants it to be a safe space. In the past, people reached out to him online with their personal struggles with mental health. “It started to happen when I was gaining popularity on social media, people would message me and back then, I would answer every direct message, every mention,” Jesse recounts. “It got so heavy. It started to get overwhelming and then it became a source of anxiety.”

“I hope the music can be like those messages I used to send, that it’ll give people the answers for me”

But Jesse also recounts meeting the people that used to message him, and how that became a source of inspiration. “I was touring with Vesperteen and Secret Midnight Press in Europe at the time that I was talking to these people online, and I would meet some of them at the shows, and it was like wow! You’re an actual human being in flesh and all.” Wanting to still help people and love people, but not being able to answer every message anymore, gave Jesse even more drive to create. “I hope the music can be like those messages I used to send, that it’ll give people the answers for me.”

A sense of purpose

Something that answered many things for him, was exercise. “Exercise is my medicine, my therapy. A lot of people think that I must have a lot of free time because I’m exercising so much. But I’m actually very busy. I just make time to exercise, because if I didn’t work out, I’d fall apart,” Jesse says. Along with exercise, he keeps a healthy diet and focuses on loving himself. “That’s the thing,” Jesse says, “Most people focus on the rosebuds. They’ll quit smoking, eat healthier, go to the gym, sleep better. But they don’t change the core. The core is your relationship with yourself. That was my biggest change, to start to love myself.”

“This might sound crazy but I feel like I was born with a purpose. I’m not just here to settle down”

Jesse says he hit rock bottom when he was 25, and looking into the mirror one morning, he knew he had to make a change. “I was looking at the person in the mirror, and I was telling myself: ‘This is the person my mom loves, the person my dad loves, the person my friends love’. And then I thought, I need to love this person.” From the stories Jesse tells about his life, it is apparent that there are many highs and lows. Jesse says he’s been lucky to have experienced so many wonderful things, that despite everything he has had an amazing life. But with the highs come the lows, particularly because Jesse is scared of what’s in between. “There’s no inbetween for me. No mediocrity. This might sound crazy but I feel like I was born with a purpose. I’m not just here to settle down. I want to love people, to have an impact. There’s always a level of go in me. I want to continuously learn new things.”

Creating the World of Atlas Black

With this mindset, there’s always the risk of burning out. Jesse says he burned out very badly last year, after organising the annual music and poetry festival for the publishing company he owns, Secret Midnight Press. The festival Atlas Black is the highlight of the year, but it takes a toll on him. Jesse loves creating the world of Atlas Black, as creating story worlds is one of his biggest passions. “My favorite creative process is creating a whole feeling, an entire experience. For example when creating an album, I love coming up with the concept, the name, the band name, the look of the band, the live show, the merch, how people are going to interact with it. That’s why Atlas Black is so fun,” he says.

“I had the stupidest smile on my face, covered in glitter. And I thought, it was worth it”

He has learned from the mistakes he made last year though, and has a whole team of people helping him with the organising now. “I didn’t communicate things well enough last year, but now I am assigning roles to different people. And I am making sure I get enough sleep! Last Saturday, I had an entire day that I didn’t do any work. It was wonderful,” Jesse says. But he also looks back to last year’s edition with a happy heart, saying that it was all worth it in the end. “There was a moment during the open mic, when I was watching people reading their poetry. I had the stupidest smile on my face, covered in glitter. And I thought, it was worth it, even with me getting in a car crash, breaking my phone, getting no sleep and getting badly sunburnt.”

Jesse will be announcing the release date of his new record on the weekend of Atlas Black, which takes place the 21st of September in Columbus, Ohio. Along with that, Jesse is also coming out with new poetry, in the form of his long awaited book Feel. More information and tickets for Atlas Black: https://www.secretmidnightpress.com/atlasblack

Lieke Ruesink