Singer-songwriter crafts ‘western blues’

Jesse Lafser will play songs from her new album “Raised on the Plains” at The Bridge.

By Maddie Foster | April 28, 2015

Tags: Band interviews Music The Bridge

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The Bridge will welcome singer-songwriter Jesse Lafser to the stage May 13.

A product of her hometown St. Louis and her current home Nashville, Tennessee, Lafser describes her music as “western blues — a hybrid between the folk and blues I was raised on.”

Growing up, she was heavily influenced by her parents’ musical tastes, which included artists such as Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and Roger Miller, along with trips to local blues bars.

She picked up the country side of her music after she moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University.

“I never expected that to happen, but I guess I am a product of my environment to some extent,” Lafser says.

Throughout these past few years of evolving as an artist, one constant is Lafser’s love of songwriting. It has become a driving force in her career.

“Being in Nashville, the competition is so fierce and everyone is so talented,” Lafser says. “It can be a great artist community, but it can also be really frustrating at times to feel like your voice is heard. I’ve had moments where I’m like, ‘I just can’t do this anymore.’ But I always go back to the fact that I have always been a writer, and I just can’t give up that part of myself. That’s what makes me feel the most alive, more than any other aspect of the job.”

Although she took piano lessons as a young child, it was actually her love for writing that began her musical career.

“I’ve always written,” Lafser says. “I wrote short stories, poetry, prose and that kind of thing, but it wasn’t until I was 15 that I wrote my first song.”

In 2011, she released her first album, “Land in Sight.” This record drew on Lafser’s personal experiences.

“My first album was more produced and more thought out in a way,” Lafser says.

She released her second album, “Raised on the Plains,” this year.

“With this new record, I had a singular vision of what I wanted,” Lafser says. “It’s just more raw and rugged. We did all of the songs on this record live with guitar and vocals at the same exact time so it has more of a live energy to it.”

“Raised on the Plains” was inspired by a trip she took out West a couple of years ago.

“It was an incredible experience,” Lafser says. “I went completely by myself and was in the car for like 50+ hours. I remember the pinnacle of my trip was when I took this back mountain highway … I had no cell service and was one of the only people on the highway. The scenery changed like every 30 minutes. It was absolutely beautiful. There were all these old Western towns that I passed through and those were really fascinating to me.”

The trip inspired songs that tell a story, showing the world through Lafser’s eyes.

While the songwriting came naturally, the performing on stage took some getting used to. However, thanks to the advice of her mentor and fellow singer-songwriter Peter Cooper, Lafser has managed to overcome the nerves.

“I forget which artist said this, but they said they used to get nervous when they performed and then they realized that everyone is so wrapped up in their own lives, in their own head, and in what’s going on with them that they aren’t really thinking about you at all,” Lafser says. “It really helps to realize the audience is on your side and just wants a good experience with you.”

Lafser encourages people to check out her show at The Bridge, where she will be performing songs from her new album with a few older hits thrown in. Her friend and fellow songwriter, Becca Mancari, will be there as well. The two are planning on singing and playing some of each others’ songs, and Lafser is even singing harmony on stage for the first time.

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