When American singer-songwriter Jesse Harris won a Grammy with Norah Jones in 2003 for Song of the Year, he was not prepared for the overnight fame. “I went from being completely unknown, having just my small circle of friends, to someone who everyone knew. Even people on the street would congratulate me,” he tells us. Today, the artiste has 14 albums, along with several collaborations and movie soundtracks to his name. Ahead of a gig in Bengaluru, we spoke with Harris about his latest album, Aquarelle.
“Since I was a child, I’ve been obsessed with music. I finally picked up the guitar at 17, began writing songs and never looked back,” Harris begins. The new jazz folk album, Aquarelle, was recorded in Lisbon and takes inspiration from the city. “The sound of the album is sunny and colourful, like the city of Lisbon. Thus the title, Aquarelle, which is French for watercolours,” he tells us. Since he just released the album Music For Chameleons in 2017, he had no desire to make another one so soon. But the idea of visiting Lisbon and recording there proved to be motivating. “It was the idea of our drummer Jeremy Gustin to record there with Will Graefe (the guitarist who played on my last three albums) and Ricardo Dias Gomes, a great bassist/keyboardist from Rio,” he adds.
The album combines his signature jazz sensibilities with Brazilian music. Songs such as Rolling By and Out of Time and Never Say Goodbye have soft and moody melodies. The instrumental number Carousel is titled after the Portuguese restaurant where the band used to have lunch. There are also older hits such as Shoot the Moon, First Day of My Life and At The Bottom of Everything.
Talking about winning the Grammy for the song Don’t Know Why, which was performed by Norah Jones, he reflects, “It was one of many songs of mine that Norah sang at the time. We started a group together playing all original material, which was new for her. She brought sophistication and skill to my songs that took them to a new place.”
As for 2019, Jesse is recording another album with his instrumental band, Cosmo, and hopes to release it by the end of the year. Until then, he will be touring the world. “I came to India with no expectations, only a great curiosity and excitement. So far, I love it,” he says in conclusion.