Jessie Baylin is exceptionally good at following her heart. She is both perceptive and wise therefore it is no wonder that she has an especially brilliant gift for finding unlikely inspiration and opportunity and letting them be her guides. Baylin is a singer-songwriter, who followed her heart to Nashville, Tennessee where she now lives with her husband and daughter. Though being away from the already established cultural hubs like NYC or LA where she grew may take some getting used to, Baylin has found Nashville to be the perfect place and opportunity to explore a completely new territory, both literally and figuratively. We talk with her about both the immense potential and the growing pains that come with a developing a city and the artistic and personal evolution involved in becoming and being a mother. Lets hear what she’s got to say, I promise it’ll make your heart beat a little faster and hopefully lead you a little brighter.
Story and Interview by Miwa Sakamoto
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in New Jersey, in a small town called Gillette – 29 miles west of Manhattan. When high school came around I commuted into NYC on the train to Professional Children’s School on the Upper West Side – best decision my parents and I ever made.
How did you find your way to music? Or did it find its way to you?
I loved playing with words and singing in high school but it wasn’t until I moved to LA in 2004 that I started writing songs. It happened organically and very quickly I was playing the clubs and had a following around town.
And now you’re a mother! Having a child definitely changes the pace and possibilities – how has the role of music changed for you? Or has it stayed the same?
Music is always going to be a part of me and it is a part that my daughter loves connecting with so much. Since Violet came a long I’ve re-prioritized my career in putting my family first, but still giving myself some space to play and create new material for when the mood strikes. My last album “Dark Place” happened that way, I didn’t know I was making an album until I had a handful of songs written in just a couple days and a strong theme – so my husband and I put it on the schedule. In october I was recording and he would move into full time daddy mode. It was a nice little dance for our family and I felt like when I came back from working I was just totally ready to reconnect and felt inspired and proud.
That’s such a good reminder for mothers to not sacrifice for their families to the point where they are unhappy or uninspired. Do you think, after having a child, it is important to keep alive, or at least acknowledge, the version of your self before motherhood?
The first year of Violet’s life I basically had a funeral for myself. I had this idea in my head that if I was to move into this new role that I couldn’t be who I was before and that actually didn’t check out at all. I need to bring who I am to motherhood because thats who my daughter needs me to be- my self.
What do you think is the primary responsibility of being mother?
Raising an emotionally healthy human being.
With that in mind, music is such a perfect medium to express thoughts and emotions – its really a place to work things out – what do you hope your music teaches your daughter?
That she can see all my truths over the years- the beautiful ones & the ugly ones. And that its okay to be figuring things out along the way.
What does timelessness mean to you?
Something that can be loved eternally. no matter the era, the time, the space – it feels classic.
You’ve lived in relatively established cities for much of your life… meaning the city already has a certain tone that is clearly influential on the creative projects happening in it, what does it feel like to move to a place that does not have such a strong existing aesthetic? What opportunities are present because of this?
When I first moved to Nashville it had this beautiful wasteland vibe happening – abandoned warehouses and just this Southern roots vibe that I had never experienced. It scared me at first but I think that was because I was transitioning through a lot of change at the time. Now this place is booming, a friend of mine said she was flying in yesterday and saw 27 cranes in the downtown area. There’s an opportunity to do it right here – now we just have to hope it turns out that way. Haha.
In terms of developing cities, new can often mean the destruction of the old, can you talk about the idea of nurturing what already exists rather than single-mindedly bringing new things into being?
I like to think that we can preserve a lot of the things we love about Nashville and what drew us here in the first place – there’s always been a strong sense of community, an oasis energy happening – I hope we keep and expand that feeling.
Right now Nashville seems to be an evolving mix of new projects and forgotten wastelands. Can you talk about the importance of keeping ‘wastelands’ or at least the energy of a ‘wasteland’ alive within cities?
Isn’t that the place where the best pop up parties and shows and things like that always happen? :) There’s something magic about going through an area that looks desolate but has things happening behind rusty doors that are beautiful.
How would you describe your philosophical worldview?
I would say its pretty simple. be open and kind and look people in the eyes when you speak with them.
Does your worldview influence your aesthetic?
Absolutely: musically, in my home, in conversation – I want it to feel warm always.
If you could travel anywhere in the world (solo or with the family), where would you go?
I want to explore South America – all around Brazil and Argentina specifically.
What do you love most about Tennessee?
I love that this place brings me peace. As soon as I touch down here, I feel my blood pressure go down.
What’s your favorite type of weather?
82 and sunny with puffy white clouds.
What’s your favorite game to play with Violet?
As she calls it, “Get Me” where I chase her around for 30 minutes until I can’t anymore.
A home is where________?
The kitchen is stocked and my family is ready to eat!