Jesse Dee: New Soul


Aidin Vaziri | This year, more than any other, you will want to get to Golden Gate Park to hear the opening notes of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park. That’s because Jesse Dee, a young R&B singer-songwriter from Boston, is kicking things off in grand style right at noon on Friday. His latest album, “On My Mind / In My Heart” is one of the best we’ve heard all year, informed by the soul music he grew up listening to on his local oldies radio station. Earlier this year, no less an authority than The Chronicle’s executive features editor, David Wiegand, raved that Dee’s songs “are so well written, so amazingly arranged and performed, you’ll wonder why this guy doesn’t just own the music business.” Still not convinced? Here are some more reasons to cut out of work early.

He was born in 1980, but he doesn’t sound anything like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. “You know, when I was about 7 or 8 years old I got into the local oldies station,” Dee says. “They were playing a lot of Motown and doo-wop. I heard a lot of the same ’90s music as everybody else but at this point in my life, soul music does it for me more than the rest. It’s what pleases my ears.”

He sings R&B without making it sound like bad karaoke. “Anything that’s coming from the heart can connect with people,” he says. “In the genre of soul music it can come across as very contrived and cookie-cutter in feeling. I’m trying to connect with people and be sincere about it and write good songs. The idea is for there to be substance and feeling to be there before the song gets categorized in a genre.”

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