“I was a little bit angry, and that’s a type of music that I really identified with and that kind of let me get out aggression in a healthy way,” the local singer/multi-instrumentalist/songwriter acknowledges. “It helped out a lot.”
Now 24, Jesse has returned to the classic country music on which he was raised. He was exposed to that sound at an early age, both at home and at the live gigs of his father, a seasoned blues/rock guitarist.
Though he still listens to rock, blues and a little bit of punk, Jesse also notes, “I love old Bakersfield-y stuff like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. In the last year, I’ve gotten really into a lot of Texas songwriter guys like Townes Van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen.”
That said, a live clip of Jesse and his band the Slow Learners at the group’s website reveals that the frontman has retained plenty of the go-for-it spirit he cultivated while playing drums in punk bands like My Stupid Brother and Three Up Front as a teen. “When we play live, a lot of people say we’re really high-energy,” the singer offers. “I try to keep that rock & roll energy going, even though we’re doing more of a country thing. I think that makes for a good show, and it keeps people engaged. That’s what I like to see when I see a band.”
Jesse and his bandmates—drummer Dominic Romano, bassist Rhonda Kinard and pedal steel/ sax player Bruce Wandmayer—have been known to draw rowdy crowds. The vocalist notes, however, that his band’s audience is “a mixed bag. We’ve had a good amount of people recently that are in their 50s, 70s. When we played The Kuumbwa, we met a lot of older folks that had been listening to country their whole lives, and they were really stoked on it. That made me really happy.”
Jesse has been pleasantly surprised by the number of venues that are available for a group like his. “I knew of a couple bands that played country-style stuff in Santa Cruz, but once I broke into that scene a little bit and got to know people who had been doing it a long time, my eyes were opened,” he says. “There’s actually a great scene for that type of music here in Santa Cruz.”
Part of that scene revolves around the vintage clothing shop Tomboy, which helps put on a monthly night of country music called Western Wednesday. Jesse Daniel & the Slow Learners’ booking agent, Mischa Gasch of Tourmore Booking, also helps provide a steady flow of gigs for the band.Asked about his goals for the group, Jesse offers, “I’d love to be able to play with some of the people in music that I look up to. That’s kind of the dream right there.” He cites country luminaries Dwight Yoakam and Sturgill Simpson as examples of the musicians with whom he would most like to gig.
In the meantime, Jesse Daniel & the Slow Learners will play The Catalyst Atrium on Wednesday, August 10thas a supporting act for Americana/blues musician Lincoln Durham. “It’s gonna be a really good, rowdy time,” Jesse promises.
Jesse Daniel & the Slow Learners: jessedanielmusic.com