On his new album, the Revealer, Jesse Dayton sets much of his eclectic Forrest Gump-esque life and experiences to a rich blend of an Americana musical narrative; one that will also have your feet a tapping. The talented and quaffed guitar prodigy took AXS on a journey, as he sat down to chat about playing guitar for Waylon Jennings, how Joe Strummer influenced him to join the music revolution and to learn how to make buttermilk fried chicken as a young lad with his civil rights-minded nanny.
AXS: Talk a little about your new big and bold album, the Revealer.
Jesse Dayton: Some of the songs and ideas I've been carrying around with me for a while, while a few others I wrote in two days. We recorded it in the old, funky studio in Houston where greats like Freddy Fender, George Jones, and Jerry Lee all cut big hits in this place. We recorded it as live as we could. When it comes out like it sounds in my head, that’s a cool feeling. This is one of those albums.
AXS: Why was it important for you to play many of the instruments on this new album?
JD: This record was about stripping everything down and making it as much of a guitar-centric album as possible, because that's what I am, a guitar player first. The greatest music is real simple, the stuff that gets stuck in your head are real simple hooks. You don't want some maestro player coming in and jacking off all over your songs.
AXS: You are known as almost a guitar guru. When did you first pick up the guitar?
JD: Man, I was 15 years old. On a road trip to Colorado with my parents, I met a guy named Granville Cleveland who played with Johnny and Edgar Winters. After he had shown me a few things, I felt like I could just play the guitar. I was in my first band within three months. This was pre-technology, pre-MTV – it's never going to be like that again.
AXS: You stood in for the great Billy Zoom from X this year and opened for John Doe this past summer. What was it like opening and playing alongside an artist such a John?
JD: It was awesome touring and playing with him. John Doe and Joe Strummer saved me from going to see Foghat concerts when I was a kid; they made me want to join the revolution. In New York it was the Ramones, in London, it was the Clash and man, in Los Angeles X was the big one. All of those experiences ended up on my new record; you can't not be effected by all of it.
AXS: What do folks usually label you as a singer/songwriter?
JD: Some people call me Americana. I hear a lot of rock-a-billy because of my hair and sideburns. I'm not really into uniforms or genres. I think my music is a mishmash of American music. In my music there's rock-n-roll, real Louisiana zydeco, there’s old country and western, there’s punk rock. I don’t make it easy for people to label me. I just want to write songs that turn me on.
AXS: Back in the day, you got a call from Waylon Jennings to play guitar on one of his albums. What was that like?
JD: After I appeared on a Nashville TV show with Kris Kristofferson and after smoking a joint with him later that same night, I got a call from Waylon that he wanted to work with me. The next day I walked to Woodland Studios from my hotel, knocked and Johnny Cash opened the door. He said, “You going to stand there with your mouth hanging open or are you going to come in and play guitar?”
AXS Waylon became a mentor and friend to you. What was one token of wisdom he gave you?
JD: One time I had just released an album of my own and I ended up getting this great review from the Nashville Tennessean. As I am reading the review, Waylon walks in and says, “What’s up Hosse?” I said, I got this really great review. He said, “If you believe the good ones, ya gotta believe the bad ones.” Let’s just say he knew how to keep things in perspective.
AXS: Why this album now?
JD: This album is about all my life experiences, growing up in East Texas and the crazy people I’ve met along the way. Like my 72-year-old black nanny (Mrs. Victoria, beautiful thing, on the Revealer), who as a kid gave me this whole civil rights consciousness about life. While my brother and sister were away at college, I was listening to Lightning Hopkins, learning how to roll tight cigarettes, and making buttermilk fried chicken.
AXS: You seem to be comfortable in your own skin, whether you are making music or movies, and that comes across on this album.
JD: The best thing you can do is not compare yourself to other people. That’s where the world gets super hung up. Your strength is being who you are. So, I’ve tried to look at where I'm from, look at what I've done, and look at how this all influenced me. I really tried to embrace all of it on this new record, and it feels good man.
Catch the man and the myth that is Jesse Dayton, as he kicks off his fall tour starting Oct. 7, hitting the road until the end of 2017.