Darren Jessee's post-pandemic solo record 'Central Bridge' is about searching for connection
Darren Jessee says his new record "Central Bridge" is about looking for life and connection after the pandemic. He's singing about the connection of hearts as well as minds.
As the drummer and harmony vocalist in Ben Folds Five, Jessee co-wrote the song "Brick." His other endeavors include the band Hotel Lights and drum work with Sharon Van Etten and "Hiss Golden Messenger."
"Central Bridge" is his third solo record and he stopped by WUNC recently to talk about it.
This is an excerpt of an edited transcript of that conversation. You can hear the full interview by clicking the LISTEN button at the top of this post.
We're listening to "Getting Close." You seem to be focused on the minutia of life in these songs with lines about a crumpled pack of cigarettes in the pocket of an old jacket, freshly mopped floors in grocery stores and sharing a jacket out on the beach. What attracts you to these moments?
Jessee: "I think small moments are the human moments that we can all relate to. I like hearing those in songs; like specific things pull me into the song... Sometimes if you try to take on something too big in a song it just won't work."
On Sunbeam you sing, "a little piece of sun broke off into life and here you are — pretty great sentiment." But you also repeat the line "...pulling my arm all the way." What are some of the times in your life when you needed a little pushing or prodding to do something?
Jessee: "Well, love can be a scary thing. And it's nice to have someone who's courageous enough to pull you when you're on the fence or a little uncertain. And I think that song, the sentiment is just about letting go a little and being pulled into some romance."
You talk about the economy of songwriting. How do you capture someone's attention with a three-minute pop song? Is that even a goal?
Jessee: "Well, it's a goal in that I think all artists want to be heard. You know, as far as the economy of songs, as you're putting it together, you'll notice a rhyme scheme that you could run with if you want. And that can help with the construction of getting the idea across. My music is not like Broadway music, but if you were to analyze those lyrics, you would see how strong the rhyme schemes are. And the human mind just likes that."
Will That Be Enough sounds like a breakup song. But the singer is wondering what will be enough, I guess to make someone happy. But you're also asking if this person will be alright once they get what they want. The protagonist still cares, right?
Jessee: "Yes, the protagonist does care and is concerned. That song is a bit of letting go of something, but also a bit of concern, if that is even going to be what they really want. It has, not directly, but a little sort of George Harrison-quality in the chord change, which helps the sentiment come across."
Darren Jessee's new record is called "Central Bridge." It's out now. He'll be playing at The Pinhook in Durham on April 27.