Joonbug: You're such a great story-teller. Where do you get your inspiration?
Jesse Ruben: Thank you. A lot of times when you tell someone that you're a songwriter, they say "Oh, so you're a storyteller." But I find that most of the time, that's not the case. In the last few years I've really tried to focus on story: characters, plot, narrative, in a pop song setting. It's an interesting challenge to say a lot in only a few minutes. I really love it.
As far as inspiration goes, you get it from everywhere. Traveling, meeting new people, walking down the street, reading, or just from out of nowhere. That's always the best.
JB: Why an EP? And why two parts?
Ruben: I'd recorded fourteen songs and ended up really liking how ten of them came out. But I thought that releasing ten acoustic tracks might be a bit much at once. I realized that the songs broke down really well when you split them in half. They were much more coherent that way. I also had never released an EP before, so it was trying something new.
JB: What made you want to put out an acoustic record?
Ruben: My last album (The Ones That Matter) was a full scale big budget record. It took me half a year to make that thing. It was such an overwhelming process; I really wanted to go the opposite direction. Me, my guitar, my songs, and a mic. No edits. I don't think a lot of people are doing that right now. It was also different because you couldn't be so precious with everything. We didn't have a month to get everything perfect. The performances are much more raw, which is what I've always liked about listening to music.
JB: How would you describe your sound to someone who's never listened?
JB: The Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie, so I have to ask, what made you want to cover "If I Only Had A Heart?"
Ruben: I heard a friend of mine down in Nashville cover it, and I absolutely loved it. Loved the arrangement, loved the song, so I thought I'd try it. I don't do too many covers, so I was really nervous to start playing it, but the response has been amazing. And the writing is so incredible. What a song. And it was written like 70 years ago.
JB: What's the story behind "We Can?"
Ruben: I was trying to get away from writing relationship-y songs. There are so many things to write about. That's one of the scary/amazing/overwhelming things about writing, that you can literally write about ANYTHING. I had just finished my first marathon (I'm currently training for my third, for The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation), and was thinking about all of the people who were so inspired by it. What I like about the song is that it expands as it goes along. So the first verse is "I Can", the second verse is "You Can", and the third verse is "We Can". People have been writing the most incredible things to me about it. I love it.
Ruben: It sure did. Particularly the line "as I watch the local news/the neighbors are throwing a kegger bigger than Bonnaroo". I was literally sitting on my couch watching them do one of those horrible local news pieces late at night, and my neighbors across the hall had tons of people over. I like that song because it gives me and the audience a break from the "heaviness" of some of my other material. It's just fun.
JB: "In the Blink of an Eye" seems like a bit of a mystery for listeners; it lends itself to a lot of interpretaton. What do you have to say about the song? What does it mean to you?
Ruben: Part of the reason I put that song on the EP was because I wanted a song that was really new. I've never performed that song live (I probably will at some of these upcoming shows). I wrote it incredibly fast, and then sorta forgot about it until a few of my friends heard me practicing it and freaked out. It's a song about the passage of time, and how quickly everything goes by. It focuses on a marriage, and talks about 3 different stages; newlyweds, raising kids, and retirement. It's a lot different than most of the other songs I've written.
JB: What's next for you?
Ruben: Oh man, so much. Going on the road a ton, heading over to Europe in September with two of my friends to tour, release the next EP in October. I've also been getting into writing for film a little bit, which is very exciting.
JB: You're touring this summer with, Teddy Geiger, right? Where are you most looking forward to playing? What's your favorite part of being on tour?
Ruben: Probably World Cafe Live, in Philly, because it's my home town and I love that venue so much. My favorite part of being on tour is everything. I love the driving, the packing up, hanging out, setting up, performing, meeting fans, all of it. This summer will be a little bit of a challenge because I'll also be training for the marathon, so I'll be running every day. The balance will be interesting for sure.
JB: It seems like you have some pretty loyal fans out there. What's the one thing you'd say to all of your fans?
Ruben: I love you. So, so much. Because without you, I couldn't do this, and if I couldn't do this, I literally don't know what I'd do.
JB: What's the best part about being a singer-songwriter?
Ruben: Traveling, meeting new people, and creating something that people love. And doing interviews :)
For more information on Jesse Ruben, check out jesseruben.com, Facebook, and Twitter. Thoughts I've Never Had Before, Part 1 is available for download on iTunes, along with his previous releases, The Ones that Matter and Aiming For Honesty. Don't miss Ruben on tour this summer along with Teddy Geiger.