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23-year-old, Philly-bred singer-songwriter Jesse Ruben freely confides that he’s done a bit of “obsessing” over his second album, The Ones That Matter.Read More...
Not that such anxiety is evident on the highly accomplished disc, the follow-up to Ruben’s self-released 2008 debut, Aiming for Honesty. Adding full-band accompaniment to his lush, soulful pop-rock, Ruben also stretches impressively as a writer on The Ones That Matter, achieving a near-novelistic sense of character and setting on finely hewn tracks like “A Lack of Armor,” “Bleeker and Sixth,” and “Unbreakable.” His relentless attention to detail pays off handsomely.
He makes no apology for meticulously fine-tuning all aspects of his work and presentation. “Every time you create something you have an opportunity to say something new – or at least something honest,” he says. “I take that opportunity seriously.”
Ruben’s expansive and deeply compassionate point of view has resonated strongly with an ever-growing audience, whom the performer has cultivated with virtually nonstop touring and persistent online networking; as a result, he’s sold some 5,000 copies of Honesty on his own.
He often receives emotional messages from fans declaring that his songs have crystallized their feelings, commemorated milestones in their lives and even helped repair broken bonds. “One woman wrote to me and said she and her daughter didn’t get along, but when she drives the girl to school every day they listen to my music – and it’s the only time they don’t fight,” he marvels. “The songs I wrote in my basement helped her relationship with her daughter. How could I ask for more than that?” Indeed, his compositions have connected so powerfully with listeners that several cover versions have been posted on YouTube.
Such moments of connection helped inspire the title of The Ones That Matter. Ruben had compiled a list of some 80 candidates, but it was in the aftermath of the recording process that he realized what the disc should be called.
“I was on an epic road trip,” he remembers of this epiphany. “I realized that as much as this album is about music, it’s ultimately a representation of who I am – and all that amounts to is all the incredible people I’ve surrounded myself with, and the places I’ve spent time, and the stories and jokes that came out of those experiences with those people. That’s when I understood that the only logical name for the album was The Ones That Matter.”
Recorded during a record-breaking snowstorm in Charlottesville, Virginia – where producer Chris Keup (Jason Mraz, OAR, Parachute) and partner Stewart Myers (Mraz, Lifehouse, Rachel Yamagata, Mandy Moore) have their studio – the disc afforded Ruben a chance to fully appreciate the devotion of his pals. “I had some of my best friends in the world come down to help me finish the record,” he relates. Other players on the disc include drummer Brian Jones (Mraz, Yamagata, Moore); and keyboardist Daniel Clark (Ryan Adams, kd lang, Moore). Meyers handled bass on several tracks.
The profound gratitude Ruben felt upon finishing the album snowballed in the coming days. “I wanted the title of this record to express my thanks to everyone who mattered – not just my friends who worked on the record, but their friends. The people who gave me a couch to crash on, made me dinner, drove me to the train station. Everyone who came to my shows, and walked up to tell me what the songs meant to them. I’m thanking them all with this record.”
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