Ameripolitan honky-tonk vocalist of the year Jesse Daniel performs "Surest Thing". Daniel is quickly becoming a household name in today’s (not so) underground country music scene. Receiving critical acclaim from the likes of Saving Country Music, No Depression and Paste Magazine, among others, for his self titled debut. Since the release, he and his band have been touring nationally, sharing the stage with the likes of Junior Brown, Wayne Hancock, Dale Watson and Phil and Dave Alvin.
"Our friend, and Ameripolitan honky-tonk vocalist of the year Jesse Daniel invited me to California last year for a little sunshine and hang time. We headed down to the boardwalk by the beach to record this one. Memory lane for Jesse, who grew up out here in Santa Cruz. Every step we took he'd point something out, somewhere he'd worked one summer, or someone he'd recognize. This is all filmed on a 1999 Sony Handycam, by the way." -GemsOnVHS™
Jesse Daniel grew up in the small mountain town of Ben Lomond, CA. Hard times hit and his parents split up, resulting in heavy, ongoing turmoil. Daniel and his brother would help their mother scavenge metal at the local landfill, which she would weld and sell at the flea market, to put food on the table. The winters were long and cold in the converted barn the family called home, making the summer season a respite to look forward to. “I learned at an early age what it meant to work hard, and to endure.” Said the singer of his youth.
His father, a talented musician and songwriter, instilled the importance of music in Daniel from an early age. He began pouring himself into music as a form of refuge, finding just that in the realm of punk rock. “I felt like there was a group of people who understood what I carried around on my shoulders… and they were just as pissed as I was.” A gifted drummer, Daniel played in numerous punk bands. This introduced him to life as a traveling musician as well as steadily increasing his drug and alcohol consumption. The singer dropped out of high school, to play music and work a series of menial jobs. “I was so lost…” he said nostalgically, “I became a garbage can. Any drug I could get, I’d take, until I found heroin. After that it was a wrap, that’s all I wanted to do.” Music quickly took the back burner. “I started getting arrested and missing shows, to the point where I sold my drums just not to get sick. I traded everything for nothing.” The next several years would be a series of stints in rehab, jail and homelessness. “Some people call me crazy, some people call me stoned, others say I’m strung-out destined just to be alone”
The lyrics of “Soft Spot (For The Hard Stuff)”, off of his self-titled release, ring true. Not knowing how to live without the very thing that was killing him, the singer made his way back to a Lower Ocean Street motel, and walked by a thrift store window with a stacked TV display. He saw a group of older homeless men watching a Rock & Roll band play on the public access television station through the glass. “They’re pretty good!” one man said. Looking closer Jesse realized man playing on that TV screen was his father. Returning to the motel room with the other junkies he noticed the TV set was blaring in the background. An infomercial came on about a classic country CD collection, and Buck Owens played “Act Naturally”. “I was mesmerized…” as Daniel put it, “Nobody else was interested, but it shined this little bit of light into my dark world. I held on to that.” Some years later, while in a rehabilitation facility in Oakland, California, he heard someone playing a Hank Williams tune in the other room. “I had just enough in me to sit in a chair and listen to this guy I didn’t know play.” Daniel said. “I told him I wanted to play like him and he said, ‘Why don’t you?’” It was time to make a change. This was the final event of many that planted the seed in the singer’s brain, and he began to write songs out of sheer necessity. Daniel reflects on bleak feelings of melancholy hopefulness from this time in “Looks Like Rain”, “Time goes on like always, one more time a sad song just like all the rest, I cant rewrite the history books, but I’ll damn sure do my best.”
It had taken years of being lost to realize what he was meant to do all along. After getting back on his feet, the singer bought a Fender guitar at a pawnshop for $50 and began writing songs. He assembled a band and began playing bars and clubs, quickly gaining notoriety for his energetic music and rowdy showmanship. “One of the biggest rewards so far has been the opportunity to make new friends and share the stage with other musicians I admire.” Said the singer in reference to playing with heroes of his such as, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Phil & Dave Alvin, Junior Brown and more. Jesse takes inspiration regarding his musical work ethic from the late Buck Owens,“The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
With the blood, sweat and tears of past and present, Daniel cut and co-produced his debut self-titled album, playing many of the instruments himself, including all drums, percussion and guitar. The record holds true to Daniel’s character, taking you for a ride through the singer’s life, gritty realism and tongue-in-cheek anecdotes. The album is set to release May of 2018, and he and his band will be touring extensively to support it. “To me this album embodies my journey. I’m grateful to be here, and I’m trulyproud of this record. If my story can help anyone going through a struggle of their own, I’ve done my job and paid it forward. Now the real work starts.”