Jessie Baylin emerged at the end of the 2000s with a warm, rootsy sound that encompassed folk, pop, country, and jazz while recalling classic ’70s singer/songwriters. Over the subsequent albums, many of them recorded with indie producer Richard Swift, her music became more sonically adventurous like 2012′s torchy Little Spark and 2015′s psychedelically-touched Dark Place. Following the 2018 children’s album, Strawberrry Wind, and the death of collaborator Swift, Baylin remained relatively quiet until the 2022 release of her fifth album, Jersey Girl.
Growing up in Gillette, New Jersey, Baylin developed her performing skill early, singing in her parents’ bar and restaurant, the Fire Sight Inn. Reared on icons like Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, and Stevie Nicks, Baylin didn’t compose her own songs until several years later, when she relocated to Los Angeles after graduating from high school. After honing her songwriting skills in private, she eventually emerged with a batch of demos that blended her jazz, country, and pop/rock influences. Along with her demos, recurring gigs at L.A. clubs like the Mint and the Hotel Café helped her secure a deal with the Verve Forecast label which released her debut album, Firesight, in 2008. Recorded with Norah Jones collaborator Jesse Harris and producer Robert Moutenot, Firesight effectively introduced Baylin as an emerging artist with quality songs, a rootsy delivery, and well-crafted production. Around this time she also became engaged to Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill, and settled in Nashville. The two married a year later.
Baylin left Verve and recorded her next album with producer Kevin Augunas while she was pregnant. Little Spark was released in 2012 on her Blonde Rat label and featured arrangements from future collaborator Richard Swift. The single “Hurry Hurry” was also featured on an episode of the CW television network series Ringer. After giving birth to a daughter and taking a long break, Baylin returned to the studio with co-writer and producer Richard Swift. By this point her music had begun to transform into a mix of bluesy rock with psychdedlic undertones and she hired Swift to helm her next project. 2015′s Dark Place doubled down on her new direction with a moody, atmospheric tone and a vintage-inspired sound. Baylin deepened her collaboration with Swift on 2018′s Strawberry Wind, a pseudo-children’s album that also reflected on motherhood and pregnancy. After Swift’s sudden death later that year, Baylin entered something of a hiatus and struggled to find direction. With the help of a new crew of friends and collaborators including producers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk, she began writing new material, this time drawing on and embracing her New Jersey roots. The resulting album, 2022′s Jersey Girl, was at once more personal and buoyant, embracing styles and sounds from throuhgout her career to create something new. ~ Andrew Leahey & Timothy Monger