Jessie Baylin is in very good company.
The NYC native, who recently released her sophomore pop disc Little Spark, is settling into married life in Nashville with her husband of two years, Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill. On top of that, she recruited her high school BFF Scarlett Johansson to direct the effort's single, "Hurry Hurry!"
I recently gave Baylin a buzz to see how her hubby and her new hometown are treating her, as well as how ScarJo’s directorial video debut went down.
For more on Baylin, visit jessiebaylin.com
UsMagazine.com: For starters, how is life in Nashville?
Jessie Baylin: I'm getting used to it. It's a simple, little town, but you know what? It's really nice because it's the first place that I've ever lived that is still figuring itself out. It's still building, there are still good restaurants opening up. Every month I feel like there's something really fresh popping up. In L.A. and New York it's expected and you already have your spots. The city is just kind of figuring out what it is going to be. It's kind of nice to be a part of that scene and I really can't wait for some good restaurants to open up. I go to New York just to eat most of the time. There's not as many restaurants here yet. There are a few that are great, though, like Mad Donna's. I go there for trivia night! 'Cause who doesn't like to get hammered and answer questions?
Us: I want to ask you about the album. You wrote it, but it's inspired by old-school songsmiths like Burt Bacharach. Why?
JB: That felt really natural to me. When I realized that I was writing a new album I was listening to Dusty in Memphis pretty much every day. To me, that is a perfect album and I wanted to make my version of that, something that feels really epic with big arrangements but at the same time it feels like I'm singing just to you. It's this intimate moment you have with the singer and the lyric is just really classic, universal and relatable and just feels really natural, even though there is this big arrangement going on behind it. I did a lot of soul searching. It has been almost four years since my last album came out, and I felt like I needed to take that space because I really had to make this one for me and creative a piece of art that I would want to listen to. And I felt like if I was authentic and honest and not doing anything too weird, that hopefully the fans would come along with me. And so far it's been really good. There's been a couple of people who are like "I miss your really acoustic coffee house thing," but honestly, that never really felt like me. That wasn't me; I'm not really sure how that happened.
Us: So how did living in Nashville affect the sound? Because it doesn't sound particularly country to me.....
JB: No, no. Well there wasn't much to do here except write and listen to music Like I said, it's like I don't really feel obligated. In L.A. I'm always going to dinner and hanging out. In New York it's like my life just feels crazier and there's more options. And there isn't that here so I was able to really check in with myself and every day I would just write in my journal a few times throughout the day and come up with different poetry lines and practice guitar. There is nothing else to do in Nashville except for write songs. I had just moved here so I didn't really have any friends yet.
Us: Did your husband give you pointers?
JB: Yeah, I remember I had just started writing with Thad Cockrell and we were writing "Little Spark" and I was singing the chorus to that song and we had stopped for a minute and Nathan came in the room and whispered in my ear, "You're officially writing your next record." And I was like, coming from him, I already knew it, but it was nice that he knew it as well. It just felt like we were touching on something that was different and special; exactly where I wanted to be, the direction I wanted to be headed in. We haven't worked together or anything. We try to keep that separate, but we appreciate what we are making.
Us: Well obviously the songs are very romantic. Did your marriage inspire you?
JB: Yeah, yeah, definitely. I draw from my life and that's been my perspective lately, especially when we were writing this we were just getting married and everything, but yeah, it's definitely where it comes from. And I dig into the past as well. If you've ever had your heart broken it's like once is enough, you can live a lifetime on that. Ya know? You can write a lot of records on one broken heart.
Us: Also, the first track, "Hurry, Hurry" was directed by Scarlett Johansson, so I wanted to ask you what that was like.....
JB: She heard the track and really wanted to help me and direct. She has wanted to direct for a long time. I think she's done a short film as well. But we've known each other since we were girls so it just felt really natural to be in front of her camera. She's super talented and my hair was not supposed to be wet and there wasn't supposed to be any rain. That was just circumstances and we didn't know if we were going to get the shot and we got that one shot where the sun started setting and it was kind of a miracle because it was torrential downpour. I thought I was going to die at one point. It was like December and 40 degrees and the temperature just kept on dropping and I hope I never know cold like that again! But it was truly such a joy to be in front of her camera, so I think she is going to do great things from behind the lens. She was everything you want from your director. She was encouraging, and allowed me to just be myself so she made it really easy and she was great with the crew and everyone. It was really just a pleasure to do it with her.
Us: Is it cool seeing your high school friend become this big movie star?
JB: We had a really good group of friends. Our whole group of friends are all musicians, and actors, and we went to high school at Professional Children's School in New York and we had a really good class, very encouraging for one another. You know, we all wanted each other to do well and pushed each other. It was really good.
Us: So what's up next for you?
JB: We're doing another single. We're deciding what it's going to be still, and I'm doing a West Coast tour, starting in Seattle and then ending in Los Angeles, at The Troubadour, which is so frickin' crazy to me. I'm so excited because that's like, you know, little folk rock church.
Us: Any collaborations with the Kings coming?
JB: I think it's good to keep it separate at this point. He's really busy and I'm building this new brand of music for myself so I think it's better now to just love and support one another and I couldn't do it with out him; without that natural support he gives me.
Us: What about babies?
JB: I've definitely thought about that. Babies are on their way for this band already!
Us: Yeah. Caleb is having one!
JB: I definitely want to have a family without a doubt. I want to know that kind of love, and I'm definitely thinking about it. I'm not afraid to have a little baby bump on stage someday.
Us: But nothing yet?
JB: Nothing yet. I'm definitely not with child.
Us: Do you have any plans for your first wedding anniversary, or have you had it yet already?
JB: Yeah. Well Caleb and Lily got married in May. We got married in November of 2010. Or '09? Crap. What did we do for our anniversary? We're not very good with those anniversaries. They're always like the massive fails. We went to Blackberry Farm for our anniversary and for our honeymoon. That's sort of been our place. We love it. Usually our anniversary involves a lot of eating.
Us: So food is the tie that binds in your relationship.
JB: Food! Yeah basically. We like plan our lives around meals.
Us: Do you cook a lot? Or does he cook?
JB: I cook. He now knows how to make guacamole and how to scramble an egg. It's tackling one tiny task at a time for him. But I do cook regularly.
Us: Southern dishes yet?
JB: Hell no! It is rich and I won't be able to fit in my pants if I start cooking Southern food. But I make a lot of Italian. I'm Italian and my dad is a chef, so he's taught me well. He's taught me how to make really good, clean, delicious food, so I've been spoiled with that one!