Jessie Baylin lives in Nashville but there’s hardly a twang on her wistful, atmospheric new album Little Spark. Steeped in the laid-back sounds of 1970s California with a sprinkling of classic pop and a little blue-eyed soul, Little Spark is that soft-as-a-pillow record you put on late at night (or early morning if that’s your thing). Here the New Jersey native talks about making Grandma proud and how she won over her rock star husband.
Little Spark has a timeless quality – without being crassly retro – but
what’s the record that has had the most profound influence on you?
Dusty Springfield’s Dusty In Memphis. It is filled with beautiful songs; big, brilliant arrangements and still carries this haunting intimacy through out the album.
Was music a part of your childhood?
I grew up playing piano and the flute. I never practiced but my teachers always said I had a natural ability with melody. I remember being very young and listening to Frank Sinatra on my father’s turntable.
You financed Little Spark with the last chunk of an inheritance from your grandmother, did that make for added pressure?
I was definitely nervous but I also felt like I had no other option. She wanted me to make this album. I was writing it while she was still alive and she loved the songs, they made her cry—in a good way.
Was your grandmother a big music fan?
She absolutely loved music. Her brother Nick was a terrific piano player and she said that when she was a girl she loved to dance around the living room while he played her favorite songs. When I was about 12 I learned to play The Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody,” one of the most beautiful songs ever written in my opinion. I think my grandmother had me play it 100 times in a row.
Photo: Matt Wignall
What’s your favorite thing about Nashville?
I enjoy having cocktails at the Oak Bar in the basement of the Hermitage Hotel. They make a beautiful Negroni and they also allow the ladies to use the famous art deco men’s restroom. I also love to hike Gainer Ridge at Radnor Lake 2-3 times a week. It’s difficult with a steep incline for the first mile but so rewarding when you reach the top and have a perfect view of downtown Nashville.
Your husband is Nathan Followill drummer for the Kings of Leon, is it true you met him in the port-a-potty line at the Bonnaroo festival?
We met near the port-a potty backstage. I offered him a bite of my strawberry shortcake ice cream stick and we’ve been together ever since.