INTERVIEW: Jesse Goplen "Cowboy"

Jesse Goplen has lived life on both sides of the fence. He was an honors sociology student at the University of Wisconsin, preparing to go to law school and then he found himself serving a six month sentence for drug possession. It was during this time he started to really write songs in earnest. Jesse’s new CD is a WHAT-YOU-HEAR-LIVE-IS-WHAT-YOU-GET-ON-THE-CD project. It is stripped down to the guitar and vocal performance and it gets right to the heart of the matter. With this release, Jesse Goplen establishes himself as an important musical voice for our time.

Bev: Jesse, your new CD is titled, “Cowboy” how did you arrive at this for your title?

Jesse: I felt the song “Cowboy” was one of the strongest songs on this project, so I used that as my CD title. I was going to call it “I Have Been A Cowboy”, but I felt like the single word had more impact.

Bev: You have nine tracks on the CD, is there on that is a favorite?

Jesse: “Cowboy” is my personal favorite. It is coming to terms with life, living and dealing with changes and it reflects on the emotions associated with the changes and challenges we face.

Bev: I have read many descriptions of your style from folk and blues to punk rock aesthetic to brooding. How do you describe your style?

Jesse: I would call it country-blues, but I am open to letting my fans and the critics labeling it as they feel it applies to their lives. I don’t like labels per se’ but just want people to really open their hearts and listen.

Bev: Did you write all of the songs on this project?

Jesse: I did. So far I have written all of my own music, I have tried some co-writing projects, but over all I prefer to write for myself.

Bev: What made you decide to do it as stripped down as it is?

Jesse: I have recorded other things on tracks with added instruments and background vocals and never have been as happy when it is played live – me and the guitar. So on this one, I felt I captured the natural sound I was aiming for.

Bev: At age 15 you found yourself as a foreign exchange student in Germany, performing for a large crowd of about 1000 people. Do you think this was your first taste of really wanting to pursue this as a career or was there something else?

Jesse: My dad was a musician, and was not really around much, and I have always loved music, but there was pressure from my family not to follow in his footsteps. I cannot say there was a defining moment, but anytime I played live, I felt the pull towards it.

Bev: This is your official debut CD, but you previously have released some songs, and a project called “September Eleven Blues, Truth Songs”. What difference is there between this CD and previous releases?

Jesse: I feel like the main difference is the fact I could put everything else aside and focus on my music. I was always working, being a dad, a full time college student etc. This sounds like a professionally done CD and not something put out there as a hobby. I am very proud of the way this turned out.

Bev: In your own words, what is important to you about your CD that makes it special over other artist’s music?

Jesse: I honestly believe in my songs and the music. I hope there are people out there who can relate to the lyrics and will enjoy the songs as much as I do.

Bev: Is most of your work autobiographical?

Jesse: Yes, it is very personal and reflects what is inside my heart. Most of them are about some specific event or an emotion I am going through or someone close to me is going through.

Bev: Do you have any quotes or sayings you live by?

Jesse: I don’t have any regrets, but to say I live by a saying in general no.

Bev: When you write, do you have any rituals or anything you do to set a mood before you settle down to write or are you one that just jots down notes or a whole song on a napkin when it hits you?

Jesse: Usually I write about something I am feeling very strongly about and I express my feelings and thoughts through songwriting. I do not go through any specific process to get there.

Bev: What is one thing to date that has inspired you the most about the music business?

Jesse: I enjoy and live for that feeling I get when I perform live. There is nothing like that.

Bev: When you tour or play for a live audience, what is your favorite part?

Jesse: The interaction is definitely my favorite and knowing they appreciate my efforts.

Bev: On a very personal level, it is no secret about your time served for the drug possession. Do you believe in the saying that everything in life happens for a reason and this was one of those things that needed to happen to make you realize song writing and music was where you needed to be?

Jesse: I think that is exactly the philosophy associated with that time and experience. I wrote feverishly and was very productive during my time spent there, and had that not happened, then who knows what direction my life would have taken.

Bev: You are setting out to tour in 2009 and one of things you are also doing is some online “concerts”. When you compare the two types of performing, which do you prefer?

Jesse: I am trying to remove the line that divides those two. I am doing 20 concerts online, live, and recording them at the same time for a future CD project. I will have a lot of new songs I will be performing during the online concerts.

Bev: Jesse, I have enjoyed our conversation and getting to know you. I look forward to more music from you and wish you much success. I also hope you have a joyous holiday season.

Jesse: Thank you so much and I hope you do too. It has been great visiting with you.

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