The Grammy-winning Harris had his breakthrough in 2003, having written Norah Jones’ first and biggest hit “Don’t Know Why.” He subsequently has had a vibrant solo career of his own, along the way writing for and collaborating with renowned artists such as Bright Eyes, Cat Power, Feist, M. Ward, Melody Gardot, Mike Patton, John Zorn, Solomon Burke, Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris.
On No Wrong No Right—Harris’ 13th solo album—he drew inspiration from Neil Young’s approach on After the Goldrush. “Some of that record was done with Crazy Horse, and it’s a rock record,” Harris explains, “but then you also have these hushed acoustic folk songs, and it keeps shifting back and forth between the two distinct moods. I always loved the way that worked, so I started there, but with No Wrong No Right, I also added a third element.”
The three elements Harris speaks of are an inspired set of full-band tunes recorded with guitarist Will Graefe and drummer Jeremy Gustin of experimental duo Star Rover; a more subdued, acoustic-anchored series of duets with guitar virtuoso Julian Lage; and a trio of evocative instrumental tracks.
The album initially grew out of Harris’ discovery of Star Rover and the friendship and musical chemistry that developed between them last winter. “I fell in love with their band,” Harris says. “I was sort of a groupie, checking out their gigs all the time. One day they invited me over to their loft to play, and it felt great from the first song. Which inspired me to write a bunch more songs.
“Will and Jeremy, musically, are adventurous and free, and at the same time completely supportive of the song. They love to work out arrangements, but they play with a lot of looseness and expression. It’s so hard to find that perfect combination—either people don’t want to rehearse, and just play all over the songs, or they’re too rehearsed and there’s no spontaneity. As a singer and songwriter, I feel like they support the music, but at the same time completely challenge it.”
Glide is premiering the dreamy new track off No Wrong, No Right titled “River of Stars” (below). With his haunting voice and intricate folk, Jesse Harris’ solo work now rivals his most significant collaborations.
“I took the title “River of Stars” from a line in a book I was reading by Alejandro Jodorowsky,” explains Harris to Glide. “The lyrics are about how even the most subtle mental changes can have hugely beneficial effects on your life. Jodorowsky seemed equally, if not more, obsessed with his personal journey as his career journey, which was very appealing to me. I definitely made some some mental changes in my life after that, though not through meditation as Jodorowsky does in the book.”
Photo by Justin Tyler Close