Jesse McCartney Talks “Better With You,” Career Goals & A Summer Tour: Interview
Jesse McCartney is making 2018 his year. It has been nearly four years since the “Beautiful Soul” crooner unveiled his last album, In Technicolor, and he is preparing to take things to the next level. The hitmaker kicked things off with the unveiling of his feel-good anthem “Better With You” in March. In the weeks since its release, it has racked up more than 3 million streams on Spotify and its powerful video is rapidly approaching 6 million views on YouTube. And that’s just the start of things.
Today (May 8) the hitmaker announced plans to hit the road for a summer tour. The tour kicks off with a performance in Atlanta, Georgia on June 15. From there he has stops scheduled across the United States before playing his final set in Los Angeles on July 25. Pre-sale tickets are available starting May 9 with general tickets available on May 11. With plans for an EP to follow and hopes for additional touring across universities in the fall, it is clear that Jesse is gearing up for the long haul.
Last month I had the chance to talk to the hitmaker about his plans for the rest of the year. We looked back on his latest release and talked about how he got in a creative frame of mind to record it. We also touched on some country crossover material and his favorite songs to perform on the road. Learn more about what Jesse has in store and check out his tour dates below!
I wanted to start by asking how it feels to have “Better With You” out after you’ve taken some time away from music?
Yeah, I mean it feels great. I needed a little bit of time after the last record to kind of decompress. To kind of explore other artistic avenues and just try different things. You know, after you make a record, you put a lot of your soul and your energy into it. And you need to sort of be able to walk away and take a big breath afterwards. At least I do. A lot of people can get right back in the studio after a project, but that’s not really the case for me. I put so much time and love and passion into one project at a time that when I’m finished it’s the last thing I think about is doing a new one.
But “Better With You” came after about a year and a half, two year period of time where I was traveling and doing a lot of reading and documentary watching. Learning how to cook and a lot of acting projects. It wasn’t until around election time where I remember just turning on the news and feeling like a ton of division in this country. And just feeling like down and out about everything that was going on both politically and socially. It was just a contentious time. You know, you feel like there was something in the air where people just aren’t getting along.
And I woke up really kind of depressed, and I walked into the studio one day not really feeling well. And I said, “let’s write a song to make us feel better because right now it kind of sucks.” And I got in the studio with a buddy named Brandyn Burnette. He’s a real powerful songwriter. And we wrote this song called “Better with You.” And we all kind of looked around the studio and were like, “yeah, this feels good. This is exactly what people need to hear.” It was just to write a pick-me-up song to make everybody feel better. And I think that’s kind of what it does. And when we finished I immediately wanted to put it out. And here we are about a year and a half from that time, and it feels great. The reaction’s been incredible.
Yeah! So, let’s talk numbers for a hot second! It’s only been a couple of weeks since “Better With You” dropped, and its already racked up more than 1.5 million streams on Spotify and the video (which is really adorable by the way) is doing equally well on YouTube. Is this what you expected after it premiered last month?
As far as the data goes, it’s hard to totally navigate that and understand what it means completely. And I have a team of people that sort of help me out. But, from what it seems, from what everyone’s saying, those are really good numbers. It’s great. I’m just pumped that everyone is listening. The song is a welcome song, and they’re hearing what I’d hope they would hear, which is just like an escape from the world. The reality of what’s happening, and it’s a three-and-a-half-minute way to sort of decompress and feel better. And you know I did see that the video’s doing very well and getting a lot of great responses and likes. And that’s cool. I don’t know how all the data works. Spotify and all these streaming networks are so new in music that making sense of it all is still kind of a new thing for me.
I think sometimes we’re all kind of figuring it out as it goes. But talking about the video, what was it like working on the set of that?
Oh, the video was awesome. To me, it really is, I think, my favorite video that I have done. Partly because I had such a creative hand in it, and I just feel like execution-wise it was maybe the most well-executed of all the videos. And I owe that to Jo Roy my director who I sat down with, I don’t know, three months ago. We were kind of banging our heads together trying to come up with ideas. And he had a couple, I had a couple, and they both just weren’t really tied up very nicely. And the team around us was like, “Eh, we don’t know.” And then he said, “what if we just really stay true to the song and shoot a video about meeting that somebody?”
And I was like “well.” I didn’t want to do the traditional boy-meets-girl video. I just feel like with this song it can so easily be cheesy looking. And he was like “we’ll take the cheese out. We’ll make it like an authentic relationship about over the course of a 4-or-5-year period in time. Where they’ve been together for a while.” Incidentally that’s the amount of time my girlfriend and I have been together. But we’ll make it seem like it’s not just, you know, the honeymoon part of the relationship. But all of the bad that comes with the relationship too. And I was like that’s cool. What if we also do a butterfly effect where something as incidental as a quarter falling out of a girl’s purse and hitting this guy’s shoe could be the difference between him turning around and seeing her or not.
And that’s why we kind of shot that ending where the quarter rolls by his shoe at the end and he doesn’t feel the quarter hit his shoe at all and he never looks over. And so just something as small as that can change the outcome in the course of somebody’s future and their future relationships indefinitely. And, you know, it was really a challenging shoot. And Danielle Campbell, who we hired to play the lead actress, really helped crystallize the idea because she was such a great presence behind the lens, which is something we thought about. Oftentimes when you’re hiring an actor to be on camera they haven’t had enough experience behind the camera so it can feel sort of contrived and fake. And Danielle clearly was comfortable. And you’re asking so much of this actress. You’re asking her to make, to feel immediately comfortable with me behind the camera, in very vulnerable positions and moments over a five-year period.
And she did it all in two days. So, a lot of things had to come in together. There were a lot of moving parts. And it was just executed really nicely.
It sounds like it was a herculean project, but it did. It really came together super nicely.
Well thanks! I’m really excited about it.
Yeah! It’s great to see. I mean, I listened to your music when I was younger. So personally it’s so great to see stuff coming out still and having it be on par with some of your biggest hits.
Oh, that’s so nice man. Thank you. I think it feels like, from the response I’ve seen from the fans too. And being a fan of earlier music, maybe you’ll agree. It seems like the song is kind of tickling a nostalgia bone. It feels reminiscent of some of my earlier music. And I think that’s really resonating with my fans. It’s giving them a “Beautiful Soul” vibe a little bit. And I think that’s good. Because I feel like the timing of “Beautiful Soul” was great. And in many ways, it feels maybe the same way now. It’s funny. I’ve been hearing that a lot that it’s kind of reminding people of the earlier stuff and that they like it as much as the earlier stuff.
You hit the nail on the head right there. It kind of hits on that sweet spot between nostalgia and moving forward. But then, I had another question about the song. You released an acoustic version of the track. I was curious why did you think it was so important to release an acoustic take?
I don’t know. I didn’t think about it too much. It’s a song that just lends itself to an acoustic rendition. You know, it’s very guitar driven even in the main version. And I think that it’s so easy to do. And in this day and age people love like different versions and remixes and content in general. You know, it’s my favorite thing to do: to do music. So, it’s really no skin off my nose to make different versions of the song and sort of do new arrangements. And that’s really all it was. It’s just like a broken-down arrangement of the original. And I think, there’s something about the intimacy of the song already that when you play it with just the guitar and make more.
At this point you’ve been performing for more than half your life, right?
Yeah, since I was 9. Maybe younger, but professionally since I was 9. My first performance was when I was 7-years-old, so 24 years.
Damn! You’ve obviously come a long way. Even since rolling out “Beautiful Soul” in 2004. I’m curious, looking back if you had one piece for advice for yourself back then, what would it be.
One piece of advice for myself back then what would it be? Um, I think it would be to strap in because it’s going to get really crazy and really wild. And to, I don’t know, maybe call your mom a little bit more when you’re on the road.
Always call you mom a little bit more. That’s a great piece of advice. My mom would agree. So, I was reading your interview over at Paper from the “Better With You” video premiere. And you mention that you kind of sparked the passion to create again while at a writing camp with Shane Stevens where you were working on country material. Will we get a chance to hear anything you have recorded from those sessions?
It’s a good question. I’ve thought about it. Probably not right away because I don’t want to draw attention away from my pop music project at the moment. And currently some of the songs are being pitched to country music artists. And there’s some interest there. Yeah, they are country songs. So if a country artist wants to record them, by all means that’s what I want. I’m not really in the business of singing country at this point. But if that doesn’t happen, and they don’t get recorded and they just sit around there is a possibility I can release them maybe just for fun. Or even do a collaborative effort with a country artist. I’ll never say never, but at the moment I feel like don’t want to distract. I don’t want people to get confused with the project that I have currently.
So you mentioned the possibility of collaborating with a country artist. Is there an artist you have in mind that you would like to work with in the country realm?
I love Kelsea Ballerini. She and I talked through social media. She reached out and we had a little DM back and forth. And she’s crazy busy on your right now, and I’m insanely busy with press and trying to post this record. So being in the studio is not at the moment wouldn’t work. But we’ve talked about some point getting in and doing writing together. And I’d love to do a collab with her. She’s super cute just a really talented singer-songwriter. She’d be fun t work with for sure.
I’m sure everyone would be very here for that collaboration. It would be awesome. So over the years you’ve accomplished quite a bit. I was reading through your bio and you mentioned meeting two sitting presidents and performing in so many exciting arenas and areas. What’s one thing you still want to accomplish professionally?
Professionally. Oh man. I mean, you know, I was nominated for a Grammy back in 2008 for songwriting for “Bleeding Love.” And we didn’t win. As much as it is an honor to be nominated, it would be really cool to win a Grammy one day. I still haven’t’ done that. That to me is just the pinnacle of the industry. Sort of you’ve mastered it all if you can achieve that. And that’s not to say that I don’t ever, you know. I don’t think that’s the only reason I do this. But it would be a cool little nod just to have that accolade. That is the pinnacle to say that you’ve championed music when you have a Grammy on your wall. I don’t know… Maybe one day.
Maybe with this project. Which kind of leads to my next question. What else can we expect from you for the remainder of 2018? You mentioned an album. Are you getting ready to roll that out this year?
So yeah. I’m rolling out probably an EP at this point. I have a collection about 5 or 6 songs that I think are kind of great. As far as an LP, that remains to be seen. I think that more than anything I want to tour again and just get back in front of my base. In front of my fans. And then try to build on that fan base. I’m going to tour this summer.
And then this fall I’ll probably do a lot of colleges again. During the spring and fall semesters, the college crowd and the demand in college is just very, very high. And also, I want to travel internationally. I have a lot of fans in South America and over in Asia and in parts of Europe. And I feel they feel neglected in some way. And I just want them to know I love them. And trying to get overseas maybe some point in early 2019. And then from there, I’m just trying to like entirely get to this point where I just do things all the time that are creative. Whether its music or sketch comedy or a skit or a tv show. Or whatever it is.
Just say yes to great ideas. I mean there are a lot of bad ideas that get pitched, but all these good ones there’s no reason to say no. I want to constantly stay creative and churning out new material and content for the fans. And you know, it just makes me better to do so. So those are my goals for this year and the year to come.
So you mentioned touring. What is one song that you always look forward to performing when you’re on stage?
Well, as an artist you always love singing… What makes it fresh and new for me is being able to perform all of the new material. But that being said, I also know that the fans, they want to hear the hits. And there is no question, when you play “Beautiful Soul” onstage the energy shifts from crazy to mania. And it is, it is a site to behold. It’s really, it’s something that never gets old for me and I love completely. And I can acknowledge that by playing all of the old songs and all of the old hits because the reason your onstage today is because of the old songs from yesterday. And I think you need to always keep that in mind. I really hate when artists don’t play their old hits. When I got to a show it really bugs me. And I know that the fans are there to see all of it. Like they’re going to support you for the new stuff, but you need to throw them a bone with the old stuff. “Beautiful Soul” is something that will never get old, and if you ever come to a show that you’ll know what I mean.
Oh absolutely. I really hope that if you do hit the road that you can make it around Cleveland. That’s where I’m at and I’d love to see you. So fingers crossed!
For sure! You’ve got to come to a show.
Yeah, absolute that would be awesome!
Jesse McCartney’s Summer Tour Dates
June 15 – Atlanta, GA – Buckhead Theater
June 16 – New Orleans, LA – House of Blues
June 18 – Dallas, TX – House of Blues
June 20 – Houston, TX – House of Blues
June 22 – Orlando, FL – The Beacham
June 23 – Jacksonville, FL – Mavericks Live
June 25 – Charlotte, NC – The Underground
June 26 – Silver Springs, MD – The Fillmore
June 28 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza
June 29 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of The Living Arts
June 30 – Freehold, NJ – iPLay America’s Even Center
July 2 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club
July 5 – Cleveland, OH – House of Blues
July 6 – Detroit, MI – Majestic Theatre
July 7 – Columbus, OH – Newport Music Hall
July 9 – Nashville, TN – Cannery Ballroom
July 10 – St. Louis, MO – Delmar Hall
July 12 – Chicago, IL – House of Blues
July 13 – Madison, WI – Majestic Theatre
July 14 – Minneapolis, MN – Varsity Theater
July 15 – Kansas City, MO – The Truman
July 17 – Englewood, CO – Gothic Theatre
July 18 – Salt Lake City, UT – Grand at The Complex
July 20 – Seattle, WA – Neptune Theatre
July 21 – Portland, OR – Roseland Theater
July 23 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
July 24 – Anaheim, CA – House of Blues
July 25 – Los Angeles, CA – The Belasco