Diamond-in-the-rough guitar virtuoso, Jesse Waldman, wears many hats, from candid singer-songwriter to studio producer, respected sound designer to sought-after film and TV composer. For the last decade, he has been honing his own unique and eclectic blend of folk and blues, earning him the reputation of being an “East Van fixture” by Exclaim! Magazine, all before ever recording his first solo album. With the release of his long-awaited debut, Mansion Full of Ghosts, devoted fans from Toronto to Vancouver, can now rest easy. Four years in the making, Mansion Full of Ghosts, a true labor of love, is finally here.
Love goes into everything Waldman does, and it is undeniable his passion for music runs deep. One of his most cherished possessions is a cassette of his grandmother singing the Yiddish folk song, “Papirosen.” A remnant like the abandoned guitar discovered in his parent’s basement that drove his rock ‘n roll dreams out of the suburban sprawl of Thornhill, Ontario, and into the bars of downtown Toronto. Even before reaching legal drinking age, Waldman had formed the grunge band Zygote, playing nearly every club in the Big Smoke. Often bluesy with elements of fingerstyle, folk, gypsy, country, and pop, Jesse has inspired and influenced countless friends, fans, and fellow musicians with his soulful delivery, exceptional technique, and effortless ability to write honest, memorable songs.
An ambitious journey cross-country proved to be just what the doctor ordered for a young, burgeoning musician. Finding himself in the arms of the Commercial Drive music scene, now his home of over twenty years, Vancouver continues to infuse his heartfelt imagery and sublime melodies. Cutting his musical teeth leading notorious Canadian fan favorites Web, The Beefy Treats, and Phatty Phatty, Waldman has also played alongside numerous and warmly acclaimed songwriters such as Joanna Chapman-Smith, Lisa O'Neill, Josh Martinez (Pissed Off Wild), Monica Lee, and Melissa Bandura (Familiar Wild). A two-time FACTOR Demo Award Grant Winner and FACTOR International Tour Grant Winner (Web), his client roster as a composer for film and television includes the likes of CBC, Telus, The Knowledge Network, and Bravo. He has also been a featured performer at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts' Lounge Series, highlighting some of Vancouver's finest folk performers.
The recording process began at Redlight Sound Studios, of which Waldman is a co-founder, where pre-production sessions and rehearsals were held over a three-month period. Initial production sessions took place at Afterlife Studios with critically acclaimed engineers John Raham (Frazey Ford, Destroyer, We Are The City) and Erik Nielson (Rich Hope, The Sumner Brothers) where bed tracks were recorded on one-inch analog tape. The second and final sessions were engineered, mixed, and mastered by veteran producer Marc L’Esperance (Ray Condo, Nomeansno, Petunia and the Vipers, Linda McCrae of Spirit of the West) at Heavyosonic Studios. This longtime friendship and musical partnership culminated in L’Esperance hopping on board as co-producer to help edit the editor. L’Esperance brought his wide array of talents to the table, harmony vocals, guitar, harmonica, and additional drums and bass. The album also boasts a sea of talented West Coast artists; Monte on harmonica (Paul Pigat, Boxcar), Michael Simpsonelli on drums (CR Avery, Shrinking Mountain), Michael Rush on bass (Corin Raymond, The Broken Mirrors), Tom Hammel on pedal steel (The Palomars), and Tom Heukendorff on piano (Juno nominated The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer).
Just as Mansion Full of Ghosts is a dance with duality, with songs both reality-stricken and life-affirming, the recording experience proved to be a deeply bittersweet one, as Monte passed away during the production of this album. His harmonica tracks can be heard on “Other Side of Town” and “Lonesome City.”
The opening track, “Hope in Shadows,” a rootsy, art-folk, acoustic portrayal of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, explores the belief that someone can make it back from the darker side of life. “Good Company,” an earthy, harmony-rich single calls on the philosophy of surrounding yourself with the ones that lift you up. The soaring break-up lament, “Wild Balloon,” paints heartache as a lush and dreamy atmospheric anthem. “Hard Livin,” a spacious country song driven by wieldy lead guitar, is a tribute to harmonica player, Monte, reflecting on the burn-out of a fuse too soon. Pre-closer “The Rest of My Days” delves into devotion and commitment, launched by a music video produced by Waldman featuring raw footage of his own family generations, from grandmother; to mother; to a young Jesse himself.
A seasoned live performer, Waldman continues to delight his audiences with high energy performances, rich improvisations, and a playful stage persona. Heavily influenced by folk and blues pioneers Townes Van Zandt, Taj Mahal, and Neil Young, Waldman has toured Canada, Western US, and the UK, performing everywhere from local pubs to soft-seat theatres, and appeared at major festivals that include Vancouver's Folk and International Jazz Fests. Avid music fans excited by the folk tradition resurgence will revel in this masterfully produced album reminiscent of Joe Pug, Shakey Graves, Gillian Welch, and Blake Mills. It’s a body of work born from the need, as Waldman sings, “to keep a light on in the dark,” a message that resonates now more than ever, no matter where you call home.