Sydney, AU. (Top40 Charts/ EMI MUSIC Australia) - Departure
is one of those words that conjures up all sorts images. For many it instantly transports them to an airport lounge, full of strangers heading off to a thousand new destinations. For others, Departure
can mean a simple deviation on a road already travelled. It can be applied to a state of mind or in the case of multi-platinum recording artist Jesse
McCartney it can relate to his own career and the title of his new album.
"The record is called Departure for a number of reasons," says McCartney, whose multi-platinum 2004 debut album 'Beautiful Soul' launched his career as an international singing star. 'There have been departures in my career, in my personal life. I've learned a lot since doing my first couple of records. I think I've landed in the most comfortable place I've ever been musically as the style of music, my vocals and the lyrical content of the songs on this album. I co-wrote several songs on the new album, and learned a lot from the producers I worked with. 'Departure' has a little more of mature sound than what my fans previously heard from me, but this is the road that I'm on right now!'
I still remember the first time I saw the video for McCartney's smash 'Beautiful Soul'. I recall thinking at the time, how does one young guy have so much going for him? Here he was, channeling the matinee idol looks of Leonardo Di Caprio with a white boy soul voice that reminded this (much older!) journo of vocalists such as Darryl Hall or Barry Gibb. He was already known in teen circles, having been an actor since the age of 11 and having appeared in television series such as 'All My Children' (for which he earned an Emmy nomination) and two seasons of the US hit 'Summerland.'
'Beautiful Soul', was the catalyst for the 'Jesse Mac' phenomenon which drove his debut album to sales in excess of 1.5 million copies and saw him tour throughout the US, Europe and South East Asia. Jesse McCartney was a household name. Locally, he toured promotionally, performing to screaming fans in major shopping centers, creating the kind of hysterical scenes that made the evening news.
'It was surreal, going to countries where people knew me, knew my parents' names, even knew my pet's name!' says McCartney. I've loved all the places I've been including Australia, Italy and Japan. The Australian fans are crazy in a cool kind of way. Travelling worldwide continues to be a life changing learning experience. It's interesting to learn about other cultures and meet people from different places.'
As the demands of being a pop sensation dictate, McCartney spent much of 2005/06 on the road. Although it gave him little time for recording, the sophomore album 'Right Where You Want Me', released in 2006 was a less-slick but more developed album, influenced by McCartney's life-long love of R&B artists like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Lauryn Hill while highlighting a slightly edgier rock/pop sound.
It was, he says of his second album, 'a step forward from 'Beautiful Soul', to show some growth and maturity" and working with guitarist and musical director Dory Lobel, he co-wrote all but one of the songs on the album. Once again McCartney hit the promo trail for 'Right Where You Want Me' although the signs were already there that he had moved on as both an artist and songwriter.
More recently and prior to the recording of 'Departure', McCartney had a stockpile of songs, some unfinished, others complete. Out of this he began writing songs for other artists. One of those tracks; 'Bleeding Love' (co-written with One Republic's Ryan Tedder) became a global smash for UK artist Leona Lewis, winner of Britain's X Factor TV series.
'I've never met Leona actually, which is kind of funny, I've never had a chance to meet her. I'd love to do a duet with her; it's something that I've been talking to some people about. She did this huge, pop diva-ish version of it, and I love it, I think it's awesome. It certainly gave me the confidence and encouragement to write more songs for other artists,' says McCartney.
'Departure' is a predominantly autobiographical album that really does mark a new point in this artist's career. 'I wrote this record at a time in my life where I started a new chapter,' he says. 'I just got my own place, I live in L.A. on my own and I've been single for about a year, which has made for great song writing. There's a song on the record called 'Not Your Enemy', which is a pretty big pop power ballad that's the last song on the album and it's kind of based on my perspective as an outsider looking into another relationship, and the male's point of view. A lot of my writing is just based on personal experience.'
McCartney has enlisted a stellar cast of star writers and hit making producers such as Sean Garrett (Usher, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce, Gwen Stefani, Pussycat Dolls, Chris Brown), Tricky & The-Dream (Rihanna, Mariah Carey), J.R. Rotem (Britney Spears, Sean Kingston, 50 Cent, Rihanna) and The Clutch (Omarion, Timbaland, Ciara, Bobby Valentino), 'Departure' has an edgier pop/urban sound than 'Beautiful Soul' and 'Right Where You Want Me' reflecting McCartney's growth as a songwriter. 'When it was time to do the third album, I wanted people to see another side of me. I wanted the record to have a little retro hint sonically but with my own contemporary feel - I listened to Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince a lot before we started the album. I knew I had to present myself in a fresh way so I was open to other people's ideas and suggestions.'
'Some of the people have become life time friends after working with them on this album,' says McCartney enthusiastically. 'Sean Garrett, who is a star-studded A-list writer/producer, has become a big brother to me. He kind of mentored me, and talked me through the whole writing and business aspect. He's an unbelievable song writer. He's written nine number one hits in the last three years. And then JR, who is just a real character and super gifted on the piano. And he has the tools to really create some amazing music.'
The album's first single is the laid back, almost Caribbean influenced 'Leavin' a track written by Tricky and The-Dream, the team that recently penned and struck gold last year with Rhianna's global smash 'Umbrella.'
'You know, 'Leavin' is the one song on the record that I can say is not biographical, but when I heard it, I felt like it would just be in a perfect place for my voice,' he says. 'The key that it's in, the range that it's in, I love that it's such a laid back track. I kind of pride myself in being pretty relaxed and laid back.'
Other songs on 'Departure' take the listener on a different trip all together. 'Into Ya' – another collaboration with Garrett is 'a sexy, intimate, sensual, romantic kind of song,' according to McCartney. In another contrast, the hard and funky track 'Freaky' (produced by Madd Scientist) shows McCartney in a whole other light, a dance-flavoured uptempo cut that he laughs is 'about whatever you think it's about!' 'Rock You,' a cut that McCartney says was 'a stretch for me. I heard the track and I was like, I can't wait to perform it live. I hope when my fans see how much I embrace this different side of me musically, their ears will adjust!'
While establishing himself as a successful songwriter is certainly in Jesse's future plans, his current focus is his latest album. 'I spent over a year on 'Departure' and I'm thrilled with how it turned out,' says McCartney. With songs like the infectious 'Make Up' ('a song about natural beauty'), produced by Kwame; the upbeat 'Relapse,' the story of a man hooked by a 'hard-to-get' woman (based, he says with a smile, 'on a personal experience when I was young and naive!'); and the beautiful ballad, 'Not Your Enemy,' a big production track that demonstrates his vocal power and strength, 'Departure' reveals McCartney has arrived with new confidence and maturity.
'I recorded my first solo album when I was 16,' he says almost embarrassingly. 'A lot has happened since then and this new album reflects my experiences growing up over the past couple of years and various stages of family and personal relationships. I bought my first home. I've been fortunate enough to tour all over the world which meant being away from my family and friends for very lengthy times. I've experienced all the ups and downs of relationships people my age go through. That's why I think fans who've grown up with me will relate to the songs on 'Departure,' many of which do have an autobiographical feel.'
Before McCartney exited I asked him if he had any advice to his loyal fan base when listening to 'Departure.'
'Yeah, just turn it up really, really loud,' he says laughing. 'My message for all the fans, is when you put on the record, press play and put it on volume 11, 'cause it's one of those records.'