They say that, career-wise, if you step out into the unknown void, the universe will reward such blind bravery.
Jessie Baylin used to believe the old adage. But the New Jersey-born, California-schooled singer-songwriter lost faith for nearly two years, as she struggled to release her Dusty-Springfield-classy third album, “Little Spark.”
“That’s when the depression set in, and when I kind of fell apart and was rocking in the fetal position quite often,” she says. “I kept thinking ‘I’ve made this beautiful piece of art, and I just want to share it. But I just don’t know how.’”
The album just hit shelves; Baylin supports it with a gig in The City gig tonight, with her friends — and studio backing vocalists — The Watson Twins opening.
She’s right — it’s a subtly majestic work, with her smoky murmur wafting through the Brill-Building-angled architecture of “Star Cannon,” “I Feel That Too,” and 1960s-chic lead single “Hurry Hurry” (with a video directed by her old Professional Children’s School classmate, Scarlett Johansson).
She employed Los Angeles’ finest — guitarist Waddy Wachtel, drummer Jim Keltner, Greg Leisz on pedal steel and Jimmie Haskell for string arrangement.
Why didn’t “Spark” ignite sooner? Long story, she says.
Three years ago, Baylin, now 27, was chugging on the fast track.
Her iTunes-only “You” debut had landed her a deal with Verve Forecast, who issued her sophomore “Firesight” set to critical acclaim. In November 2009, she married Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill (they met in line at a backstage Bonnaroo porta-potty, she says), and moved with him to a hillside house outside Nashville. Then came the bad omens. Some 200 fans showed up at L.A.’s Hotel Café to celebrate the official release of “Firesight.” “But they forgot to bring the album: There was literally no record at my record-release party!” she says.
Little mistakes began adding up. Boldly, Baylin begged out of her contract, combined her savings with an inheritance from her late grandmother (whose childhood nickname had been The Blonde Rat), and flew to Hollywood to track the self-financed “Spark” sessions.
Then? Nothing but self-doubt, she says. “I ended up sitting on this record for over a year and a half, just trying to figure out a plan. I didn’t know if it would ever be heard.”
Finally, Baylin hired a new manager, found a gung-ho distribution company, and launched her own label, Blonde Rat, for her magnum opus.
So consider her karmic faith restored. “I tell myself now that everything happens for a reason,” she says. “And to keep trusting that every decision you’ve made that feels good to you will eventually see you through the process.”
IF YOU GO
Where: The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today
Tickets: $12 to $14
Contact: (415) 771-1421; www.ticketfly.com