Philadelphia native Jesse Ruben manages to differentiate himself from the sea of singer-songwriters with his visual storytelling approach. Still, there’s something comfortingly familiar about his brand of catchy folk, which brings to mind artists like Bob Dylan, Jack Johnson and John Mayer. We caught up with Jesse, who is currently on the road supporting his new EP “Thoughts I’ve Never Had Before, Part 1,” about his musical roots, what’s spinning in his tour van, and how bad his first song ever really was.
YRB: What inspired you to first pick up a guitar?
My father is a guitar player, so I’m sure that had a lot to do with it. I also took piano lessons as a little kid and hated it, so I tried switching instruments.
YRB: How did music school influence your work?
When I got to Berklee, I’d only been playing guitar for about a year. And then suddenly I was thrown into guitar classes with kids that had been playing their whole lives. It forced me to practice more and get better quicker. I definitely think the stuff I learned at school creeps up into my songs a lot, just in terms of some of my musical choices.
YRB: Do you remember the first song you wrote? What was it?
Oh man…it was called “Emma”. It was a song about a girl who didn’t like me. And it SUCKED.
YRB: What 3 artists would you put on your dream tour?
Ben Folds, Ray Lamontagne, Matt Nathanson
YRB: What is your favorite song that you’ve written?
I have a bunch, just depends on the situation. I think “Advice” is pretty strong lyrically, although right now, “We Can” is really fun to play because the message is different than anything else I’ve written, and the response has been great.
YRB: What are you currently listening to?
Whatever is playing in the tour van…Elliot Smith, Van Morrison, stuff like that. Also, there’s something so perfect about listening to Bob Dylan as you’re watching the middle of nowhere fly past you on the highway.
YRB:Who are some artists you’d like to collaborate with?
There are so many…any of my favorite writers (all 3 of the guys on my dream tour) but also a lot of the guys writing straight up pop stuff right now. I think there’s room in the pop world for stuff that pushes the boundary a little bit in terms of subject matter and lyric choices.
YRB: What are your touring plans for the year?
Finishing out this tour of the northeast/midwest then headed to the south for a few weeks in August. After that, I’m gonna release another EP in October, so I’ll probably do some type of CD Release Tour. It’s gonna be awesome.