Jesse David Weeks is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter who also happens to be a police officer. The title track of his debut release, ?Somewhere in the Distance,? co-written by Paul Burns, won the Grand Prize in the 2010 Astral Media Radio Star National Songwriting Competition. His father, Gary Weeks, toured with the Stampeders as part of Gary & Dave (?Could You Ever Love Me Again?). Recently, Jesse talked to The Voice about music, religion, and writing songs in his head while driving.
Raps, Beats, Lyrics
I started writing rap lyrics when I was about twelve. Others provided the beats and music. Once I broke away from rap and started writing pop material, I then had the added factor of creating a melody. Shortly after . . . I learned how to play guitar so I could write my own original lyrics, melody, and music.
Melody is the most interesting factor of the three; a good melody comes with much trial, error, and tweaking by singing or humming random tunes until something seems right for the specific idea. Once I have something that I think works, I hum or sing it into a digital voice recorder so I don’t forget it.
I was born in Toronto and lived in Greektown until age four, when my family moved to Ireland. My parents were missionaries at the time. I lived in Cork and Limerick in Ireland until returning to Canada at age eleven. I went to high school in Markham, a suburb of Toronto, and lived there until age 22, when I moved to downtown Toronto, where I currently reside.
I am the middle of three boys. Although my parents were missionaries during most of my childhood, they had so many other life experiences that rubbed off on me. My dad would often incorporate his gifts of music into his Bible teaching by singing Christian songs that complemented his message. My mom was once a flight attendant and often shared her love of travel, which has also rubbed off. (I’m writing this email on a plane from Macau, China to Tokyo, Japan.)
I would also add that I have travelled all over the world and Jasper, Alberta is my favourite place . . . I love it there. If I develop any kind of following in Alberta, I will be quick to set up some shows there and include a vacation to Jasper.
What conditions do you need in your life in order to be creative?
I find I am most creative, specifically with melodies, while driving alone on a highway. I write the best lyrics and music at home, usually. However, I have written parts of songs on planes, during downtime in a police car, co-writing with other writers, and many other places, I’m sure. I have many scraps of paper and napkins from jotting down lyric ideas from over the years.
Are there any books, albums, or films that have been landmarks in your creative development, i.e. have inspired your own development and work?
My earliest influences are Phil Collins, Michael Jackson, Queen, and a myriad of oldies from the 60s and 70s. A specific album, But Seriously by Phil Collins, is the only album that really stands out, but there were many singles that shaped me. I was also very influenced by a few years in the 90s, when hip hop artists began including melodic hooks and female singers in their songs. I really enjoyed the blend of sounds that began the trend we now see manifested in such artists as Chris Brown, Taio Cruz, Black Eyed Peas, and Beyoncé. I enjoy pop music that has structured, rhythmic, lyrical phrasing. I think that has to do with my rap background.
Does your social conscience affect your work in any way?
My social conscience greatly affects my work. I’d say at least 25 per cent of my songs are spawned from my social consciousness. ?Bloodshed In Our Streets,? ?Year of The Gun,? ?We Wanna Be Free,? and recently, ?World Peace? and ?Rockets Rain,? are examples.
Has life as a musician/composer had any impact on your social conscience? Have your eyes been opened to things you hadn’t noticed before?
This is the toughest question. If anything, I try to stop myself from falling prey to my own biases and prejudices. Being an artist and understanding the value of art gives me incentive to be a part of any movement that seeks a better climate for artists. For example, I am opposed to the CRTC desire to reduce the amount of CanCon [that] radio is required to air (this is ludicrous). I think Canada’s copyright laws in relation to digital file sharing and monetizing models need to be updated. I think there should be more transparency and less biased decision-making within music funding organizations.
As for religious views, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My faith has always been a big part of my life and I desire to stay active in my spiritual zeal. While I am by no means a preacher like my dad, I do greatly enjoy discussing religion with people who, like me, have a genuine interest in gaining a deeper understanding of life’s big questions.