The Peabody Award-winning Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, from PRI and WNYC, is public radio’s smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy – so let Studio 360 steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will change your life.
March 10th, 2015
Episode 42 of 179 episodes
In 2012, a mostly-unknown musician in Los Angeles named Tobias Jesso Jr.got dumped. Shortly after, he washit by a car while riding his bike. He survived, the bike didn’t. The next day, while contemplating life’s cruel ways, he found out his mom had been diagnosed with cancer. He put his instruments in a storage unit and bought a plane ticket home to Vancouver to be with her. While there, he started writing songs at the piano. Practically the minute he put them out into the world, they got praised by the big musicblogs, Adele, and Jimmy Fallon: Tobias Jesso Jr.'sstory is made even more unlikely when you factor in that he was a musical novice.“My sister had a piano at my parents’ house,” he says. “When I got the impulse to write a song, I just sat at the piano and note-by-note figured it out.” This was a man who had never played more than “Chopsticks.” Nevertheless, the songwriterimmediately felt comfortable on piano. “It was a lot easier, because it was sort of a more linear type of understanding,” he says. “Bottom to top. Guitar never made much sense.” His first attempt proved he was a natural: After getting positive feedback from friends, Tobias sent “Just A Dream” and a few other rough demos to Chris “JR” White of the now-defunct San Francisco indie rock bandGirls. White immediately offered to work on an album. In the interim, the demos circulated online, drawing comparisons to John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, and a host of other 70s singer-songwriters Tobias never really listened to — he’s more of an Adele fan, which made thattweetall the sweeter. Tobias and White finished the album last year. Goon is out this month, and Tobias is touring Canada and the US to support it. It’s a victory lap he’s looking forward to, but there’s a chance his crippling performance anxiety will get in the way. “My singing voice goes away when I get nervous,” he says. “And I get nervous before I sing.”