Best of 2014: How Tobias Jesso Jr. won the heart of Hollywood

A step-by-step guide to the LA songwriter’s breakthrough.

Tobias Jesso Jr. features at #79 in The List 2014, DIY’s round-up of the artists who defined the past year through albums, unforgettable shows and the unexpected.

“I don’t know if I could make it / I think I’m gonna try in Hollywood,” rings the bridge of Los Angeles-based songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr.’s heartbreaking song for the hills. By all accounts, he looks set to be one of the year’s breakthrough solo names. It was never going to be easy, though. Here’s a timeline of the twenty-something’s journey to the top.

First love:

“I first came to LA when I was visiting a girl that I was interested in, when I was eighteen years old. That was the first time. It was an amazing experience!”

Second time unlucky:

“I got the opportunity to move down to LA to play as a bassist in a back-up band for a pop singer that no-one’s ever heard of. I took the opportunity, moved down and lived here for three and a half years. My dream in my head was I would go to LA, somebody would find me and say, ‘Play me a good song and show me what the melody will be and then I’ll write the lyrics’.”

Back home:

“I moved back to Vancouver to spend time with my Mom, who was sick. My sister had left her piano at home. I’d left all my guitars in LA. That’s really when I started. This is about two years ago now. ‘Just a Dream’ was the first time I wrote a song, sang a song I was proud of. I dove in and started playing all the time.”

Big break:

“I’d finished the ‘Just a Dream’ demo and a couple other songs. And I had Chet ‘JR’ White’s email in a bank from a blog that had put it up accidentally. It was just round the time Girls broke up. I was a big fan of Girls, a big reason being because of Christopher coming out as sort of an anti-singer. That really inspired me. So I emailed JR, said ‘Sorry to hear about the band. I’m a big fan of your production’. After that, just two hours after, he wrote back and said: ‘Please call this number’.”

Hello Hollywood:

“I have a tentative plan to live here until I figure out where I should be in my life. The record’s coming out and I’ll do a tour. It’s sort of like planning after that. I do have a place here and a great little community with friends. It’s a strange thing to have two separate lives going on. One is in LA, with a team and friends who know about my music. And then Vancouver, with the people I grew up with and never really shined for them at all.”

Stay up to date with DIY’s The List 2014 here. Tobias Jesso Jr. features at #79 - see numbers 80-71 here.

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