Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chasing after desire - jessie torrisi

Chasing after desire

Austin indie musician Jessie Torrisi comes to Cafe Acoustic

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Jessie Torrisi lives the ongoing theme of her music.
It’s what has taken her from her childhood home of Philadelphia to New York City, and then to Cameroon, and then to Brazil, and then to New Orleans, before finally settling on a home in Austin, Texas.
“I think that common theme is chasing after desire, and believing that it’s worth the chase,” Torrisi says. “It’s that fire that tells you to go for it. That losing is better than staying out of the game.”
More than anything, Torrisi strives to be a great musician — and a well-traveled, educated one at that. She has been greatly influenced by songwriters like Bob Dylan and Otis Redding as well as contemporary female artists Regina Spektor and Feist. She has played drums for about a dozen New York bands. She has immersed herself in the vibrant street music of Africa. She has studied the complex rhythms and jazzy chord structures of Brazilian music. Now, the former drummer is the frontwoman of her own group and she’s touring the Midwest for the first time.
Torrisi will stop by St. Joseph on June 23 for an 8 p.m. performance at Cafe Acoustic.
Torrisi has been a darling of several indie music blogs for the last couple of years. Her self-released 2009 album “brûler brûler” (which translates to “Burn Burn” in French) turned a few heads as listeners were immediately drawn to Torrisi’s devilish charm and folk/pop tales of unrequited love. She was also heralded for her smoky but gorgeous speakeasy vocals, which many compared to Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders.
Torrisi says she has heard a lot of comparisons to Lucinda Williams, not only as a singer, but also as a songwriter. After all, both women know their way around a torch song. Torrisi’s songs “Breeze in Carolina” and “So Many Miles” robustly paint portraits of women longing after someone they can’t have.
Torrisi says she wrote the songs of “brûler brûler” shortly after her move from New York to Austin. She says the country twang of the record came from living in the Lonestar State, but the heartbreak came from the Big Apple, and it still resides with her today.
“When I wrote that album, I was coming out of the dating scene in New York City, which is like a cocktail lounge mixed with a war zone,” Torrisi says. “And even though I’m in a relationship now, I still feel like I kind of need to be the cheerleader of the Lonely Hearts Club.”
She does say, however, that some of those scars have faded. She has moved on to writing about other subjects, like people who sleepwalk through life, why it’s keeping your head up, and different types of unresolved tension. Torrisi’s lyrics and sultry delivery mesh well with her organic pop sounds — anchored by the acoustic guitar and her diverse drum styles.
“What I do have is something that sounds very real to people,” Torrisi says. “I’m the only ‘me’ there ever was.”
There’s no doubt about that. Not only does Torrisi’s music have many unique qualities, but she’s also a one-of-a-kind performer. Many musical artists claim they get the crowd involved, but Torrisi literally does. We won’t spoil the surprise, but we will tell you that kazoos are involved.
Torrisi is actually working on organizing a Guinness World Record-breaking kazoo sit-in in November, among many other projects. Those include a new album and a music video in support of LIVESTRONG: The Lance Armstrong Foundation.
The tour is her focus in the meantime. Following her gig at Cafe Acoustic, Torrisi will be playing shows at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence, Kan., and the Czar Bar in Kansas City on June 26 and 27. For more information about the Cafe Acoustic show, call 671-1141.

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