23-year-old, Philly-bred singer-songwriter Jesse Ruben freely confides that he’s done a bit of “obsessing” over his second album, The Ones That Matter.
Not that such anxiety is evident on the highly accomplished disc, the follow-up to Ruben’s self-released 2008 debut, Aiming for Honesty. Adding full-band accompaniment to his lush, soulful pop-rock, Ruben also stretches impressively as a writer on The Ones That Matter, achieving a near-novelistic sense of character and setting on finely hewn tracks like “A Lack of Armor,” “Bleeker and Sixth,” and “Unbreakable.” His relentless attention to detail pays off handsomely.
He makes no apology for meticulously fine-tuning all aspects of his work and presentation. “Every time you create something you have an opportunity to say something new – or at least something honest,” he says. “I take that opportunity seriously.”
Recorded during a record-breaking snowstorm in Charlottesville, Virginia – where producer Chris Keup (Jason Mraz, OAR, Parachute) and partner Stewart Myers (Mraz, Lifehouse, Rachel Yamagata, Mandy Moore) have their studio – the disc afforded Ruben a chance to fully appreciate the devotion of his pals. “I had some of my best friends in the world come down to help me finish the record,” he relates. Other players on the disc include drummer Brian Jones (Mraz, Yamagata, Moore); and keyboardist Daniel Clark (Ryan Adams, kd lang, Moore). Meyers handled bass on several tracks.
The profound gratitude Ruben felt upon finishing the album snowballed in the coming days. “I wanted the title of this record to express my thanks to everyone who mattered – not just my friends who worked on the record, but their friends. The people who gave me a couch to crash on, made me dinner, drove me to the train station. Everyone who came to my shows, and walked up to tell me what the songs meant to them. I’m thanking them all with this record.”
“I’m staying out of New York for a while,” Ruben sings in “A Lack of Armor,” although that self-imposed exile may soon be coming to an end, as the singer-songwriter plans a move to the Empire State from his temporary base in Nashville. But for the time being, Ruben’s true home is the road – where he’ll no doubt continue to touch lives, have offbeat adventures and add new names to the ever-growing list of The Ones That Matter.