“The record is called Departure for a number of reasons,” says Jesse McCartney, whose multi-platinum 2004 debut album Beautiful Soul launched his career as an international singing star. “There have been departures in my career, in my personal life. I’ve learned a lot since doing my first couple of records. I think I’ve landed in the most comfortable place I’ve ever been musically as the style of music, my vocals and the lyrical content of the songs on this album. I co-wrote several songs on the new album, and learned a lot from the producers I worked with. In the process of writing for my own project, I wound up writing “Bleeding Love” with Ryan Tedder for Leona Lewis. Departure has a little more of mature sound than what my fans previously heard from me but this is the road that I’m on right now and it’s the road that I believe they’ll join with me!”
With star writers and hit making producers such as Sean Garrett (Usher, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce, Gwen Stefani, Pussycat Dolls, Chris Brown), Tricky & The-Dream (Rihanna, Mariah Carey), J.R. Rotem (Britney Spears, Sean Kingston, 50 Cent, Rihanna) and The Clutch (Omarion, Timbaland, Ciara, Bobby Valentino), Departure has an edgier pop/urban sound than Beautiful Soul and Jesse’s sophomore album, 2006’s Right Where You Want Me reflecting Jesse’s growth as a songwriter and young man. “When it was time to do my third album, I wanted people to see another side of me. I wanted the record to have a little retro hint sonically but with a my own contemporary feel – I listened to the music of Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince a lot before we started the album. I knew I had to present myself in a fresh way so I was open to other people’s ideas and suggestions, especially since I was working with such great writers and producers.”
As the co-writer of many of the album’s songs, Jesse chose to share the experiences he’s had since Beautiful Soul made him a household name throughout the U.S. and in a dozen or more countries, from Italy to Japan. “I recorded my first solo album when I was 16. A lot has happened since then and this new album reflects my experiences growing up over the past couple of years and various stages of family and personal relationships. I bought my first home. I’ve been fortunate enough to tour all over the world which meant being away from my family and friends for very lengthy times. I’ve experienced all the ups and downs of relationships people my age go through. That’s why I think fans who’ve grown up with me will relate to the songs on Departure, many of which do have an autobiographical feel.”
A prime example, the standout cut “It’s Over” which Jesse says “represents the reality when you know a relationship is not going to continue.” The edgy jam “How Do You Sleep?” was inspired by a conversation Jesse had with writer/producer Sean Garrett during sessions with the hitmaker in Atlanta about “moving on from your first true love.”
On a completely different tip, “Into Ya” – another collaboration with Garrett – is “a sexy, intimate, sensual, romantic kind of song.” In contrast, the hard and funky track “Freaky” (produced by Madd Scientist) shows Jesse in a whole other light, a dance-flavored uptempo cut that Jesse laughs is “about whatever you think it’s about!” “Rock You” which features a performance by Sean Garrett, a cut that Jesse says was “a stretch for me. I heard the track and I was like, ‘that’s fire!’ I can’t wait to perform it live. I hope when my fans see how much I embrace this different side of me musically, their ears will adjust!”
The album’s first single, the instantly memorable pop/R&B-flavored “Leavin’” (produced by Tricky and The-Dream, the team behind Rihanna’s 2008 Grammy award winning hit “Umbrella”) is one of the few songs on Departure that is not autobiographical, Jesse says, while “My Baby” (produced by J.R. Rotem) comes directly from one of Jesse’s relationships: “I wrote that about the ‘puppy love’ stage I went through when I first got together with an ex-girlfriend. Wherever we went, whatever we did, all eyes were on her – she was that girl! It was cool, I didn’t worry about it because I knew at the end of the evening, she was mine. She knew how much I cared about her….we were just super tight.”
Produced by New York-producer Eric Hudson (who Jesse describes as “a young Quincy Jones”), “Told You So” is a mid-tempo cut that Jesse says is “more about situations that my friends have told me they’ve been in after a relationship is over. You know, when I’m sitting around with the guys, we talk about things we’ve been through. Same thing with “Runnin,’” which is something guys go through sometimes when a girl gets really intense and tries to push a relationship to the next level. Guys get scared, you know! Our guard comes up…we’re scared of maybe getting our hearts broken.”
With his third Hollywood Records album, upstate New York-born Jesse McCartney is building on a foundation that began when he first started performing at local community musicals at the age of seven, making his Broadway debut in “The King and I” when he was ten and later appearing with The Who’s Roger Daltrey in “A Christmas Carol.” In 1997, Jesse joined kid group Sugar Beats as a vocalist, earning a Grammy nomination for “Best Children’s Album” for their 1998 release How Sweet It Is. He then joined the band Dream Street where, at the age of twelve, he was presented with his first platinum album.
At sixteen, Jesse launched his solo career, creating songs for his first record while performing on dozens of soundtracks. Released in 2004, Jesse’s debut album Beautiful Soul sold over 1.5 million copies, while the first single of the same name burned up the U.S. charts while topping the charts in Australia, Italy, the Phillippines and Taiwan, making “Jesse Mac” a household name in the teen world. Of his global appeal, Jesse notes, “It’s been surreal, going to countries where people know me, know my parents’ names, even know my pet’s name! I’ve loved all the places I’ve been but one of my favorites is Italy because it’s a very romantic country. And Japan is so futuristic. Traveling worldwide has definitely been a life changing learning experience. It’s interesting to learn about other cultures and meet people from different places.” Jesse performed to sold out crowds in Europe in 2005.
Jesse also racked up a number of awards and nominations including an American Music Award nomination for “Best New Artist,” an MTV Award nomination for “Best Pop Video” and three Teen Choice Awards, including “Choice Male Artist,” “Breakout Artist” and “Crossover Artist.”
Being on the road for eight straight months gave Jesse the impetus for his second album, Right Where You Want Me, released in 2006 which drew from Jesse’s life-long love of R&B artists like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Lauryn Hill while expressing a more rock-flavored side of his musicality. It was, he says, “a step forward from Beautiful Soul, to show some growth and maturity” and working with guitarist and musical director Dory Lobel, he co-wrote all but one of the songs on the album.
Expanding his professional horizons, Jesse appeared on the hit television show “Summerland” and in the filmed his first feature, “Keith.” In 2007, he was heard as the voice of Theodore in the box office smash, “Alvin & The Chipmunks,” an experience he says he thoroughly enjoyed. While working in the studio for his new album Departure, Jesse wound up writing songs for other artists: “Bleeding Love,” a powerhouse ballad co-written with Ryan Tedder (of the group OneRepublic) was picked by music industry veteran Clive Davis as a single for singer Leona Lewis, winner of Britain’s “X Factor” (the U.K. equivalent of “American Idol”), becoming one of 2007’s biggest hits in Britain. “It was very intense for me as a songwriter to have Clive pick one of my songs and then to have it be such a huge success. It has certainly encouraged me to write more for other artists.”
While establishing himself as a successful songwriter is certainly in Jesse’s future plans, his current focus is his latest album. “I spent over a year on Departure and I’m thrilled with how it turned out,” says Jesse, a self-confessed sports fan who enjoys football, baseball, snow-skiing and water-skiing when he’s not working. With songs like the infectious “Make Up” (“a song about natural beauty”), produced by Kwame; the upbeat “Relapse,” the story of a man hooked by a ‘hard-to-get’ woman (based, Jesse says with a smile, “on a personal experience when I was young and naïve!”); and the beautiful ballad, “Not Your Enemy,” a big production track that demonstrates Jesse’s vocal power and strength, Departure reveals Jesse has arrived with new confidence and maturity.
Jesse reflects, “The last five years have been a whirlwind: I feel like I’ve dealt with it well because I’ve had so much support, especially from my family with whom I’m very close. I can never take credit for all that’s happened in my career because I couldn’t have done it on my own – my fans all over the world have been so loyal over the years. Departure represents a new start for me, a new sound and this is a part of me the fans haven’t been exposed to yet… This music really is my passion and I’m ready to get out there and share it!”