Jesse Malin is no stranger to inward examination when it comes to creating his songs. He is also no stranger to ... well ... meeting a stranger through a bit of outward exploration that has consistently proven to be equally inspiring.
“I’m a fan of history and culture and being in-person,” Malin said. “I like walking the streets and connecting with people in a random way.”
Whether it was his early days in a band or his current career as a solo artist, Malin’s creative output, work ethic and passion to connect with fans and listeners has continued to sustain him over the long haul.
The native of Queens, N.Y., came up in the city’s hardcore punk scene, most notably as the frontman for punk rock group D Generation in the 1990s. After the band broke up, Malin continued to write songs with a different sound that reflected influences ranging from The Replacements and The Clash to Neil Young and Jim Croce. He initially performed under self-described “wacky names” like PCP Highway or Bellevue, but after befriending acclaimed singer-songwriter Ryan Adams, Adams took Malin on tour, where he found a mentor who made him realize his potential and find the gumption to step out on his own as an artist.
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“I felt like I was nervous. That was so adult. I always thought of being James Taylor and stuff like that. Mom’s music,” Malin said about going by his own name. “I realized it was just fear, so I had to conquer that.”
Malin soon found out he was scared over nothing based on the critical response to his debut 2002 album “The Fine Art of Self-Destruction” (which Ryan Adams produced), in which Malin weaves together his poetic lyrics and more vulnerable vocals about himself and the characters in the city that surrounds him with a snappy, surprising mix of alt-country, punk-tinged power pop and straight-up rock n’ roll. In the releases that followed, whether it was solo albums, EPs, an album of his favorite covers (2008’s “On Your Sleeve”) or 2010’s “Love It To Life” with a collection of musicians under the name Jesse Malin and the St. Marks Social, he was always intent on progress and evolution when it came to his sound.
“Every record, you kind of want to add some other ingredient,” he said. “I think it has to have somewhat of a connection to the other records and be connected to who you are.”
As the music industry itself has evolved, Malin’s hardcore roots and desire to deliver new material to fans has only been to his benefit. Take his latest EP, “Meet Me at the End of the World,” which Malin describes as a “fun in-between piece” that he wanted to turn into an album but couldn’t wait to get out to listeners to satisfy people’s hunger for new music. Over four tracks, Malin’s style bounces back and forth between some interesting places, whether it’s low-key acoustic numbers, the title track’s strutting, Stones-style rock or “Fox News Funk,” a crazy one-off that doubles as both a hip-shaking dance track and a social commentary.
While Malin’s songs and lyrics may acknowledge the occasional craziness and darkness of the world, he wants them to serve as a “propelling elixir” with an upbeat essence that reflects the artist’s outlook.
“Things just seem very, like, in your face. Bad things exist all the time, but in some ways, they just seem more close to home,” he said. “It’s just like you know you have to stay positive. You have to live every day like it’s your last.”
Malin is currently in his element traveling and playing his latest material. After a tour in England, he is making several stops on the way to performing a slot at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, which includes a show at Cosmic Charlie’s in Lexington on Friday. While Malin continues to make recordings for his own enjoyment and to sustain his career, he still values the person-to-person connection that the road provides him most of all.
“Records are some of the work that you did,” he said, “but the reward is getting to go out in front of people and be in the bright lights and sweat out the poison.”