After 10 years of full-time touring, with six mostly fan-funded albums and three EPs under his belt, Connecticut born singer/songwriter Jesse Terry’s seventh album, When We Wander (out May 14 on Wander Recordings), is the first he wrote since becoming a parent. So, it’s no surprise the family theme courses through many of its 12 songs. His music career has been a family project ever since he became a full-time touring artist a decade ago.
That was right around the time when Jesse met his wife Jess working on a cruise ship in the South Pacific. “As soon as we got back to the states, I proposed to her at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe in July 2010 and we packed up the car for the first tour right after that. We’ve been touring together full-time ever since.” Now with two-year-old Lily added to the clan, family is more important than ever to him, including the parental urge to love and protect.
The life of a touring family inspired the album’s title track. “When we wander, when we wander / Don’t it feel like we’re finally found.” But in the face of the pandemic, he has found that “wandering is not just a literal thing. We’ve followed our hearts with so many decisions in 2020-2021, and have found that there are many ways to wander and be free and brave.”
The stage had been Jesse’s home for a decade. He plays around 150 shows a year, from Bonnaroo to the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the 30A Songwriters Festival to AmericanaFest. When the pandemic canceled concerts and delayed the album’s release, he pivoted to performing online and found a strong new connection to his fans, who had helped fund his albums all along. “My musical tribe has always been there for me,” he says with gratitude.
This time of great uncertainty, he says, “has really taught me how to move forward and make use of every second.” The livestream concerts have “become the highlight of my week and the thing that sustains us emotionally and financially. And an amazing community has sprung up from these concerts.”
Recorded in 2019 in Nashville with producer Neilson Hubbard (Mary Gauthier, Glen Phillips), the songs off the new album have really clicked with fans online. He and his band recorded When We Wander live in the studio, a first for his career. “I wanted to try that Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Neil Young approach to live recording, prioritizing emotion and raw performances over perfection. I loved that experience.” Recorded live, the album resonates especially with the intimacy and community spirit of the online shows.
Ironically, 2021 may prove to be the most productive year of his career, with both a covers album and a holiday album coming hot on the heels of When We Wander.
And so, we circle back to appreciation and gratitude in the face of unexpected changes. “I don’t take a second of my career or my life for granted. I always continue to fight for it and to reach higher and strive to be a better artist and human being.” As he sings in “Pretty Good Hand” off the new album: “I don’t know if I’ll ever ride in no fancy limousine, but…I got somebody who understands, And that’s a pretty good hand.”