When singer-songwriter Darren Jessee started work on Get Your Hand in My Hand, the new album from his band Hotel Lights, he was a very busy man indeed. Ben Folds Five – for whom Jessee has played drums and contributed songwriting since its inception in 1993 – had just released their 2012 album The Sound of the Life of the Mind, which debuted at #10 on the Billboard charts and soon sent them around the world on tour. Once home, Jessee finally found time to put the final touches on Get Your Hand in My Hand, only to then promptly leave to traverse the globe again, this time touring as a sideman for Sharon Van Etten in support of her acclaimed 2014 release Are We There.
"I was writing it between tours with Ben," Jessee says of Get Your Hand in My Hand, "and then recorded it after that tour was winding down. I still remember driving home through the mountains from mixing in Nashville, and waking up a few days later to begin rehearsals with Sharon."
By the time Get Your Hand in My Hand was completed, Jessee found that he'd compiled a collection of songs both sumptuous and intimate, lush and personal, and all of a unified mood – one evoking late nights in low lights – that finds Hotel Lights at its best.
As with the past Hotel Lights albums, Get Your Hand in My Hand bears the heavy imprint of Jessee's longtime collaborator, guitarist/engineer Alan Weatherhead (Sparklehorse, A Camp), with whom Jessee recorded the album in Richmond, VA.
A craft throwback of sorts, Get Your Hand in My Hand arrives as a complete album experience. Marked by quiet grace, a sense of restraint, and impeccable craft and performance, Jessee's songs consistently deliver understated but unshakable hooks with evocative and impressionistic lyrics. From the louche bossa nova-tinged opener "Lens Flare" to the quietly anthemic "We're Really Gonna Do It" (whose chorus supplies the album its name), the songs collected here reveal themselves both immediately and slowly, layers of lyric and melody unfurling and sinking their hooks into you according to some magical slow-release delivery system. Also included is a cover of Nikki Sudden's little-known gem "Ambulance Station," originally from The Jacobites' lost masterpiece Robespierre's Velvet Basement.
Consistently just outside the spotlight as songwriter, Jessee's songs have long been treasured by critics, as well as millions of listeners – whether they've known he was the author or not. Some of Ben Folds Five's biggest hits, including their ubiquitous smash “Brick,” the tender ballad “Magic” from The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, and "Sky High" from The Sound of the Life of the Mind (also included on Get Your Hand in My Hand as a Hotel Lights arrangement), were written by Jessee in whole or part. And Hotel Lights' first three albums – Hotel Lights (Bar/None 2006), Firecracker People (Bar/None 2008), and Girl Graffiti (Bar/None 2011) – each received great critical acclaim and saw their songs placed in a variety of popular films, TV programs, and international advertising campaigns.
Hotel Lights will play a limited number of dates in support of Get Your Hand in My Hand throughout 2016. Performance details updated at hotellights.net. Joe Costa mixed the album in Nashville. A native of North Carolina, Jessee now lives in Brooklyn. He formed Hotel Lights in 2003.
“… when you see hotel lights in the distance you feel like ‘yeah, I’m almost there’, but when you stand in the bathroom and turn on the hotel lights, they are fluorescent and you see every scar.” - Darren Jessee
Fans of Darren Jessee – singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and former Ben Folds Five drummer – have long been wondering when he would officially release the debut disc of his new band, Hotel Lights. It had previously been available only as a very limited self-release, one that generated a serious interest and prompted lots of internet chatter about when the album might actually show up at the local bricks-and-mortar record store. It’s easy to see what everyone was getting excited about: this self-titled debut is a collection of elegantly arranged, folk-tinged pop that will appeal to fans of the Shins, Yo La Tengo, Sufjan Stevens and, of course, Ben Folds. (Darren co-wrote such BF5 classics as the beautifully melancholy “Brick” and “Song For the Dumped.”)
Accompanying Darren on the Hotel Lights album are former Archers of Loaf drummer Mark Price, bassist Roger Gupton and keyboardist-guitarist Chris Badger. They recorded the album at Sound of Music in Virginia, with guitarist and producer Alan Weatherhead (Sparklehorse), who now plays with the band. Adam Scheslinger from Fountains of Wayne helped out with some of the arrangements. Among the stand-out tracks are Darren’s wistful tribute to the pop radio classics of the seventies, “A.M. Slow Golden Hit” and the harder-rocking, organ-driven “Marvelous Truth.”
The music is richly layered with melodious keyboards, crisp guitars and soft pianos. Hotel Lights play with authority and confidence, creating their own brand of timeless pop. Jessee's vocals are as distinct and endearing as the songs themselves. And his lyrics set him apart from his peers, with an honest, storytelling that repeatedly touches upon the holy trinity of great pop records: love, loss, and starting over.