Road Tracks
- Fanzine -
Americana - Garage - Stoner Rock and more
Tom Jessen
by IndyPendent Promotions
Frank Wienand
Q: Hope these answers to your questions are clear and articulate. Here goes...

Tom, there's not a lot know, about you! Please introduce yourself, something about your person, about your past, and what are doin' now !

A: I am now living in Iowa City, a small-ish city in the midwest of the country. I grew up in an even smaller town called Strawberry Point (about 1400 people)... i will go into this a bit more in a later question. I moved to Iowa City in 1987 to QO to art school and have lived there off and on for about ten years. After college i felt very disillusioned with everything and moved around quite a bit trying to find something important and meaningful. I moved to the west coast of the United States to Portland, Oregon. I had been in bands in college but really felt like began to hone my songwriting skills there. Many of the songs that wound up on Redemption were from this period (1989-1993). Many of them were about me looking back on my life before in Iowa and trying to make sense of my life at the time.. .which was, generally speaking, frought with a profound peril. After a few years i returned to Iowa City, put together a band, and recorded what was to become Redemption in 1995. I have had other bouts of restelessness over the years, living elsewhere and eventually coming back to Iowa City.. questioning my life as a musician (never quite sure about the ultimate importance of it all.) I moved around a bunch, at one point spending a year and a half in seminary school, thinking that i was being called to the priesthood. That itself is a long story... but suffice to say i am back in Iowa City putting together another group and hopefully recording another record soon.

Q: The album becomes very popular in Germany. What's your first idea, thinking of Germany?

A: I am rather embarrassed to say that i don't know much about Germany (as most dumb Americans are only concerned with themselves). Most of my experience comes from studying German Artists from school... Sigmar Polke, richter, beuys, kiefer etc. I suppose in my mind there is always something incredibly gothic about Germany... i have no idea if this is accurate or not. I once changed planes in Bern. That was the only time i set foot in Germany.

Q: Most of the songs are about travelling by car and drivin' on the highway. Can you explain, what's the secret behind this typical american myth?

A: I said earlier that i grew up in Stawberry Point, a little town out in the middle of nowhere in Northeast Iowa. A lot of farm communities and other little towns around. To get anywhere, say, to school (which was out in the country) or to a movie (we didn't have a movie theatre in our town) you were forced to drive. Much of your time was spent in the car getting from one place to another. I suppose that is why there are many references to cars and traveling on Redemption. Also, the whole notion of movement and searching, of driving around, was very accurate and pertinent with what was happening with me in my life. Perhaps the American myth is something like this. In the center of the country (where i live in the midwest) there are a lot of wide open spaces. The country being as large as it is lends itself to traveling if one needs or wants to get from one place to another. Kerouac made "the search" romantic suppose... especially making this notion of driving a metaphor for searching for Truth, for oneself, across any kind of landscape. He just happened to be in America. I suppose the whole history of the pioneers sailing across the Atlantic, searching for a new way of life and then later, moving across the country itself is embedded in the foundation of the American myth.

Photo by Sandy Dyas


Trailer Records

Q: Some say, that writing the songs and driving around helped you, to come out of a personal crisis. Is that right?

A: Absolutely. There was a period there, as i said, where i was moving around quite a bit, searching for something. it took on the form of physical movement, moving to different cities. I remember thinking the driving experience very soothing and calming because you didn't have to stop and see how things really are in these different places that you passed by. Everything was just going by. The song "Sanctuary" was really about that kind of feeling, that the car was a kind of sanctuary where one could escape to. As it was i realized that it didn't really matter where you would go, things were just as shitty on the west coast as they were in the midwest. Simply moving around wouldn't solve anything. The change needed to come from within.

Q: I think, there's no other country, that produce such a lot of songwriters, who wrote very personal, depressiv and melancholic songs. Is that a part of the american soul?

A: I tend to think that it is actually a product of Americans having everything they want materially. Perhaps there is something inside the one's who are awake to this, that money, cars, big houses, fancy clothes aren't really what matters. The American way of life seems so dependent upon status and money, that anything inconsistent with this is almost considered "wrong". Consequently, people are overwhelmed by this and see no way out. I think artists in this country are perhaps able to "see" deeper into what is actually going on. Most americans don't see this or aren't aware of this and go on living their lives as if everything were rosey. Maybe the songwriters in this country are plugging into something different... noticing that the United States as a country has everything they could possible want in terms ot material gooas, anci yet, psycnially It affects them to the core of their soul.. their soul telling them that this money thing is not the answer to how they should be living as human beings.

Q: Some of the songs reminds me on Bruce Springsteen early works. Was "born to run", his classial road movie album, an influence for your writing?

A: I am a bit embarrassed by how much i felt like was copying Springsteen on some of those songs on Redemption. I was really listening not only to the music, but more importantly, to the sheer freedom he had in his lyric structure on those early records. All those crazy rhymes in "blinded by the light," or "Does this bus go to 82nd street" It seemed like he was really having fun with words, discovering he could do anything with them. There was a real freedom there. I felt that way at one point. I still love those first three records and think they are his best.

Q: The music is very multifavious, but mostly rooted in country music. Do you choosed that style, because it helps you to transport the songs at best or is that the music, you growed up and live with?

A: At one point in time in college we were all getting heavily into country music and associating our identity as Iowans, as midwesterners with this kind of music. I have always like this idea about a certain kind of music having a particular regionalism to it geographically, like New Orleans music, or Tex-Mex, or bluegrass coming from a particular region in the U.S. I seemed to identify with COuntry music at the time because it communicated something about what it is like around here, about this environment, and how people are. THat whole idea about identifying with one's environment became very important to me once returned to Iowa after living on the west coast.

Q: The songs are three years old. Was album only a single project or do you try to record more stuff? 

A: I have a lot of songs that are still "in the closet" as it were, maybe two records worth. Hopefully i will be able to record them soon.

Thanks Tom, for anwering the questions!

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