“It’s pretty dangerous out here,” Jesse Dayton says, calling from his home in Texas, where coronavirus infections are surging. Dayton lives in Austin, and he’s been doing his best to lay low, venturing out only for solo workouts and Harley rides — he wears a mask underneath his helmet.
But the singer-guitarist knows the importance of escaping 2020’s seemingly endless loop of bad news. Social gatherings are out of the question (or should be), so Dayton re-creates a bayou party on the new EP Gulf Coast Sessions, out Friday.
“This seemed like a good time to lighten the mood a little bit. It’s also something you can dance around to in your house. It’s kind of hard not to smile during a zydeco song,” says Dayton, who was raised along I-10, the interstate connector that links his native Beaumont, Texas, to the Gulf Coast. “It’s like a little love letter to a small stretch of I-10: Gulf Coast blues, rhythm & blues, country, and zydeco. I grew up around all that stuff.”
Originally recorded in 2016 as a jam session on the porch of a now-defunct vintage clothing store in Austin, Dayton revisited the project while quarantining. He and his label, Blue Élan Records, liked what they heard and decided to release it as a holdover between albums. (His last LP of original songs was 2018’s The Outsider; he released the covers project Mixtape Vol. 1 last year.) Dayton plays every instrument on the eight-track EP, except for fiddle and accordion. On Wednesday, he’s premiering a video of himself playing the track “Lo-Fi Lover” as one-man-band.
Dayton says the title came from a night of shooting the shit behind a club with two old men in Lafayette, Louisiana. “They were not really security for the club. They were just watching the parking lot. And this guy named Felton, he goes, ‘Yeah, man, I got that low-fi stereo in my car because I’m a lo-fi lover.’ I thought, ‘That’s a song.’”
Along with the Gulf Coast Sessions, which will be released on CD and pink vinyl, the songwriter, guitarist and filmmaker just finished work on a book and is writing for a new album — all things he can do within the confines of his home.
“Normally during something like this, I would be partying my ass off,” he says. Instead, he’s been throwing a vicarious party via his EP, reminiscing about the music he listened to while tying one on in the roadhouses along I-10. “It’s a big nod to nerdy Gulf Coast records that I love.”