"I kind of look like a dweeb in it. My California license was really cool and I'm kinda upset about this one," she says from the home in Nashville that she shares with her fiancée Nathan Followill, the drummer for Kings of Leon.
The new license and its accompanying dweeby photo has hardly been the only change for the 24-year-old Baylin over the past year. During 2008, Baylin saw her disc, Firesight, become one of the most well received singer-songwriter albums of the year, played at Bonnaroo, and made a name for herself on the pop music landscape. With a soulful sound laced with folk and rock flavors, Baylin has earned spots on several high-profile tours, including her opening gig for Marc Broussard that brings her to the Tower Theatre on Tuesday night.
Baylin, like several of her contemporaries, partly owes her start to L.A.'s Hotel Café, a Hollywood venue that the Los Angeles Times called "ground zero for singer-songwriters." She likens the joint to the Troubadour in the late '60s and early '70s and is, like many in her circle, surprised by the venue's sudden rise in stature.
"I remember when it was like B.Y.O.B. there. You could bring in a bucket of beers," she recalls. The venue now sponsors the Hotel Café tour, which Baylin has previously been a part of, that showcases artists that have regularly appeared on the Café's stage. While this trek with Broussard is her sixth tour of the U.S., the road's mystique has yet to wear off. She says she's always excited to check out new towns and is especially pumped to come to Bend, having already learned from a friend about some weird school that's been turned into a massive bar complex - by which, of course, she means McMenamins Old St. Francis School.
"I always make a to-do list of things I want to do when I'm in a town. It's so easy to stay in your hotel room. But usually I try to get out there and go to a museum or go on a hike or something like that," Baylin says.
She also adds that she's not a bad golfer either, and says she was hoping to get on the course during the California leg of the tour.
"I just like anything where you can't think about anything else while you're doing it. With golf, you're not thinking about anything other than hitting that damn little white ball," she says.
The melodic numbers on which Baylin has hung her reputation over the past few years tend to rely on her life experiences and reflect upon her day-to-day observations. This works well, especially for someone like Baylin, a devastatingly good-looking blonde with some good stories to tell, including - but hardly limited to - a tale of heading to Palm Desert not long after she moved to L.A.
"I met a guy with one eye and I said hi to him and he said, 'Do you think I could spell Mississippi with one I?' He was about six foot seven and he had this giant t-shirt that hung down almost to his knees and it said, 'I'm big. You're small. Have a nice day,'" Baylin recounts through a stream of laughter.
On the afternoon we spoke, Baylin had been writing music at home for the past six or so hours, crafting material for her next album. She hopes to continue creating what she describes as "beautiful soaring melodies" on this project, but doesn't quite yet have a handle on how she'll ultimately sculpt the record as a whole. With such a whirlwind year behind her and likely an equally fast-paced 2009 ahead, it's understandable that Baylin is still molding her ideas for her next album.
"It's hard to have a perspective. When you put out a record you never think to yourself that this would be enough, but that used to be your goal - to just put out a record. Then you actually have a record out there and there's suddenly a whole new set of goals," Baylin says.
Marc Broussard, Jessie Baylin, Josh Hoge
7pm Tuesday, January 20. Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St. 317-0700. $40, $26, $19. Tickets at towertheatre.org or at the Tower box office.