Meet Adele’s New Collaborator, Tobias Jesso Jr.


This morning, Adele shared a live, in-studio version of “When We Were Young,” a song she wrote with Canadian singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. His first album just came out in March on Beggars Group’s True Panther label, but he’s already captured the attention of some influential fans. Here’s a quick primer on the shaggy-haired troubadour:

Who is he?

Tobias Jesso Jr. is a 6’7″ post-Beatles balladeer. He’s 29, but he exudes youthful innocence. He wishes he wrote Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

Where is he from?

Jesso hails from North Vancouver, British Columbia. His grandparents were friends with Philip Glass, and he inherited the legendary composer’s old piano. He wrote “When We Were Young” with Adele on it.

When did he start making music?

Jesso started his career in Los Angeles, playing bass in a pop-rock band called The Sessions, and then for a teen pop singer named Melissa Cavatti. After a few unfulfilling years, he got hit by a car on his bicycle, and watched the car drive off and a thief ride away on his bicycle. Following his mother’s cancer diagnosis, he put his stuff in storage and moved back home to Canada, defeated. He picked up work at a friend’s moving company. With all his gear back in storage in LA, he taught himself how to play the piano. One of the first songs he learned was “Someone Like You.” He emailed Chet “JR” White demos and condolences after learning that White’s band Girls had broken up, and an email turned into a phone call, which turned into a recording session in San Francisco. Goon is his debut album, and it was released earlier this year.

What’s it/he like?

Goon was produced by an all-star squad of musicians that started with White, who collaborated on eight songs. Patrick Carney (The Black Keys) worked on two, and John Collins (The New Pornographers) and Ariel Rechtshaid one each. Of their collaboration, which she initiated after hearing his song “Hollywood,” Adele said in a Guardian feature: “We met up in LA and I absolutely loved him; his vibe, his humor, the way he plays piano – so felt. The music he makes is romantic, with a ’70s vibe.”

Why should I care?

Great musicians tend to like his music. Plus, y’know, ADELE. He is also very tall and has lovely hair.

I like this, who else should I listen to?

Harry Nilsson, Todd Rundgren, Randy Newman, Father John Misty.