Many fans of the late ’60s hit “Get Together” by the Youngbloods may not know the name of the song’s lead singer, Jesse Colin Young. While “Get Together” remains today a staple at oldies rock radio, Young has made a name for himself while enjoying a lengthy career as a solo performer. Since the demise of the Youngbloods, Young has released a string of well-received albums featuring songs like “Ridgetop,” “Before You Came,” “Darkness Darkness” and “Motorcycle Blues.”
After taking a hiatus to deal with personal issues, Young is newly invigorated and enjoying a comeback of sorts that includes a string of live dates; that tour includes a Sept. 22 stop at Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, a venue that has hosted the beloved folk-rocker many times over the past four decades. We had a chance to chat by email with Young, who spoke about his time away from the music business, his thriving coffee farm, and previous visits to Celebrity Theatre. Jesse’s commentary below is given exclusively to AXS.com.
AXS: You went through some really rough times health-wise and at one point quit the music business altogether. Did you still pick up a guitar at home though, and what was it that brought you back to performing?
Jesse Colin Young: About seven years ago I quit touring. I just wasn’t having any fun. And I was undergoing treatment for chronic Lyme disease and the struggle to get well was taking all my energy and attention. But I never stopped playing. And when I wrote a new song I began to make acoustic videos in my music room and put them up on YouTube. There’s a series of them that I did with my dog called “The Couch Series with Labrador” or some such silly name. My dog just wanted to keep me company when I was singing so we made him a part of the performance.
Then in the spring of 2016 I went to my son Tristan’s senior recital at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and the band he put together just blew me away. And listening to them I decided I wanted a band full of young musicians to play my music one more time! So Tristan and I put a band together over the fall of 2016 and began performing in February of 2017. The response to the band has been incredible with our first 16 or 18 gigs sold out to the walls!
AXS: You’re currently working on new material for a 2018 release. Are fans hearing some of these songs on your current tour?
JCY: We have a half dozen new songs to record and we have just come back from Nashville where I think we will record our first record. The show has had at least six new songs in it and the audience response to my new music has been very strong. The plan is for me to write three or four more songs and then go to Nashville in March 2018 and tear it up in the studio.
AXS: This year is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love and you were not only there, but there with a big hit in the Youngbloods’ “Get Together,” one of the era’s most iconic songs. Was 1967 necessarily a bigger influence on your life that any other given year?
JCY: Yes, 1967 was a special turning point in my career. The Youngbloods fell in love with the Bay Area and thanks to airplay of “Get Together” that summer, we had a large audience. So we returned to NYC, finished Earth Music for RCA, and moved to Point Reyes Station about 35 miles north of San Francisco. This was a great adventure for us all.
AXS: What prompted you to get in the coffee business? Is it especially irksome now to be served a bad cup?
JCY: Our house on the ridgetop burned to the ground in the fall of ’95 and we decided to move our family to Hawaii to our little farm in Kona and concentrate on building a Waldorf school and growing coffee. It was a powerful place for us to heal from the fire. Our organic coffee is really something special and it’s hard for most coffee to measure up. But when you need to wake up on the road, any strong brown liquid will do.
AXS: You must be incredibly proud of your kids Jazzie and Tristan, who are also professional musicians. Was there a fine line for you, when their talent started to develop, between mentoring and letting them fly on their own?
JCY: Yes I am proud of Jazzie and Tristan and their musical accomplishments. Tristan was instrumental in bringing the right people forward when we were auditioning for the band and continues to manage communications with all the musicians who live in three different cities in the northeast. Jazzie has just released her first single called “Creature” on SoundCloud. My wife Connie made sure that they both studied piano and violin when they were young, and that laid a solid musical foundation for them to build on.
AXS: You have a show coming up at Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, a theater in the round where the stage rotates. Do you recall playing there back in the day?
JCY: I have fond memories of the Celebrity Theatre and some sketchy ones too. There was only one night in the whole six year touring run of the Song for Juli band when one of our players was too sick to perform and that was a show at the Celebrity Theatre when we had to use an unrehearsed drummer hired at the last second. I love the revolving stage. It gives us a chance to see all of the audience instead of just the first few rows.
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