When Jesse McCartney released his third and latest album “Departure” back in May 2008, he wanted to prove that - like any 21-year-old – he was no longer a kid.
It was an attempt by the upstate New York-born artist to shed the boy-band stint and Radio Disney image of the past, and head towards a more sophisticated and savvy urban-pop image for the future.
Now almost a year later, McCartney has yet to prove his new look – but he’s not about to give up.
McCartney has decided to put forth a re-released version of the record titled “Departure Recharged,” due out on April 7, which features five new tracks.
“My goal for this is to really push it over the edge,” McCartney tells andPOP. “For the people who haven’t heard it yet, I wanna give them another chance to buy it, and for the fans who already have it, well now they have five new additional songs that they’ve never heard before. I’m really confident in the new singles, including ‘Leavin’ Part 2,’ which would be a great song for the summer.”
Highlighting the re-release is a tight duet with rapper Ludacris in a “How Do You Sleep?” remix – something that McCartney acknowledges is the most exciting addition to “Recharged.”
“My producer Sean Garrett played the original song to him, and Luda really liked it,” explains McCartney. “And he loved the idea to do a little feature on the record. So when Garrett called me and said ‘I have Ludcaris in the studio right now and he wants to get on board the record,’ I was ecstatic. I’ve grown up as a huge fan of Ludacris, he’s one of my favorite rappers.”
“A few week later, after the phone call, we were shooting the video. It went really well, lots of special effects, a really fun experience.”
In “Departure,” McCartney hops on the Justin Timberlake express towards a seat in the big leagues: following in the footsteps of a “100% concentrated” teenage pop-star turned sharp-edged pop performer with a splash of R&B.
“To me, the last few records were a bit Pop/Rock, but this record was definitely heading towards more of an R&B feel,” says McCartney. “It’s a little bit more of a rhythmic style, and that’s where I’m most comfortable musically, and what I’ve always enjoyed. I guess one of the main differences in this album is that the songs for this record have all been written on a piano- opposed to the guitar,- and also a keyboard where I just basically messed around with old vintage synthesizers. That really helped me establish a sort of R&B tone.”
And what better way to head down a new path, than to have Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson as a template for inspiration? McCartney said that he was listening to a lot of the ’80s’ and ’90s’ heroes before he began making the album, hoping for something along the lines of Prince’s chord changes, Michael Jackson’s melodies and the popularity of Madonna.
Not too bad for role models, huh?
“The records from those guys were kinda what I wanted a hint of on this album,” says McCartney. “Stuff from the late ’80s and early ’90s, very epic sounding melodies and chords. If you listen to the album in its entirety, you can hear a little overtone of that.”
The record also emits an autobiographical feel to it, which McCartney says is based upon the relationships that he’s been in and out of over the past few years.
“A lot of writing I do is based on personal experience,” says McCartney. “If you listen to the album, you can kinda get the perspective of a 22-year-old who’s kinda lived a pretty long life already. I’ve done a lot of traveling, met a lot of people, and that makes for great song writing. And I was in a really long relationship for a while, which was kinda my first big experience, so yeah, it’s been great for writing music.”
Not too be overlooked is the album’s “crème de la crème” cast in production. The record boasts an A-list set of producers including Garrett (Usher and Beyoncé) and Grammy Award Winner “Tricky” Stewart (Rihanna and Mariah Carey). McCartney admits that it was like a “dream come true having all those pieces fall into place.”
“I was almost shocked that they were down to work with me. When I made this shopping list of producers, to sort of crystalize the sound and get it where I needed it to be, I was pushing the album and my expectations were high, and I wanted to work with the best. And I think to some degree, it took a bit of convincing on my part to really get them on board.”
And it’s that stellar support which helped create the album’s first song “Leavin,’” which grabbed the No.1 spot on American Top 40 for six weeks in a row during summer 2008. It’s the single which propelled the record to stardom like a V12 engine, and remains to be McCarntey’s most popular song to date.
Funny, considering that releasing the song was Jesse’s scariest moment in the whole process.
“It was kinda like a do-or-die moment for me,” recalls McCartney. “It was the album’s first song, and the first taste of my new music, so it was either this is gonna work, or not. I think the biggest challenge was convincing the people around me, including my fans, that this was gonna work out.
“The whole time I was creating the record, I was really just slowly piecing it all together, and it took a while. So when the single ended up doing really well, I think it was because it was just honest, and was the bridge between transitioning from my music before and the new direction that I’m heading in now. But that was a scary time for me.”
But McCartney survived the deep breath. And after promoting the album the first time around last summer – co-headlining a tour with 2007 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks – McCartney is eager to bring out “Recharged” on the road this summer.
“We had a great time on the first tour for the original album,” reflects McCartney. “Not only is she an amazing vocalist, but she’s also one of the nicest people I know.
“But I definitely hope to tour again this summer to promote the re-released record. I’m not sure if I’m gonna headline, or open or co-headline again with Sparks, but we’re in the middle of figuring that out now.”