Jesse Blake Rundle Comes Alive in Boise, City of ‘Trees’

Nine years is a long time to wait to put out an album.

Nine years is a long time to take a hiatus from playing music.

Nine years is a long time for a break from anything.

Jesse Blake Rundle is a folk musician as devoted to his craft as any you will find. His dedication may not be measured in terms of volume — he only just released his second album, Next Town’s Trees. But when it comes to testing his mettle, and creating the art he feels compelled to create, nothing can stand in Rundle’s way.

Born in Kansas and raised in Santa Fe, among other places, Rundle became obsessed with music composition at a young age. In 2006, he and a friend created an instrumental ambient album that integrated field recordings and found sounds. He had his eye on attending Berkeley and studying piano.

“Then I got injured in my sophomore year and couldn’t play piano anymore, and it just kind of devastated me,” Rundle told The Bad Penny earlier this month. “I ended up taking a nine-year break from music from about 2007 to 2016. I moved to Boise and was finally like, ‘OK, I’m going to try this again.’ I bought a guitar and was, like, ‘Oh my God, I need this so bad.’ ”

Working around the injury, which he prefers not to disclose, he laments those years he was unable to record — but has moved past them. “It gets better every year,” he added.

In April 2020, Rundle finally and properly embarked upon his career with Radishes and Flowers, his first official album. It featured him playing guitar, bass, piano, synths, organs and percussion along with a handful of friends who filled in with yet more instrumentation.

Remarkable of a debut as it was, that album based on the poetry of Wallace Stevens, what he delivered with his follow-up was as authentic a self-portrait as one could fathom.

Released last month, Rundle’s second effort, Next Town’s Trees, begs the question: Is it more difficult to bounce back from a nine-year dry spell from playing music — or making yourself more vulnerable to the public than you’ve ever done before? Whatever the case, the pre-eminently authentic Rundle’s has now conquered both challenges.

“I came out during the time that I was writing [Next Town’s Trees],” he disclosed. “I wasn’t totally out to everybody, but I knew that I wanted to write songs about this time [during which I told people.]”

Rundle’s compulsion to release those songs wasn’t so much because he wanted catharsis — which he did experience to a degree, he acknowledged. More importantly, he wants his solo work to serve as snapshots of critical moments in his life and his career as a musician.

“I look at art as capturing a moment in time, and a set of feelings and experiences,” Rundle imparted.

He added: “I felt it might be important for someone else to hear [my story] too,” if it relates to theirs.

Rundle points to a particular song, the bluntly titled “Yes, I’m Angry,” as an encapsulation of the pure, unfiltered emotions that he wants his music to immortalize. For all the talk about the pauses between the notes, for Rundle, he wants to freeze-frame those, and let them ring loud and clear, amplifying all the power they contain.

“It’s about me being angry in a couple of relationships,” he reflected about the song. “When I was writing it, I was tempted to bring [the conflicts] to a resolution — because I had arrived at [them]. But I wanted to stay in that spot that was in, in the past, and bring that past moment to life, and let it sit there as a record for myself and to let the audience engage in that moment.”

With Next Town’s Trees only a month old, Rundle wants to create two more videos for the record and occasionally perform, although he only does so rarely. Instead, he’s more focused on his Mixed Metaphor Studios, which is based in Boise, and entrenching himself more in the community where he’s lived for seven years.

“Music has always been my number one passion during all that time,” Rundle said with elation, as if unburdened by the emotional gravity of his first two records. “Now it just feels so great to be really, really back into it.”

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