In the last few years, Jake Walden has established himself as one of the most celebrated singer/songwriters on L.A.’s café circuit, playing regular gigs at the legendary Hotel Café and earning praise from critics at CMJ, InStyle, The Advocate, and others, as well as key placements on television networks ABC, CW, MTV and OWN. A northern California-raised child of hippies whose first inclination was to deny his sentimental roots, Jake’s need to connect with others eventually overruled his desire to rebel. With his heart stopping soulful velvet gravel voice, and gift for storytelling, music was the obvious vehicle.
For his first album, 2008’s Alive and Screaming, Jake found his voice in heartbreak: A year spent in near-solitude with little more than a rented piano and his thoughts. Intensely personal songs reflected a time of longing and hurt, but never shied away from the idea of living life to the fullest, that hope was just around the corner. That hope now plays out in Same Something Different. Written largely during what he calls a “dust in the wind” period of his life spent touring-slash-couchsurfing, the album explores everything from his battles with depression to the immense joy he felt at his sister’s wedding to classic themes of love, loss and the struggle for a dreamer (as he calls himself and his fans) to embracing who he is and who he isn’t. This time, there’s beauty in the pain. “I set out to write an album not about a specific feeling or time, but something to encompass all of who I am,” Jake says. “I am a person who very openly struggles—a true introvert living an extroverted life. But I am also a happy, loved, loving person, and it was important for me to explore that, too.”
Though its stories are personal, Same Something Different came together as a group effort. Jake’s dedication to blogging, Facebook, and other forms of social media—notable for a guy who didn’t even own a computer until five years ago—keep him connected to his fan base. Nearly 200 of these fans ultimately pledged $24,000 to help make Same Something Different a reality. The support, Jake says, reinforced he was on the right path, both professionally and personally. “I’d love to have a hit, believe me,” he says. “But more important is feeling like I’ll be able to make music that matters not only to me but to those who make my songs a part of their lives for the next 20 years. That feeling became more real once I realized that so many others were also invested in that possibility.”
Produced by Christopher Thorn (Blind Melon, Anna Nalick, Under The Influence of Giants) and recorded at Fireside Studios in Silverlake, Same Something Different lives up to its title: The songs convey the familiar sense of yearning that Jake’s fans have come to expect, but with a newly hopeful subtext. “It’s both where I come from and where I want to be,” he explains. Ballads sung with raw vocals keep the vibe low-key, while a full band backing helps create a mood of epic celebration. The takeaway: It’s possible—perfectly normal, even—to be content, yet still search for more. “There’s always a sense of longing and some pain that comes along with seeking anything that’s great in life,” says Jake. “I’m a person who has lived in a lot of darkness. This album doesn’t deny that, but at the same time through it, I step out into the light.”