Jesse Larson, Minnesota native and contestant on The Voice, has advanced as one of the top ten finalists of Season 12. The blues-influenced singer-songwriter will be facing off against the other remaining finalists next Monday during a special two-hour live performance show. While many know that Jesse Larson is a Minnesotan, what they don’t know is just how deep his roots run in the Twin Cities music community. Before his days performing in front of millions of viewers on The Voice, Larson had a little taste of fame right here in his own home state.
Larson became interested in music at an early age thanks to his father who introduced him to the blues, soul and rock and roll. As the blog Idol Chatter notes, Larson’s first guitar — given to him by his father — was just a cheap guitar that he worked with his father to rebuild. For Larson, this experience is what lead him to become so inspired to play because it allowed him to be a part of the music.
Larson still likes to build guitars, and in fact he hand-shaped the guitar he played during his audition for The Voice. His father’s influence has shaped Larson’s career in more ways than one, and Larson dedicated his audition performance of “Jealous Guy” to his father as a way of paying homage to him.
Larson went on to teach himself guitar, gleaning influence from the likes of iconic artists such as B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, ZZ Top, and Otis Redding. These musical inspirations helped generate the unique blend of blues and rock that Larson has managed to develop. Along with his talented guitar playing, Larson has a smooth but powerful voice as well.
After graduating high school, Larson began gigging around the Twin Cities, playing as often as possible. In 2010, Larson began performing with fellow funk and soul musicians in a band called #MPLS. The band grew to become a staple of the local music scene, performing at iconic Minneapolis venues such as the Fine Line Music Cafe, Bunkers, and First Avenue. While #MPLS have enjoyed success, perhaps the highlight of Larson’s Minnesota career came in the form of a phone call.
In 2015, Larson received a phone call most any R&B musician dreams to receive: a request to audition for Prince. After several auditions, Larson was chosen to be the guitarist and backup singer for Prince protege Judith Hill. Hill is also an alum of The Voice, a fellow member of team Adam.
Although the experience was short-lived, due to Prince’s untimely death, Larson considers it a paramount period in his growth as a musician. In an interview with KARE 11 News, Larson explained that he “had Prince sitting 15 feet away from [him] watching and critiquing everything [he] played on guitar.” For Larson, Prince’s presence both kept him focused and challenged him as an artist.
Larson’s career hasn’t always been smooth sailing, though. The recent death of his father was devastating enough to almost cause him to quit music altogether. However, music eventually proved to be a way for Larson to recover from the loss, and this rekindled passion is what lead Larson to later audition for The Voice.
While becoming a finalists on a popular reality singing contest show would have an impact on anyone, for Larson in particular the experience has proved developmental. In an interview on the show Larson described his past experience with performing as more of a side-line gig. “I’ve always been a side man my whole career,” Larson explained. “I’ve always kind of been the guy hiding in the corner who plays guitar solos and sings a couple songs a night.” For Larson, performing solo on The Voice, and especially in the live rounds, has been a challenging yet welcomed opportunity to step out of his comfort zone and showcase his talent.
To find out if Larson advances to the next round, you can tune in Monday, May 8 at 7:00 p.m. for the live performances and Tuesday, May 9 at 7 p.m. when America’s vote will determine which artists will advance to the next round.
Lillian Speakman is a senior at Hamline University.