A move, a breakup, an accident and a death all have big parts in South San Francisco native Jeff Desira’s first solo album.
“Weathervane” was released independently by Desira July 19 and is the culmination of years of writing and two and a half years of recording. The album is mostly about his time living in New York and an ex-girlfriend who he moved to New York with back in 2007.
“When I was living in New York, I was dating an opera singer who was working Off-Broadway,” he said. “In between her work and mine, we would take vacations and drive around the northeast.”
These trips ended up being the inspiration for the title of his album.
“In Newport Rhode Island, I noticed the homes had weathervanes on top of them,” he said. “I didn’t think anything of them when we came back to Brooklyn. It was the typical New York love story. You move there and everything falls apart. The weathervanes were a way to gage weather and [symbolized] … a way to gauge the direction of how the relationship was going.”
Desira, who went to South San Francisco High School and is the youngest of four children, plays piano, ukulele, flute, percussion, whistles, guitar, bass and other instruments and brought on other artists like Dara Ackerman, Rob Hart and Andrew Griffin to play with him for the record. He first started playing instruments at the age of 9 after taking a musical aptitude test in elementary school.
“My brother was listening to (flutist) James Galway and I thought, ‘I guess it’s OK if a guy can play the flute,’” he said. “I ended up being really great at it. Then my freshman year in high school, I took guitar lessons and I was terrible at it.”
His skills developed over the years and he took piano lessons, deciding to play rock ’n’ roll. He interned at a recording studio and started to play bass in alternative rock bands such as Dashboard Mary’s, Violet June and November in 1991. He helped record three albums while a part of bands.
“When I started playing bass, I was playing Pretenders covers and Smith covers,” he said. “We had our grunge phase in the ’90s. I came into my own.”
The singer-songwriter now plays acoustic-based pop and rock songs, each with a hint of Americana.
“Lyrically it’s introspective and at the same time fun to listen to,” Desira said.
Off the seven song record, the song “She’s Moving On” is about the making decision to move to New York with his then-girlfriend, which seemed to be a favorite at open mic shows. Another song, “August 25th 2008,” is their breakup date. He lived in New York from 2007 to 2009, ultimately moving back to San Francisco.
“I started writing material when I moved back from New York,” he said. “My first producer died of cancer and I was really devastated, so I sat on the project for a little bit.”
Because he doesn’t drive a car, he took the ferry 104 times in order to record the EP. An avid biker, Desira’s day job is guiding tourists through Golden Gate Park, Lands End to Sausalito through a bicycle rental and tour company. This job helped fund his whole music project. Biking is what also led to an accident in 2011 that led to not only a broken first metacarpal, dislocated right wrist, concussion, fractured index fingers, lacerated lip and other injuries, but his song “When I Let Go” about the trying experience.
“I couldn’t use my left hand for four months,” he said. “I was unable to play guitar for four months. I couldn’t even make a fist. It was like holding an imaginary banana. I thought about that song for about four months and finished writing the song in about four days. I had all the parts already.”
The piece is about recovery and giving people a sense of hope. Overall it’s one of his best songs, he said.
“That was really challenging,” he said. “There was a fundraiser held for me in the city. The songwriting community raised about $3,000 for me. That was a turning point. That’s really when I decided let’s go and start recording my songs.”
He worked with producer Scott Mickelson to get the work completed.
Desira advises aspiring musicians to “keep going always.”
“No matter what,” he said. “If that’s what you really want. There is no easy way. The rewards are great in the end.”
For Desira, the satisfaction really comes from the audience’s reactions.
“It’s definitely not easy during these times to be a performer anywhere,” he said. “The feedback from the audience makes it all worthwhile. When people reach out to you and say ‘your music and lyrics helped me through some of the hardest types of my life,” it makes things all worthwhile.”
Further, playing music is instinctive to Desira.
“It’s not like a I have a choice,” he said. “I have to create. I’m a creative person — it’s just what I do.”
He released the album at Amnesia on Valencia Street in San Francisco to a crowded show. Other songs on the album include “You Can Have It All” and “Aquamarine Girl.”
Purchase the album at cdbaby.com/cd/jeffdesira or jeffdesira.com where his touring dates will also be posted.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105