Esme Patterson is going to be a thing. Seriously.
The Denver based songstress had fronted notable indie-folk act Paper Bird, before bursting onto the scene solo in 2012; she proceeded to build a devoted fanbase, who were increasingly mesmerized by her electric live shows and larger-than-life passion. Upon the 2016 release of her third album We Were Wild, the arbiters over at Rolling Stone enthused that she was, “pulling you in directions you might not expect – musically, emotionally and even physically.”
Nothing exhibits the depths and heights of that passion and emotion quite like her recent live performance with Milwaukee’s Hear Here Presents, which BlackBook premieres here. The video web series has gained a significant cult following with its intimate but exciting sessions presenting the next wave of great American artists as you’ve never seen them.
We caught up for a chat with her about everything Esme, and, being fans of her home city, asked her to take us around for a perfect day in Denver.
Paper Bird was a bit more folk oriented – where your solo work has been decidedly more electrified. What are some of the influences fueling your songwriting these days?
Paper Bird was music that came from the heart, and I still make music from the heart; the way I dress it up just changes sometimes. I am very influenced and inspired by the music being made right now by friends and strangers – inspiration comes often in the most surprising places. I try never to rule anything out.
You’re sort of balanced now between being a beloved “cult” artist, and being discovered by a much larger audience. What’s your current state of mind regarding it all?
It makes no difference to me whether there are two people at a show or 20,000, everyone deserves music. I stay true to myself and the core of my songs and am always pleasantly surprised.
Your last album was 2016’s We Were Wild. Can we expect more new music in 2018?
How did the Hear Here Presents session come about?
I love playing in the Midwest and have always dug Milwaukee. The Hear Here folks have a really good thing going and we were happy to be a part of it.
You seem like you were having an awesome time doing it.
Haha, yeah, we were coming from Chicago and may have been a little bit worse for the wear that morning. But that was a joy for me in wearing wigs on tour last year, you could feel different and fancier all of the sudden, which is helpful in my profession.
Your live shows are incredibly exhilarating – you seem like you’re almost about to explode up there. What are you thinking and feeling when you’re up on stage?
I suppose I am open to the possibility of exploding on stage! I just ride the wave and see what happens. I feel that the people in the room and their energy contribute to the show as much as I do. I believe music is made for and by everyone.
Esme Patterson’s Perfect Day in Denver
I like to have coffee and read a book at St. Mark’s in the mornings when I can. This is a Denver jewel that I used to smoke cigarettes in (when that was still legal in Denver) and write short fiction, staying up late and drinking lots of coffee. Great vibes there, and the very kind owner runs the bar next door and the venue underneath as well, called Ubisububi, where I’ve debuted a lot of new songs. Make sure you get to St Mark’s early enough to get a home-made, fresh chocolate croissant, they’re delightful.
Next I’d go to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I go straight to the dioramas and imagine that I’m an animal in some far-off place – it’s very soothing. In the gem and rock wing they have a huge topaz that was once owned by Salvator Dali! The planetarium attached is also wonderful, the film on black holes is a favorite of mine. There’s also a beautiful view of downtown and the fountain in city park from the windows at the west end of the building. The roof is my pick, though, especially at sunset.
Then Twist and Shout and The Tattered Cover are a quick walk across City Park, where in the summer you can hear the lions at the zoo roaring in the hot evenings. Twist and Shout is an amazing record store run by smart, passionate and kind people. The Tattered Cover is a Denver landmark, a perfect place to get lost in a book.
For lunch I’d go to El Taco de Mexico and get a chile relleno and a glass bottle of coke – the most perfect meal on Earth. After my first (unsuccessful) marriage we went right from the ceremony to El Taco in our wedding clothes.
I really love the Clyfford Still Museum and the Kirkland Museum, now right next to each other in the Gold Triangle part of town. A late afternoon is lovely in these reverent and quiet spaces. If the weather is nice, the Botanical Gardens are a great place to wander and write as well.
For dinner I love Axum Ethiopian food, out on East Colfax. Ethiopian food is my ultimate favorite, and of all the great places in town, I find this one consistently amazing.
Afterwards I would go bowling at Holiday Lanes on West Colfax or to the PS Lounge to play pool. When you walk in, if you’re a femme-type they give you a rose; and everyone gets a free (bright orange) shot of something called “Alabama Slammer,” which tastes like boozy orange soda. And the jukebox is great.
For late night food I’d go with Jerusalem, whose hummus makes all other hummus seem a pale and insulting imitation. Or the Breakfast King for the most American diner experience, which we do so well here in the middle of this huge country.