Gin Blossoms is on the road again and their 2016 tour finds the band in Reno, Nev., headlining the Eldorado BBQ, Brews & Blues Festival. As a group, Gin Blossoms has experienced enormous success with hits like “Hey Jealousy,” “Follow You Down” and “Til I Hear It From You.” They’ve has also experienced loss, a long hiatus’ from touring, survived a break up and reunited to do what they love to do – play music.
“Gin Blossoms has experienced enormous success with hits … They’ve has also experienced loss, a long hiatus’ from touring, survived a break up and reunited to do what they love to do – play music.”
Jesse Valenzuela, co-founder and one of the original members of the band, has written many of the hit songs for Gin Blossoms in a career that has spanned 30 plus years. In addition to being the guitarist and vocalist for the band, Valenzuela has a number of solo projects, including two new records, “Hotel Defeated” and “Prairie Wind,” with Danny Wild.
A musician since he was 15, Valenzuela speaks to some of the lessons he’s learned along the way, “The lessons rattle around in the same cage for me – acceptance, and accepting things for the way they are. Sometimes you might want someone to play music differently but that probably won’t happen. I try to relax, listen to others and not play too loud.” His humility, depth and humor are evident and emerge during the conversation.
“Being in a five-piece band for a long time I realize you don’t always get what you want and you need to bend sometimes. I keep my therapist on speed dial,” he jokes.
In walking the journey, Valenzuela tells a story of working with the late John Hampton (Valenzuela co-produced a record with the him), “I used to tell John, let’s err on the side of love. He looked at me kind of weird but said all right. Nothing is perfect. It’s like when you smile at someone in the grocery store, that’s erring on the side of love.” Grateful for his life Valenzuela admits, “I got it pretty good.”
A prolific songwriter he continues to find space in his busy life to write, while raising a 16-year-old, touring and working on his solo projects. He says about writing, “I wrote more songs in my 30s and 40s. Now, when it’s time to work I can mostly call it out of thin air. I sit for a couple hours and work. I’ve had lots of experience and practice.”
Quoting Duke Ellington about writing and working Valenzuela said, “When work needed to get done, it weighed on him (Ellington) and when he was asked if he needed more time, he said, ‘No, I need a deadline.’ ”
Valenzuela muses about writing, time and Ellington, “I often wonder if it could have been better if I was fretting or hovering over something I am working on for months. There are months when I am not working or writing and when I get back to it I am sluggish.”
Valenzuela is a natural storyteller. He has built a thick skin around critics and has learned from his years in the music industry that focusing on the negative isn’t what’s important. In a conversation with Prince, Prince said to him, “When people criticized my work or they don’t like something I’ve done, it’s more about them and rarely ever about me.”
It is this seasoning that only comes from years of wisdom and experience that Valenzuela understands what matters. “After enough time on the earth, I realize it’s their problem. Playing music is fun and I enjoy it,” he adds.
The band continues to play their hits and Valenzuela doesn’t take that for granted. Often after a Gin Blossoms show, Valenzuela can be found in the lobby shaking hands, meeting people and playing music from his solo albums. He loves meeting people. “Gin Blossom fans are so supportive,” he explains.
Gin Blossoms is currently working on a new album. Catch them live on June 17 at the Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews and Blues Festival. Virginia Street in downtown Reno comes alive with music, food and beer. Reno’s summer kick-off party is equal parts barbecue block party, microbrew tasting event with two stages of nonstop rock and blues. | eldoradoreno.com
The Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews & Blues Festival
Eldorado Resort Casino | Reno, Nev.
Friday, June 17
3:30 p.m. | USAF Band of the Golden West Rock Band “Galaxy”
4 p.m. | Buddy Emmer Blues Band
5:30 p.m. | Shane Dwight
6 p.m. | Jason King Band
7:30 p.m. | Gin Blossoms
Saturday, June 18
Noon | Buddy Emmer Blues Band
12:30 p.m. | Jason King Band
2 p.m. | Blues Monsters
2:30 p.m. | Hannah Jane Kile
4 p.m. | Ranell Carpenter Band
4:30 p.m. | Max Cabello Jr.
6 p.m. | AC Myles
6:30 p.m. | Everclear