By | Teri Briggs
Jacob Westfall was last week’s Drop-In Session guest on Portland’s Playlist at Portland Radio Project. This is a young man who seems much older and wiser than his chronological age, with a music background that started at the age of 7 when he began playing the piano influenced by his older sister’s music tastes. Actually, the entire Westfall family has varying degrees of musicality, and his father still plays guitar every day at home.
Jacob’s musical talents are many. At 9, he wrote his first song, “Midnight Bloom,” about watching the Leonid Showers with his Mom, thinking that the stars looked like flowers. In 6th grade, he took up the sax, Grades 9 -11, trying to meet girls; he picked up the drums and bass guitar, and at 17, began playing guitar. It was at this time that his father gave him his prized Takamine, that Jacob plays to this day, and is the one you see in the picture below.
We started the session listening to Jacob’s musical influences which included many an artist perfect for the romantic at heart; Michael Buble, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Allen Stone, Vance Joy, Elliott Smith, Bernhoft, and many more. Jacob was thrilled to discover that Luke was able to locate the version of Bernhoft’s, “C’mon Talk,” that he credits for getting him into making music. When he first saw Bernhoft’s red box looping machine on a 2011 video, he was blown away, and soon thereafter, figured out how to use one. He said it was Ben Folds who greatly influenced his songwriting as he spent many an hour studying Folds’ albums and songwriting style.
The second hour found us focusing on Jacob’s original material along with several performed live. His “Bad Thing,” and “I Don’t Wanna Leave,” came from a younger Jacob’s relationship gone sour. What followed that time period was “What I’m Waiting For.” Performing live, “Second Chances” is about that, second chances. While the song speaks to a romance, it could actually apply to getting a second chance at most anything in life. The next live tune, was the beautiful, heartfelt, “Lonely,” written for his lovely lady. He finished off the live session with “Movin On,” a song written about his experience being bullied as a child after moving to a new town.
Jacob talked about his recent Oregon Fair Association audition. Instead of playing to the masses, he took a risk by renting a hotel room, filled up the tub with ice and beverages, offered sandwiches, and gave a mini-concert in the room. This led to him successfully booking a couple of well paying County Fair shows this summer. Past performances, aside from regular bar gigs, have included a well attended week long residency at the popular, McMenamin’s Al’s Den, and singing the National Anthem at the MODA Center last Spring. This February, he will perform at the Opening Party for the Salem Winter Brewfest, as well as star as the headliner on Saturday, 2/6. He will play a “Be Right Back” show at the Kennedy School on 2/25 and has invited Haley Johnsen to perform with him. Ever mindful of keeping the momentum going, he will spend March to May in Nashville honing his craft and networking.
Describing his music, Jacob says, “My music is a conversation with the audience—like I’m telling them a story.” His soulful vocals have been compared to singers like Jeff Buckley and Sam Smith but with the character and songwriting style of John Mayer. With more than a nod to Ed Sheeran, Jacob’s solo performance is animated by astute guitar and kinetic live looping.
Remembering a time when his Dad told him that the latin roots of the word, enthusiasm, are God In Us, Jacob believes that no matter what “God” is to you, if you live your life with enthusiasm, you are going to be happy, and he strives to do just that. When you see a Jacob Westfall performance, you will get enthusiasm, passion, and honesty, along with a connection between this talented musician and his audience. He may be a young man, but he is an old soul in his convictions and talents.
You can find Jacob at:
Check out his cover of Ed Sheeran’s, “Thinking Out Loud” https://youtu.be/e0woPJUDU9Q