The past two years have been busy for Jesse McCartney. Along with releasing his first new music since 2014, he got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Katie Peterson, in September. But to kick off his next chapter, McCartney is looking back on his entire career of nearly 20 years.
The singer-songwriter released his new single “Yours” on Friday (April 10), an introspective pop tune with verses that address several stages of McCartney’s life, including being “the face in every bedroom on a poster” in his mop-topped “Beautiful Soul” days. As he declares on the song’s plucking chorus, though, McCartney’s most beloved role yet is being Peterson’s partner.
“It sort of sums up my life in a pop song,” McCartney says of “Yours.” “What it’s been like, and all these different roles I’ve played for so many people — ultimately coming to the conclusion that my new favorite role is to be somebody’s very special person, and how important that is for me as well.”
McCartney wrote “Yours” in March 2019 just after finishing his Resolution Tour, when he decided it was time to continue working on a full project. Though he isn’t sure whether the upcoming material will be an EP or a full album, fans can rest assured that something is coming, as McCartney hints the songs are currently being mastered and mixed.
The video for “Yours,” premiering on Billboard, happened to finish filming two days before the nationwide quarantine began. And with the rest of his new music in the finishing stages, McCartney is further bringing the meaning of “Yours” to life with hilarious Instagram bits he and Peterson titled “The Quarantined Couple.” “We’re trying to keep people’s spirits up and take their mind off the weight of the world,” McCartney adds.
Below, watch the video for “Yours” and find out why McCartney feels “Yours” is the beginning of his most vulnerable chapter — and his “best songwriting” — yet.
It’s no secret that you’re in love, but what particularly inspired “Yours”?
I knew I wanted to write a romantic song — I’m in a very romantic place. Some of the other songs on this project are very reflective and introspective, and focus on what it was like for me in the industry over the course of 15-plus years, and the relationships it’s affected both positively and negatively. [“Yours”] is romantic at heart, but you can also hear that it’s very specific to my life. It represents some of the other music very well.
So there’s more music coming?
Right now we’re just focused on the single, but there’s definitely going to be more music. It’s a little bit more stripped-down, reminiscent of my earlier stuff. It’s pop music, so there will be some bops on there. But I think [my fans] will hear the vulnerability and the truth to it, because they’re familiar with this period of my life as well as anybody, because they kind of grew up with me.
It’s going to connect with a lot of people — I’m hoping, at least. I’m really proud of it. It’s certainly the best songwriting I’ve ever done, and the most thoughtful I’ve been about my songwriting. “Yours” is just the tip of the iceberg, I promise.
How has your current relationship impacted the way you write songs?
When you decide you’re going to get married, and you’ve been with somebody for eight years, it definitely has an impact on your perspective. You can write from a really pure place, and you can also write with a little more ease — there’s less pressure to find that person, and it’s less unknown. It’s a very settling place where you feel relaxed, and that opens the creative juices and allows you to just write freely without any stress.
Making this project, more than anything, was very stress-free. I was just writing to write, and I think my best stuff came out because of it.
One of the most striking lyrics in “Yours” is “I’ve been an album flop away from being done.” Did you really feel like that in the past?
Listen, every successful artist, at some point in their career, has had their failed attempt at putting out music — maybe for the exception of Taylor Swift [Laughs]. It seems like any artist — any professional, really — will tell you that their greatest achievements are only sort of magnified by their big failures. I’ve experienced that for sure. I’ve put out projects that weren’t as well-received as others, but it’s how you bounce back from that and how you use it to motivate your next project.
Before “Yours,” what was your favorite love song you’ve written and/or recorded?
I would probably say [Leona Lewis’ 2008 hit] “Bleeding Love.” That song was the biggest hit I’ve ever had, even bigger than “Beautiful Soul,” I just happened to not sing it. I think people are a little surprised when they find out that I [wrote] that song.
I love performing it live — I play it behind the piano by myself, and it always feels just bigger than life. It has such a big impact on the audience, and it’s one of those global anthem sing-along songs that can get the crowd going.
The “Yours” video sees you playing a lot of different characters that are representations of the song’s lyrics. How did that come together?
Nick Peterson directed this video — I wasn’t crazy about his initial idea, but his reel was a big game-changer for me. I could tell he’s this very cinematic director, and he was very skilled and technical. So I got on the phone with him to brainstorm. We kept a dialogue open for a week, and ultimately came across this idea where I would play all of these different characters and roles that I sing about in the song. I love getting into different characters, and I think it represents the song pretty clearly.
In recent years, I’ve had a heavy hand in helping to develop the idea, or creating it myself. The last three videos, I feel like, have been the best videos that I’ve done in my career, and it’s partly because I’ve realized if I want this to be great, I’ve got to communicate with the director what I realize I want.
Was it weird seeing yourself bald?
Yes, it was. Listen, the guy had a nice cue-ball head — I don’t envision that for myself [Laughs], but it was definitely one of those things that’s got shock value.
When you were a teenager on the cover of Tiger Beat, like you feature in the video, did you imagine you’d still be making music nearly 20 years later?
I’d always dreamed that this would be forever my career. Often, when you have years where you’re celebrated by a group of young, not necessarily discerning, fans — no offense [Laughs] — the madness of that can [make people] in the industry immediately dismiss you as this young, “shot in the dark and that’s it” kind of guy. I never wanted it to fizzle out, and I really worked hard to not let it fizzle out.
I always thought that whether it was in music or in acting, I’d always find an avenue to keep my creative mind alive and thriving. I am very happy, though, that I was able to remain making music and make a living doing it.
You turned 33 the day before “Yours” arrived. What would 33-year-old Jesse tell 17-year-old Jesse?
I’d probably just tell him that it’s all going to be okay, and you’re going to come out on the other side. And the anxiety that you felt through your adolescent years about people watching you all the time and into your early 20s, ultimately people are rooting for you, and you’re going to be just fine. You’re going to fall in love, have a beautiful house, a really cool dog, and make music for another 20 years. So just chill out, relax and smell the roses.