Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

First Watch: JBM, 'On Fire On A Tightrope'

Back in March, former All Songs intern Dan Raby used this space to sing the praises of Montreal singer-songwriter JBM, a.k.a. Jesse B. Marchant, whose deliberately paced folk-pop hangs on the lingering empty spaces between notes. Dan particularly loved a specific second-and-a-half stretch of silence in the new "Winter Ghosts" — a gasp-inducing moment in which not playing a note has more power than the most thunderous catharsis.

JBM has since released his new album, Stray Ashes, and it's full of such dramatic tension — echoes and loops and, yes, more strategically employed silence. Here, we've got a performance video for another song from Stray Ashes, "On Fire on a Tightrope," directed by Mona Fastvold and recorded and mixed by engineer Daniel J. Goodwin:

For his part, JBM says the video — recorded at Isokon Studio in Woodstock, N.Y., with the help of drummer Jason Lawrence, guitarist/keyboardist Anthony LaMarca, and bassist Andrew Carlson — was a chance to play a live studio session on his own terms:

There are so many studio/live performance sessions that exist now (some great and some not so) for blogs and other media outlets that are conceived, edited and mixed/recorded by outsiders, and I wanted to create a series that I could control; to then share something of an extension of the album with fans that was of my own vision.

We performed the record straight through, doing one or two takes of each song, and then we did that again in the evening going into the night. Afterward, we chose the best takes of each song for the mixing and editing, which is why many of the songs all appear to have been shot at different times of the day. I was very interested in having all that different light, and I think that it creates a very cool effect when you watch all the songs consecutively.

If JBM's Isokon videos render our own Tiny Desk Concerts obsolete, then we may never forgive him, but "On Fire on a Tightrope" does capture a lot of the intimacy we seek in our own series. Stray Ashes is out now.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)

👋 Looks like you could use more news. Sign up for our newsletters.

* indicates required
New Orleans Public Radio News
New Orleans Public Radio Info