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Jesse Ray Smith, left, performing recently at the Belly Up. Courtesy photo
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Musician Jesse Ray Smith wears his heartland on his sleeve

Cardiff’s Jesse Ray Smith is a singer-songwriter, husband and father dedicated to the pursuit of crafting timeless songs and records. His brand of Modern Americana blends current indie folk flavors with southern rock sounds of the past, harkening back to artists such as Bob Segar and Chris Stapleton.

“My mom gave me the middle name ‘Ray’ because “Jesse Ray Smith” sounded like a singer’s name to her, so I guess I was born a musician,” says Jesse. “I was 10 when my dad handed me a guitar. I listened to all the greats — Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Bob Marley, Tom Petty. I started busking the streets of California the summer before college and have followed music ever since.”

Jesse’s recent release ‘Back to Yesterday’ was produced by 2023 Grammy-winning producer Tyler Chester and delivers what Jessie describes as “Heartland Rock with Heartbreak Soul.”

“Sometimes my songwriting is intimate and tells a secret; sometimes it thunders like a train through a little beach town. Authenticity is always the goal.”

Jesse recently played at the Belly Up, and next will play a free intimate show with his songwriting partner Sean Cox Briar at the Cardiff Library on November 1st. He’s working on a holiday show and cooking up something with the Belly Up for early 2024.  “You can’t beat the Belly Up!”

Jesse’s UCSD undergrad studies brought him to San Diego. After college his band The Pheromones played around San Diego and that’s how he met his wife, Nerissa, a Cardiff native.

“We knew Cardiff would become our home. People here are dedicated to a positive mindset that is infectious. I’ve always noticed how a community with a focus just works better, and here the focus is the ocean. I feel so fortunate to be raising my family here — next to the beach where people are so positive and appreciate the community and lifestyle.  This place is very special and so are the people.”

“I think it’s important for the arts to be well represented in any community, which is why I wanted to join the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce. I love the entrepreneurial side of building a music business, and offering my music as a partnership resource in this community is a way for me to connect with other businesses and network. I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Jesse’s perfect day in Encinitas?

“Dropping the kids at school, grabbing a coffee and empanada from Bump. Then to my studio to work on some music before a quick surf around noon, finishing the day with ice cream from JoJo’s with the girls and a walk at the lagoon.”


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