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Mike Hallock

Jessie Baylin goes label-free on her latest album, and the results are better for it.

Jessie Baylin might be a Jersey girl, but for her third album, Little Spark (Blonde Rat, $12), she looked farther south for inspiration. “I’ve always loved Dusty Springfield, especially her Dusty in Memphis album,” Baylin says of the landmark 1969 white-soul LP. “I wanted to somehow make my own version of that and yet have it be modern.”

Baylin’s latest album was borne out of somewhat turbulent circumstances, as she split with label Verve just before the sessions began. To help realize her vision, the songstress enlisted a wide-ranging core of collaborators, including high-profile vets like drummer Jim Keltner and guitarist Waddy Wachtel, as well as underground indie-rock polymath Richard Swift, who played on and arranged the songs. “I’ve grown a lot since my last record,” Baylin says. “I’ve spent the time to figure out what feels good to me and where I’m strongest musically.”

Baylin, who moved to Nashville after marrying Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill, is releasing Little Spark on her own Blonde Rat imprint and feels a sense of relief to be back in control of her destiny.

“By the end of my time with a major label, I’d forgotten who I was,” she says. “This has been a really freeing experience. When I listen to the album, I can hear that.”