In the past couple of years, San Francisco-based singer-songwriters Genna Giacobassi and Jesse Dyen have been making the transition to full-time touring musicians.
Although the duo only began performing together in 2009, they have been playing music for much longer in the Bay Area — Giacobassi first moved there in 1995 from her native Lansing, Mich., while Dyen has been in the area since 1997. For most of that time, the two held down day jobs in addition to pursuing music with various bands, until Giacobassi first hired Dyen for her band.
By 2010 they were touring as Genna & Jesse. Around the same time, the production and backstage work Dyen had been doing for major music events began drying up. Then, about a year ago, Giacobassi was downsized at her teaching job of 17 years, and rather than take a pay cut, she opted to quit.
“What happened for us as a result of the changing economy and the changing music industry, is happening for a lot of people in their own unique ways,” she said recently from a tour stop.
Genna & Jesse
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29
Where: Moon & River Cafe, 115 S. Ferry St., Schenectady
How Much: Free
More Info: 382-1938, www.moonandrivercafe.com
Reality of life
“We were confronted with the reality of, this life is short, we’re musicians, and yet we’re doing these little day jobs we don’t care about. When you take a risk like this it’s a scary thing, because it’s a really hard life, and it goes against a lot of the messages you get growing up — you have to be practical, you have to have a job to fall back on.”
Thanks to their simplified duo setup and a relentless work ethic on the road, Giacobassi and Dyen have managed to make ends meet. Their current tour in support of their first full-length album, “Give and Take,” which kicked off in early August, will run through early December for roughly 65 shows in more than 20 states, including two performances at the Moon & River Cafe — one on Aug. 22, and the second coming up Wednesday.
Even with the duo’s hard touring ways, these shows are their first ever in the Capital Region, as a duo or otherwise. “I was a student years ago at Ithaca College, so it’s been a while,” Dyen said. “I don’t think I’ve ever played in Albany — the Finger Lakes region would probably be the closest.”
In keeping with their idea of simplicity, the duo — who are also a romantic couple — do all of their booking themselves, and have been camping out as they make their way across the country performing house shows and smaller cafes.
Their album, which draws equally from classic pop songwriting and folk’s hushed intimacy and socially conscious lyrical content, is also a reflection of this, and was recorded for the most part in the duo’s living room in order to capture the spirit of their live performances. It follows a series of singles that they recorded in a professional studio in New Jersey.
“We had all these really slick singles that we did, and then we decided that we wanted to do a record that represented the intimate nature of what we did,” Giacobassi said.
“Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars to do the CD at a fancy studio, we invested in some really fine recording equipment, and Jesse is a recording engineer, so we made it in our living room in the span of about a month.”
Giacobassi first met Dyen through a Craigslist ad searching for a keyboard player for her five-piece band. When that group dissolved, the two began playing open mics together as a duo. About two years ago, they became romantically involved, and decided to focus all of their energy into the new project. The simplification immediately helped them in their quest to perform music full time.
“We realized really early on that economically speaking, it was very challenging to keep a band going that actually sustained you economically, because you have more mouths to feed, more people to split money with, more drama, conflicts,” Giacobassi said.
“We felt like keeping it as simple as the two of us, doing it our way, would not only ensure the quality of the music, but also ensure sustainability in terms of earning money, and also ensuring the lowest level of drama possible.”
Of course, since the two tour most of the year and live together, disagreements do come up. “We have to find ways to actually be apart from each other,” Giacobassi said.
But overall, their shared musical goals and common experiences help to bind them together.
“We have a common experience that goes beyond just living together,” Giacobassi said. “Our entire life purpose is aligned with each other, and it’s very interconnected in a kind of system, because what’s going on with us personally impacts the music, and vice versa.”