Folk singer/songwriter Chris Ayer grew up in McLean, VA, and began playing guitar and writing songs in his teens. While attending Stanford University, where he studied philosophy and music starting in 2000, he launched his performing career and self-released his debut EP, Static, in June 2003. After a year of playing around the Bay Area following college, Ayer decided to move to New York, where he settled in Brooklyn in June 2005. He booked himself into shows around the country and released a second EP, New Songs, in August 2005. The full-length album This Is the Place (November 7, 2006) included the song "Evaporate," which won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in the folk category. Ayer next released Live Sessions (September 2007) and the Center Ring EP (November 2007). His second full-length studio album, Don't Go Back to Sleep, came out on August 18, 2009.
Philly-bred singer-songwriter Jesse Ruben freely confides that he's done a bit of "obsessing" over his second album, The Ones That Matter. Not that such anxiety is evident on the highly accomplished disc, the follow-up to Ruben's self-released 2008 debut, Aiming for Honesty. Adding full-band accompaniment to his lush, soulful pop-rock, Ruben also stretches impressively as a writer on The Ones That Matter, achieving a near-novelistic sense of character and setting on finely hewn tracks like "A Lack of Armor," "Bleeker and Sixth," and "Unbreakable." His relentless attention to detail pays off handsomely. Ruben's expansive and deeply compassionate point of view has resonated strongly with an ever-growing audience, whom the performer has cultivated with virtually nonstop touring and persistent online networking; as a result, he's sold some 5,000 copies of Honesty on his own. The artist cites singer-songwriters like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor as his greatest influences, but also admits a fondness for the standards penned by Cole Porter and the Gershwins. As a live performer he racked up odd experiences like playing backyard barbecues, singing at a daytime Sweet 16 party, and even serenading a couple of fans on their anniversary (he showed up in their kitchen with his guitar, at the woman's bidding, to surprise her boyfriend). The gigs gradually got bigger, and soon Ruben was paying his rent with engagements across the East Coast - becoming adept at getting around by commuter rail, booking cheap flights, promoting his shows and maintaining contact with fans via Facebook, his blog and the comments on his YouTube video posts.But for the time being, Ruben's true home is the road - where he'll no doubt continue to touch lives, have offbeat adventures and add new names to the ever-growing list of The Ones That Matter.