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Off to Oakland 

As he releases his second solo album, a tribute to the people who helped make it happen, Jacob Acosta is hitting the road

The songs on Jacob Acosta's new album are about meeting people in bars, about traveling, about facing down personal changes, about letting great loves go and finding new ones.

The record comes largely out of Acosta's experiences last summer, touring the country by himself, playing shows and couch surfing, making new connections and learning more about himself in a larger world.

"When I went on tour, I was a little nervous to go by myself. I didn't have places to stay, I was going to do the couch-surfing thing and it worked out pretty much. A lot of people were kind to me. A lot of reservations I had about people went away. I started thinking that maybe I just hadn't figured people out," he says.

Acosta wrote "Walls," the lead track on For The People, By The People, about breaking through the barriers and meeting other people, in his way, through music.

"I did Chants of Diplomacy last year as the first solo record, and I did it in what I like to call a very Americana way. Folk and Americana were a big part of the album and I did it so I could garner an audience in tour," he says. "Now that I've established at least some contacts outside of Tucson, I got back and said it's time to write a new record and to see if I can find a way to connect to these people I met all across the country."

When Acosta got back home and started working on the new album, he reached out online, both to those who'd followed his work for years in Tucson as part of Roll Acosta and Race You There, and those he'd met traveling. Acosta's Indiegogo campaign raised more than $7,000 to record and manufacture his new album and fund this summer's repeat national tour. Hence the title, For The People, By The People.

"It's tipping my hat to the people who helped put this record together. This is for them," Acosta says. "You'll hear songs sung in a lot of different styles that I wanted to incorporate based on all the people I met."

Acosta's folk-pop sound on Chants of Diplomacy and Roll Acosta's 2012 John Vanderslice-produced This Dreamt Existence expands to some newer realms on For The People, with some punchier rock 'n' roll and even some MIDI-heavy moments.

"When I got back from the tour, I wanted to think about creating an entirely new sounding record. If you listen to this one and you listen to the old one, there's not too much of a cross over. There's a little of the folk element, but they're arranged so differently and the song that really represents that is 'White Fire,'" he says. "I thought 'What if I could do a whole record like this, keep changing the sound so each song had its own identity?"

Acosta started playing saxophone in the third grade and came to Tucson to study classical guitar the UA after a year at Seton Hall spent learning cover songs to play small shows around the college.

"It's crazy how I decided that music was going to be the thing. I could pick up a guitar and it was easy to me. I didn't have to climb a mountain to do it. Music just kept happening and it turned into something real," he says. "I came to Tucson and thought it had an opportunity to be a new Mecca for great music. That thinking alone helped me to develop a lot of growth in my music."

In between recording and releasing For The People, By The People (produced by Acosta and Roll Acosta bandmate Andre Gressieux and mixed by Mesa's Bob Hoag), Acosta moved from Tucson to Oakland. He credits his years performing in Tucson for making the leap possible. And, he says, Roll Acosta isn't close to done yet, having written a bunch of new songs.

"We have a lot of promising stuff. I'm writing all the time. I have a whole new nine songs I'll be performing on July 3. I'm always writing new stuff and the way I decide where it's going to go is eventually certain songs will speak to me," he says. "I'll decide to play it out, or decide it needs someone else's brain, it needs some Andre or some Kevin (Frederick)."

The Tucson For The People, By The People release show, before Acosta hits the road for the summer, functions as a thank you and farewell to the city and the musicians he's come to admire here, many of whom will join him as special guests during the show.

"I met so many people who inspired me to keep going, to keep writing," he says. "I knew eventually I'd leave, and I felt like the time was right now, with the new record and a new tour."

More by Eric Swedlund

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