Jesse Ruben On Philanthropy And Music
Jesse Ruben has a heart or gold and vocals to match!
How did you get started in philanthropy?
It happened very organically. I’ve always tried to make giving back a part of my music, and live show. About ten years ago, my best friend Zack fell and broke his neck. I wrote a song about him (“Song For Zack”, on my first record, “Aiming for Honesty”), and sent it to The Dana And Christopher Reeve Foundation, because they are the largest non-profit for people with paralysis and spinal chord injury. I started performing at their events, which led to me becoming a part of their Champions Committee, which is their junior board, which then led to me running the NYC Marathon for them 3 years in a row, from 2010-2012. Unfortunately, right after that I got really sick, and took a couple years off to deal with Lyme Disease. It was a really scary, challenging experience. I feel so fortunate to have recovered, and now I feel a huge sense of responsibility to raise money and awareness for Lyme Disease research. This will be my second year running the NYC Marathon for that cause.
I really don’t think there’s any such thing. My writing style is very honest, and very direct. I don’t like to be vague or add a ton of metaphors. It’s just not my strength. So for me it’s best to tell the truth. And if it can rhyme in an interesting way, even better. The TRUTH is what people are listening for. They know it when they hear it. My job for the listener is to say the things that they want to say themselves, but can’t quite figure out how.
Your songs have been featured on One Tree Hill, Degrassi, Teen Mom and more. Is there a dream show (currently on air or not) that you’d love to have a song be featured on?
I recently watched all of “This Is Us”, I think that would be a perfect fit.
Honestly, it’s some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. I have a initiative based on my song “We Can” called The We Can Project that has been implemented by hundreds of schools across the US and Canada. It focuses on teaching kids to try new things and give back to their communities. Visiting schools, and getting to meet students in different parts of the country is incredible. The ways they go above and beyond to help other people is so inspiring. Plus, they are adorable.
What’s it like knowing you have Hoda Kotb’s support?
I had someone in the music industry recently compare what happened to me with winning the lottery and getting struck by lightening on the same day. Hoda heard my song “We Can” in a spin class, and was so moved, she put the song on her radio show the next day. The day after that, she played the music video on The TODAY Show. a week later, I was playing it live on the air. Hoda was so genuine and kind to me and my family. To know that someone that so many people look up to is so supportive of me is very encouraging.