Q: “Transformations” is a relatable indie-pop song about growing older and things changing. Not only did you write “Transformations” but you also started producing the track on your own before enlisting Nashville producer, Bill McDermott. How was the transition from songwriting to producing for you? What’s different about it from songwriting -and what’s the same?
JESSE: Production helps me portray a song the way I hear it in my head, and the way I feel while writing it. In both songwriting and production, nothing is set in stone. I can always change a line or mute a track, which allows for creative risks. When creating “Transformations,” I went back and forth between the songwriting process and the production process. I wrote the first verse on guitar, and programmed the bass and the “cuckoo” backgrounds. I like being open to whatever comes while I am creating, as well as happy accidents. I actually wrote the chorus a year later on piano, and programmed drums and synths. I brought it to Bill McDermott who added electric guitars, percussion elements, and recorded more harmonies with me. Although my scratch vocal ended up being most of the final, I prefer to record my vocals with Bill, because it’s more fun, he knows what makes a great vocal performance, and I appreciate learning from his expertise.
Q: You celebrated the release of this track with a performance at Live Oak. How did the show go? Why did you choose Live Oak as the venue?
JESSE: My friend, Kellye Rather, is a talented singer/songwriter who is well known at Live Oak. She helped me set it up, and welcomed me into a writers’ round that was set to celebrate my single release, Transformations. Unfortunately, a mid-February snowstorm caused a change of plans. We had an informal evening of singing and our original round was rebooked at Tin Roof the following night. The show went really well! Tin Roof was awesome, and within weeks, we performed at Live Oak. I am so grateful for both venues and for Kellye’s introduction.
Q: The music video for “Transformations” is colorful, fun, and eye-catching. Walk us through the concept and video shoot. Was the final result exactly how you envisioned it?
JESSE: Due to social distancing, and limited funds, I decided that animation was the best way to go. My grandmother had just gifted me an iPad and stylus, that I used to draw the wall of animated objects that represented mini transformations. I zoomed in to create the different scenes. In order to incorporate myself in the video and make it more interactive, I bought a green screen, moved my couch, and hung it over my curtain rod. I thought it would be funny if I fall off an alarm clock, and little by little, the video formed. The video was a lot of fun to create, and it evolved naturally, one step at a time. I hope that it takes my listeners on a transformative journey that they can enjoy and relate to.
Q: We see you studied songwriting under Grammy Award-winning Songwriter Jodi Marr at Belmont University. What is the most important thing that you learned from her?
JESSE: Having Jodi Marr as a professor and mentor is a blessing. Her belief in me continues to inspire my decision to pursue music, and therefore, the most important thing that I learned from Jodi was to believe in myself. She encouraged me to be authentic, to tell the story, to dare to make mistakes, and to also enjoy the process.
Q: Why did you chose Nashville to pursue a music career? How has Nashville’s music scene influenced your music?
JESSE: I first moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University. It was an honor to be accepted into Belmont’s Songwriting Program, and the audio major connected me to another vital branch of the music industry. Being surrounded by other songwriters, engineers, and artists provides many opportunities to network, perform, and collaborate. From emerging artists to people who are established in the music business, I have found Nashville’s music scene to be inspiring and supportive.
Q: “Transformations” is the first of many original songs you will be releasing. What can we expect to hear from you next? Is “Transformations” a glimpse of what’s to come either sonically or thematically?
JESSE: I’m thrilled to be releasing another song, “Happiness Block” later this month, on Friday, April 23. It’s a song about how, as we grow older, life can become more complicated, and happiness can seem more elusive. Thematically, both songs are about dealing with adulthood. “Happiness Block” differs sonically from “Transformations,” because it’s acoustic, just my guitar and me. I really wanted to keep this one simple and organic, and let the song speak for itself. While the production styles differ, they are both are inspired by real life experience and heartfelt. As I did for “Transformations,” I am incorporating my art and music with a video and album cover. While my songs are versatile with diverse moods and stories, productions, and visuals, I hope that my listeners relate and hear my desire to connect with them and feel less alone.
Interviewed by Brynn Hinnant