Belonging to a church in Music City, I often think that I am the only one attending service who couldn’t lead worship. Over the years I have been blessed to have heard some of the best, and one of the latest and greatest has been Jesse Isley at Franklin’s Christ Community Church. After a few Sundays, I just had to learn more about this young musician leading the band and singing with such a smooth and gentle voice.
As his talents would suggest, there is a lot more to discover about Jesse outside of him just killing it on a Sunday morning. Well, he’s worked steady as a session and touring guitarist, most notably with fellow Nashvillian Will Hoge. On his own, thus far his lone releases are two solid EPs: 2015’s “Realistic” and 2017’s “Inglewood.” Check out Jesse’s great Americana sound on his “Center of the Sun” in this nifty live version from a few years back.
My thanks go out to Jesse for visiting 11 Questions using safe protocol! I look forward to hearing some new music soon and seeing him live once the Nashville stages open up again. For now, I’ll settle for the Sundays I get to see him live-streaming from CCC here.
Where are you from originally, when did you move to Nashville and why?
I was born and raised in Columbia, SC and moved to Nashville in February 2012. I had gone as far as I could playing music in South Carolina. I played with some great musicians and made a good living working the scene in Columbia and surrounding cities, also teaching four days a week. But I felt that there was more I needed to learn. About ten years ago I was introduced to Jeff Taylor who has become a close friend. Jeff is a gifted musician who plays with The Time Jumpers. He told me I should move up here if I really was serious about pursuing a career in music. So, I did the cliché pack a U-Haul and hug my mama goodbye. Still the best move I ever made.
What are the first and the last records you bought, and where did you buy them? Were they CD, vinyl or digital?
The first record I ever remember getting was DC Talk’s Free at Last on cassette. The first CD I ever bought with my own money was Barenaked Ladies’ Gordon. The last CD I bought was Sultans of Swing: The Very Best of Dire Straits.
First and last live concerts that you’ve seen?
My first live concert, that’s tough. I grew up in church so I was exposed to live music every Sunday for as long as I can remember. My first guitar teacher was the music leader at our church. Outside of that, the one that I nearly forgot about was Ray Charles. My dad took my brother and I to Atlanta’s Centennial Park during the ’96 Olympics. Ray was part of a free outdoor concert, and we sat on the lawn far, far away and watched a few songs.
The last concert I saw was Charles Esten in Berlin. I was in Europe playing with a pop country artist, and we were opening for him. His band was incredible. COVID was a definite concern, and two days later the rest of our tour was cancelled. With all the shuffling, it took about 40 hours to get home.
Whose star should be added to the Music City Walk of Fame?
James Burton, Glen Campbell, Tommy Emmanuel and Natalie Hemby.
Where do you go in Nashville for coffee and pizza?
I don’t drink coffee. I wouldn’t sleep for a week. If I’m getting pizza, must be because it’s late and nothing’s open. So, I’ll order from whoever is still delivering on UberEATS.
What’s your favorite record to ever come out of Nashville?
That’s a hard one! Well, my current favorite is by Dustin Ransom called Frontiers. It’s been on in my house all summer. Favorite overall? My first year in Nashville I saw so many amazing indie groups. Folks most people have never heard of. Artists and bands like The Cordovas, Luella & the Sun, Bear Cub, Kink Ador, Uncle Skeleton, Amanda Broadway. I loved it. So different but they all performed with such truth. And I could go see them down the street.
My favorite Nashville-based record was probably from a band called The Depressions, fronted by Ben Cameron. They were upbeat with grooves and choruses like a young James Taylor. I, myself, was very much in a season of depression at that time. So many elements of that record lifted my spirits. I still play along to it at home.
Where’s the best place to eat late night after a show?
Treehouse Nashville on the Eastside. Can’t beat it, especially after a gig or session. You can see them cooking these creative dishes behind the bar. Great patio hang too.
The Bluebird calls and asks you to host an “In the Round.” Pick three local songwriters to join you.
Marie Miller, Scott Mulvahill and Blessing Offer. There are about 100 more I could throw in.
What are your favorite music venues to play in town?
I’ve had the incredible fortune to perform in some of Nashville’s greatest venues. The Ryman, Grand Ole Opry, Bridgestone Arena, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, 3rd & Lindsley, the Basement East, Live on the Green, and the nearby Franklin Theatre.
The Basement on 8th Avenue is my favorite. There’s something about the intimacy in that room. The smell, the underground feel, the band stickers and posters all over the walls, the overpriced PBR’s. My kinda place. Fits about 100 people. No TV’s or bachelorette parties. Stage, lights, sound, band, go! Lots of great memories playing that room.
Name a musician who you’d like to see move here.
Joe Walsh. And I’d like him to move next door to me.
Finally, what’s in your musical future?
My hope is to continue what I’m doing and try my best to be better than I was the day before. I love playing in bands with so many talented players and artists. I can’t believe it’s how I make a living. I hope the friends I’ve made in this community stay my friends for a long time. The Lord’s been faithful through this journey. I don’t know what’s next, but I’ll be ready.