We had the good fortune of connecting with Christian de Mesones and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Christian, how do you think about risk?
As a father and husband, I obviously try to avoid putting my family at risk, and luckily, my thrill seeking is of the artistic kind. As a bassist, composer, bandleader, music educator, and podcaster with a lengthy list of goals I am still trying to achieve, I think of risk as an absolute necessity for my career. When I was younger, I blindly took risks – some of which paid off, others that didn’t. I had what I considered a decent enough security net that there was no real fear of doing irreparable damage. Now that I am older and have greater responsibility (and have learned some hard lessons), I am still constantly taking risks, but they are quite a bit more calculated. An artist is constantly engaging in activities that have some chance of failure, but I have, whenever possible, estimated the impacts of that failure before the risk is taken, only going out on that limb if I can afford the consequences, whatever they may be. As an independent artist, the risk of monetary loss is very real in just about every endeavor I undertake. I invest heavily in my art at every level, from paying my musicians to record and perform, to paying to promote shows and my music. If I don’t sell enough tickets to a show, or if a single isn’t picked up by radio, I will never recoup the money I have invested, so I am as strategic as I can be with these types of decisions and try to position myself to absorb the financial blow if necessary. I had to take many risks to make my latest single everything I knew it could be, and ultimately those risks paid off in the form of a number one single on Billboard and all the advantages that success has afforded me, but the wonderful thing about my career as a musician is that sharing my gift with the world is a reward, whether the financial success follows or not. I feel like I have established a great formula that sets me up for the type of success I am looking for, and that I can limit the risks I have to take by replicating this formula; but risk is inherent in what I do, and I have accepted that reality with eyes wide open.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
People always say, “One thing you will never be at a Big New York show is Bored!”. I’m constantly hearing how edgy and funky my music is for the smooth jazz genre, as well as how complex, exciting and unique the songs are – both from listeners and the musicians I hire to play with me. I’m originally from Brooklyn, NY, which is how I got my nickname, and grew up in a household filled with all genres of music, since my mother is Bulgarian, and my father was from Peru. I became familiar with the music of my heritage while simultaneously being introduced to American music by my older siblings, and through radio, movies and television, etc. I gravitated towards Heavy Metal at an early age and joined lots of bands in my early years in Brooklyn. When I attended Bass Institute of Technology in Hollywood, CA (now Musicians Institute), I was exposed to or able to work with some legendary players, like Abe Laboriel, Louis Johnson, Tim Bogart, Howard Alden, Steve Morse, Pat Metheny, and the late Tommy Tedesco, Ray Brown, and Pat Martino. All these experiences – the absorption of varied genres of music with Latin and European flavors, being introduced to things like the Motown sound, Philly Soul and bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer – and then receiving technical training and being able to explore music theory, coupled with an immersion in the world of jazz, all played significant roles in my development as a musician. BIT definitely broadened my horizons even further and positively influenced my writing and playing styles. After school, I was blessed enough to get a full-time job as a paid musician, living in Hawaii for a bit, and playing in a Top 40 hard rock cover band. I moved to Richmond in the 90s, during which time I played in a variety of bands, became really immersed in urban music and Smooth Jazz, and had the privilege of opening for greats like Roberta Flack and Chuck Brown. Then, I relocated to the DC area, where I started my first Smooth Jazz project and eventually launched my solo career. The industry has changed so much over the years, and it can be difficult and extremely costly to achieve your musical goals – especially if you’re seeking radio airplay. The pandemic has made it more difficult to do just about everything but has been tremendously detrimental to the gigging musician. And when I’m able to gig, I also have to be mindful about balancing my musical aspirations with my other responsibilities – a musician’s hours can be hectic. I have a day job that requires me to be well rested and healthy, and regular, quality time with my family is extremely important to me. I always strive to put on the best possible show I can offer, but I sometimes have parameters to work within that don’t always guarantee a perfect outcome. For example, timing, distance and availability may not allow me to get in a full band rehearsal. I have to accept this reality, trust that my musicians have done their homework and that our inherent skill will create the cohesiveness and magic I’m looking to deliver. I’ve been doing this for a lot of years, and I’ve experienced my share of performances that weren’t up to my standards, but I take the lessons that come with those experiences and use them to improve. I’m my harshest critic by far, and have developed a thick skin, which is imperative in this business. I will never satisfy everyone, even when I believe I’ve put on a stellar performance. Even though the vast majority of fans love my performances, the opinions and feedback of every person who has spent hard-earned money to support me matter to me very much, whether those opinions are positive or negative.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The DMV is truly a great area to visit if you’re interested in art and culture. We’d definitely hit up Mastro’s, my favorite steakhouse in the area, located in downtown DC, and pig out on seafood at Captain Pell’s Crab House located in Fairfax, Virginia. We’d prioritize music, taking in some great shows at The Birchmere, Rams Head Tavern, Blues Alley, and Bethesda Blues & Jazz, which would be the highlights of the week, for sure. We’d spend some time at the recording studio, listening to what I’m working on and jamming with my favorite local musicians. We’d make time to check out the Holocaust and African American History museums, check out the latest Marvel offering at the movie theater, spend some down time with my family, and squeeze in a home cooked meal to cap off the week (my wife is an amazing cook).
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people I could dedicate this shoutout to. I have been blessed with a resolute fanbase, a group of loyal and talented musicians who always answer the phone when I call, and the most supportive family I could ever wish for. But I’d like to dedicate this shoutout to my producer, Christopher Valentine (Woodz Entertainment). Our collaboration has been the best work I have done in my career, and his patience and dedication to excellence has elevated and further defined my brand in ways I hadn’t imagined.
John Wardell KT Jones