We had the good fortune of connecting with Jesse Davidson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jesse, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk represents the fear of the unknown and yourself that must be overcome in order to succeed as a creative person (whatever success means to you). The eternal “what if I…” followed by an insecure, intrusive thought that plagues many creative people. It’s the fog of war that disguises the true potential of whatever you’re meant to do in this life. Walking into the fog can be the most uncomfortable thing in the world. In the thick of it, the comfort zone goes away. Certainty and security vanish. I’ve always equated it being dropped into a jungle. You have no map and must find your way the secret temple of success. Some people have many tools and resources available to them, some only have a few, some have none. For as much help, allies and resources as one may have, you must still put the work in to survive. Along your journey, you meet people who have found the temple and can point you in the right direction. Sometimes, they even guide you along. However, this is still not a guarantee. Not for “making it” there. Not even for your own survival. The years will pass while carving out your own path. The challenges and opportunities will grow and the risk grows with them. Just when you think you’ve pushed your creativity, work ethic, vulnerability and perspective to the brink, you find a vantage point and see how vast the jungle truly is. It’s endless. You can also look back to see how far you’ve traveled. You adapt to living in the jungle. When you let go, not give up, the fear of the unknown dwindles. The experiences you will gain are unparalleled and completely individual. The true essence of life is tasted in all directions. You will laugh harder than ever before, cry the ugliest tears and feel profound joy. The pendulum of life will swing from complete chaos to absolute clarity seemingly at random. This has been my experience from the beginning and continues to this day. Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing. Risk is ultimately the fuel for motivation. Without that fear of failure, there is no growth. In the path of my life, I’ve both completely succeeded and totally failed in various challenges. Living in either one for too long will prevent true growth. You must move forward and keep pushing yourself. You must take the risk.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m happy to say for the first time, I’m equally excited about all the art and creative projects in my life. Everything I do is rooted in the music world and blossoms out from there. Starting as a musician, I am a bassist and co-songwriter in Rogue! We’re a five piece band hailing from the dusty dirt of the Antelope Valley. For those unaware, this is in the high desert of Los Angeles County about 60-70 miles north of the city. We have an indie rock sound with a vintage vibe and our influences include Fleetwood Mac, Carole King, Phoebe Bridgers and Alabama Shakes. In November 2019, we self-released our debut EP “Wasted Heart”. It was mixed by Chris Constable (Kamasi Washington, Fitz and the Tantrums) and mastered at Infrasonic Mastering by Pete Lyman (Weezer, Panic at the Disco, Brandi Carlile). Recently, through a random social media interaction, I’ve also begun writing music for a new series called “Spooky Bedtime Stories at Revival Wheeler Mansion” on YouTube. The series is hosted and curated by Isabella Sinclair. She has been a dominatrix since 1993 and was based out of L.A. for many years. Last year, she relocated to Massachusetts to restore the Wheeler Mansion. As a writer, I have been a columnist for the Antelope Valley Press since August of 2018. My objective is to document and capture what’s happening in the local music and art scene. This could range anywhere from shedding a spotlight on an artist, covering local events or addressing topics relevant to our community. During the pandemic, these topics have branched out to national or global issues concerning music. A couple years into my column, I had a desire to create a platform where I could host in-depth discussions with creative people. Something that dives into the psyche of creative people. With the gigging side of music completely on hold due to COVID, some long-time friends and I got together and started the Sonic City Council podcast. My co-host Davey Sipes is a fellow musician and music teacher at AMPED Music, a music school in Lancaster, CA. Our engineer, “Maximum” Max Taylor, manages Desert Sounds Studios. He makes sure nothing catches on fire while we record and all the gremlins are taken care of. Guests have included guitarist Michael Staertow (Lou Gramm), bassist Josh Crumbly (Kamasi Washington, Leon Bridges), guitarist Lexii Lynn Frazier (Pink $weats, Chloe x Halle), drummer Jordan West (Grace Potter) and Kevin “Dugie” Dugan (Michael Anthony, Fleetwood Mac). I can trace back to the exact moment where the seed of my career began to grow. In 2011, I was taking a recording class in college called Studio Music Production taught by Jon Lacroix. He also taught a performance class called the Commercial Music Ensemble nicknamed “Test Flight” after our community’s connection to the local aerospace industry. It was an audition based class consisting of multiple singers, instrumentalists and sound crew. Each week, you learned two-three songs, rehearsed on Tuesday nights, and built a setlist. At the end of the semester, you performed a themed recital of about 20-30 songs. One day, knowing I had a passion for live sound, Jon pulled me aside and recommended I come to audition for Test Flight that night. Unsure of myself, already hearing the eternal “What if I fail” in my head, I drove home to make dinner. Staring at the clock, pacing around my kitchen, I almost talked myself out of going. Then, a small instinct in my gut drowned out the nervous thoughts in my mind. “Go for it. What do you have to lose?” Right at the critical moment, I left my house with exactly enough time to make it back to school. I arrived at the audition, got accepted and my life changed before I realized it. About a year later, still on the crew, the Commercial Music Department decided to a tribute concert to Motown in our newly built Performing Arts Center on campus. The band consisted of music professors, professional guest musicians outside of campus and Test Flight alumni. The head sound engineer was Bob Carlson, the live sound instructor on campus and he chose the Test Flight sound crew as his assistants; “Diamond” Jeff Collier, Jose Rebollo and myself. The show was a success and through being apart of that show, I was able to get a job as a stagehand at the college theatre. Around this same time, one of my professors, Nate Dillon, began to promote local shows again. Unbeknownst to me, Nate had a long history of throwing punk shows with local/touring bands dating back to his youth. On Black Friday of November 2012, he threw a local show at the Lancaster Moose Lodge featuring all electronic based bands. He asked me to run sound and my life changed yet again. This led to a four year long experience of running sound at the Moose for various promoters including Nate. In many ways, this was a secondary college experience. Every weekend was a shot in the arm and punch in the face. The acts I did sound for ran the spectrum from kids playing their first show to artists/bands like Leftover Crack, Voodoo Glow Skulls, The Garden, Phora and the UK Subs. Many nights, my fellow sound buddy Matt Grahmn and I would also load in gear and double as security. At 2am every gig, we switched into the clean up crew. We picked up bottles, cans and trash in the venue, the make shift green room, and around the parking lot. On a rough night, hosing down vomit in the parking lot and preventing fights was also thrown into the fold. This was all done for the handsome salary of $40 a show. A real glimpse into raw humanity was had during these years. While cutting my teeth in punk scene, I was finishing up my formal college education. In 2013, I applied to work at the Lancaster Performing Arts Center after a recommendation by my old buddy from college, Jeff Collier. He had been working there since 2010 and had become a crew lead. I passed my interview, was hired that September and I’m still working there today. Every gig there feels like home to me. Jeff and I became really close after that. In 2015, he managed to score some badges for the NAMM Show in Anaheim. Saturday night of the NAMM Show, we went out to dinner with a mutual friend who worked for Roland at the time. She invited a bunch of her friends including, Jarod Woznik. At the time, he was guitar-teching for The Bangles and now, he techs for Lita Ford and works at Schecter Guitars. We hit it off quickly bonding over behind the scenes work. We kept in touch and two years later, Jarod posted about needing stagehands for a gig in North Hollywood on Facebook. It was for the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp which was production managed by Kevin “Dugie” Dugan. Jeff and I each responded to his post, unknowingly, and both got hired for the gig. This led to a fruitful mentorship with “Dugie”, working for various bands like Last In Line, Venice and Lita Ford and going on the road. If I had stayed home back in 2011 and convinced myself I wasn’t good enough to audition for my college sound class, none of this would have happened. The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome is myself. Being an insecure/anxious kid, I have been my own worst enemy in the past. Sometimes being riddled with fear, anxiety and depression. When I first started performing in public as a teenager, it was a way to overcome that fear. Learning to let go, being okay with the unknown and building confidence have been my biggest challenges in the last ten years. This all culminated in 2020. With work and playing live vanishing overnight, I struggled to find any meaning in life. My entire validity was tied into pursuing my passion and getting better gigs. With those gone, I felt like I had nothing and worst of all, that I was nothing. Thankfully, my parents and close friends provided me with emotional support I needed to carry me through the darkness. Then, I started meditating, journaling and writing again everyday. Now, where I am mentally is an near 180 from lowest points of 2020. I’m far from a perfect person but I’m making progress. What I want the world to know about my art and story is that, truly, its not about me. My column, my line of work and my art. It’s about lifting other people up and supporting something bigger than myself. It almost feels strange talking about my story so much. All my best moments come from telling someone else’s story, making someone else sound good, helping someone else write a song, etc. In 2021, I really want to abandon this idea of “I” and focus being the most supportive person possible to my family, friends, colleagues and community. In the future, I would like to help creative people from all walks of life and backgrounds gain access to mental health care. Perhaps, provide relief to them directly. I have no idea how I’ll do that but I’d love to help out in some way. A few lessons I’ve learned: -Everything is connected. Music and the genres within it, writing, work ethic, spirituality, fitness, mental health, social health and creativity. They all relate, feed and support each other. When everything is in balance, you operate at peak clarity and efficiency. -Sometimes, it’s good to put blinders on. You don’t have to improve in every aspect of life all at once. If your mind and soul is a cluttered room, focus on picking up one sock at a time. -Treat yourself the same way you would treat a friend in need.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love this question! The timing is perfect too. One of my best friends, Raelynn Janicke, is a mastering engineer who lives in Nashville. She’s only been to California once and we’ve talked about planning the ultimate L.A. experience for her in the future. Some places are well-known, some are off the beaten path. Either way, it’s a blessing to have these places within driving distance. Food: Without pretense, L.A. is one of the best food cities in the world. Your imagination is really the limit as you can find almost anything. Mexican food is my all-time favorite. Many are great but Tacos Villa Corona is the top for me, Poquito Mas in Burbank is a close second, For Italian: Giamella’s in Glendale has the best sandwiches. The pepper steak and cheese is heart attack heaven on a bun. For Diners, I love Fred 62 in Los Feliz. You can’t beat a classic. For Ramen: Daikokuya on Sunset Blvd. When you’ve been loading in and sound checking all day at the Whiskey, nothing soothes the soul for a long night ahead like their ramen. Other favorites include Johnnie’s Pastrami in Culver City Drinks: Given how much I love the atmosphere, I definitely seek out the dives over chic, structurally-engineered cocktail joints. Nothing wrong going upscale from time to time. That’s just not my typical place I seek out. Not do I generally want to. The spice of life is found in the places that fall beneath the cracks. The Redwood Bar in Downtown, for being is both a rock/punk venue in a pirate ship, rules beyond compare. Staying in the music realm, The Rainbow Bar and Grill in Hollywood is essential if you’re a rock or metal fan. With all it’s mainstream notoriety, it’s still cool. It’s what the Hard Rock Cafe wants to be and will never be. Crawford’s in Rampart Village is another solid, no-nonsense establishment. Plus, I hear their chicken is pretty good. Live music and shows: The Baked Potato in Studio City is my favorite club in L.A. It’s such an incredible thing to find a great jazz club in this day and age. Some of the greatest session musicians and artists could be playing there in any given moment. It’s an awe-inspiring experience to hear these masters demonstrate their craft. I feel the same way about The Comedy Store. It feels like sacred ground going in there. The Bootleg Theatre is another great venue. Zebulon and Hyperion Avenue Tavern are among my newer favorite discoveries within the last couple years. Besides the places listed above, any sort of book, music or oddities store, I’m always interested in exploring. Mr. Musichead in Hollywood is phenomenal gallery filled with classic photos. Descanso Gardens in Pasadena is one of favorite spots to clear my head.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The word mentorship really means a great deal to me. Without wise elders taking me under their wing, my life would be dramatically different. First and foremost, I would absolutely not be the person today, both in my career and as a human being, without the love and support from my parents. They brought the introduction of music into my life. Also, they encouraged me to be a creative person and working behind the scenes before anyone else did. After my parents, I’ve had five mentors who changed the trajectory of my life for the better. While attending the Commercial Music Program at Antelope Valley College, three particular professors had a profound impact on me. They are Michael J. McCully, Jon Lacroix and Nate Dillon. Beyond their various respective musical disciplines, I learned so many life lessons that I consciously carry with me to this day. An honorable mention must be given also to Bob Carlson, another former professor, and the music program as a whole. It was truly a gateway for what my life has become in the best way possible. The last two mentors are Toby Francis and Kevin “Dugie” Dugan. Toby is a live sound engineer who has worked for some of the biggest bands and artists in the world (Katy Perry, Kayne West, and Arianna Grande to name a few). I met him around the time I was graduating high school in 2010. He imparted on to me knowledge, stories and lingo years ahead of my yet to be fully formed brain. He also did two critical things for me. 1) Recorded my high school metal band in his home studio. When we weren’t tracking songs, I was going over to watch him mix and take notes. 2) He encouraged me that it was possible to achieve a career in the music business and to attend school for it. “Dugie” is a member of the “Roadie Hall Of Fame” and most notably, the bass tech for Michael Anthony (Van Halen, Chickenfoot, The Circle) for over 40 years. We first met four years ago and quickly formed a solid bond. In becoming his assistant during that time, he has imparted so much wisdom and knowledge onto me. Basically, he has become my roadie sensei in music. I’m beyond blessed to know all of these people. With all of this, I also feel a lot of karmic debt I must repay. With great mentorship comes great responsibility. My one true goal in life is to find at least one person whose life I can change. I must complete the circle of passing along my knowledge and encouragement. I must allow some shy, pimple-faced kid to feel confident in their dreams the same way I was. That’s where the true reward is.
Other: Rogue! – Spotify https://open.spotify.com/album/38PlF4s3sSdXW6UW8lUNQH?si=XuNTlGfqRv-mHCbc0ufVPw&nd=1
Personal Photo: I tried to upload one picture but it’s not showing up. I’ll send it separately if there is a problem Credit: J.W. Adams Photography Photo: Sonic City Council Podcast – Credit: Allie Taylor Rios -Cherished Moments Photography Rogue! Viper Room – Credit: Kyler Iaeger Neil Young Concert Review – Screenshot Halloween Covid Gig – Screenshot Christmas Covid Safe gig – Screenshot Podcast With Kevin “Dugie” Dugan -Screenshot