Musician Jesse Macht is no stranger to the entertainment scene, as his father, Stephen Macht and his brother, Gabriel Macht (Suits) are actors. While Jesse has whet his foot in the acting scene, he'd much rather pursue music as he mentioned to me during our conversation. Jesse's songwriting and music is influenced by several iconic musicians, such as Billy Joel, John Lennon and my personal favorite, Gram Parsons, among many others along the same caliber. He has a knack for creating heartfelt lyrics with embraced harmonies. You've probably heard his music on television, too, as his songs have been featured on Ellen, MTV, Style Network, Nickelodean, A&E, Fox, and commercials such as Cymbalta.
Jesse's music is a powerful testament to the beauty of a dreamer and the passion for creating something unique and true. Jesse's a fun conversationalist, and we chatted about his music, how he connects with his audience, a song he wrote for his brother to sing, and how proud he is of his family and Gabriel. Read on to discover more about Jesse, and find out where to listen and purchase his music:
You came from a full band to performing as a solo artist. What made you want to migrate to solo?
Jesse: I had a band that backed me, but I don't think you're talking about that....
Jesse: I think you're talking about Burn Down the Mission that I was in before...
Jesse: We went through sort of a standard rock and roll story. Generally, we played together for years and years, in different forms. The final form, Burn Down the Mission was really a great band, something I'm really super proud of to have been a part of. In a lot of ways, I wish we could have continued going on. I was one of the songwriters in that band, but the main songwriter was a singer and we were doing really well, and we were essentially going to do a deal with Jive Records that didn't necessarily have time to go full-through. Our singer's mother passed away at the crux of a lot of business stuff. Understandably so, he had to step away and get some of his own stuff and life in order. I think he just felt at the time he needed a little space and needed to concentrate on himself and his family.
So at that same time, as the band was going all of us were really excited about the momentum of the band, so we had little bit of our independent careers in mind as well, in case that started going; connections and songwriting for other people, for the band, for ourselves. So, I had a little bit of that momentum going as the band was going as well, and when we had to step away, I said as much as he needs to step away, I can't do that and need to keep moving forward. That's what happened. I just kept moving forward, and started to follow something that had a little bit of a different sound than the band. The band was a little bit more of a pop/rock outfit, somewhat like Maroon 5, sort of a Train, OneRepublic thing. As much as I love that music, and I do, and I love the creativity and playing music with other guys, I just had some other passions in songwriting that I was really interested in and wanted to chase down another genre.
You have also dabbled in acting. What is it about music that makes you want to pursue it instead?
Jesse: You know, being an actor is a tremendous expression of art and expression of self. But, I think sometimes you're subject to other's peoples messages, and you don't always get to pursue what you want to do when you want to do it. As much as music, you definitely need ears to listen and you need people to help you promote your music and distribute it. At the end of the day, I can come home, or if I'm having a rough day, great day or sort of emotion I'm going through, I can come home or go to my studio, write something and be able to create and express at that moment whenever I want. That's important to me. I can go out and play a show whenever I want, especially in a place like Nashville (which is one of my favorite things about the city). Whenever you want to play music, you can. As an actor, you are subject to other people's timelines and you can't really necessary get out what you need to get out all the time. You can join a class, or be working in class, and you can do all that; it's definitely an expression, and it's definitely a time, and if you're hustling you can put a play on and produce it, but for me, I really love the experience of picking up the guitar at any moment, at any time of the day, and be able to let out some emotion, and let off steam. That's why I went towards music. I'm just driven to pursue the action.
It sounds to me like you enjoy the freedom of it...
Now, what are your long-term goals with music?
Jesse: Right now I've been writing with a bunch of different artists, and writing for myself, writing for publishing companies, and just a lot of songwriting; sort of learning what it means to be specifically a songwriter (which you understand what that means, being from Nashville). Which is a different thing than I grew up; as a kid, you just think you're going to be in a band and rock n' roll, and that's it. I would love to be an artist and I would love to play, keep making records and tour, and do that whole thing. At the same time I've found a lot of success recently in writing. So, um, trying to be a staff writer at some publishing company and work my way up as an artist and as a songwriter. Yeah, and work that way!
Speaking of songwriting, what is your writing process like?
Jesse: You know, it really depends in general, if I'm with somebody else. I guess it's the same as learning by myself, but I usually have something on the guitar or piano that has inspired a sound that I like. I'll use the emotional path that I've sort of been finding in that day or week, or how I've been feeling. I'll just start singing out just something really simple, and playing something out, finding a melody, and finding sort of a path. I guess as you know, the most fun and amazing thing about songwriting is that you can...the art in general sometimes just forms you naturally, it just sort of comes out. You have to be open, and be ready for the muse to touch you. There was a great TEDTalk that I just listened to and it's this idea that artist's sometimes put pressure on themselves to create something great, and we can stress out about that in a large way, if it's not coming to us naturally at that moment. This TEDTalk's was featuring the woman (Elizabeth Gilbert) who wrote Eat, Pray, Love, and spoke about this idea that the Greeks had 100 years ago; everything was about Greek gods inspiring artists and that allowed them to take the pressure off of them in a lot of ways, and say I was inspired by this muse (this god), and knowing that that god will come down and touch them. If the god wasn't around, that was also okay, that just wasn't going to be the day, the day was going to come another day.They found a lot of trust in that. At the same time, when they did something great, they couldn't get too high on themselves, it wasn't just them, it was the god that came down and touched them. That leveling out would be an ability to have less pressure on the whole process, but still find that magical sense of writing and the supernatural sense of saying that there are songs out there, there's poetry out there, and sometimes I'm going to channel it to my channel. I'm going to find my wavelength and I'm going to let it come out. So, when I write, I try to really sit down, choose a time when I can get my mind and body really in order and centered and look for that; just try and channel what I'm doing and be as honest as I can to the moment, and hopefully something will come out. I just trust in that.
How do you connect your music with an audience, when you're on tour and performing?
Jesse: I think that's a process of what happens on that tour, and depending on what you're doing. Writing stuff that is honest and truthful to my own self and struggles, and if I'm able to do that, click in to myself and be honest, I find that people are sucked in to what I'm saying or singing, and the relationship with the audience takes care of itself. It's the moments that I try to force anything or something that is not working in my own writing process, I find that I feel like I have to manufacture some sort of audience response, or have to get them to sing with me, or clap with me, or something's just not working. For me personally, everyone's got their own thing, I find my most comfortable way of interacting with an audience, is when I can really be honest through my songwriting. That connects and allows an audience to be sucked in it and go along for a ride, and forget where they are, and be transcended by the song and music.
What has been your best gig so far, as a musician?
Jesse: What is my favorite gig, thus far?...Every gig is great in its own way, I think in certain things. One that I remember is, I was up in Montana recently for a festival, and they allowed me to headline the festival on New Year's Eve, and we played a great show, packed out. It was some older songs of mine, but it was really fun to play to a big audience of about 600 people, and have everyone dancing around, and I got to sing a song with a great writer and singer, who I love to sing with, Katie Boeck. Katie's a great songwriter on her own, and when we write together, we write something very different from her sound and my sound, but together we write these great songs, and I think she has a great voice (you can hear some of our stuff online). Katie and I sang at this festival, and people were just really inspired by it, and I'm always transcended by the way she sings and the way we do our thing together. So, I think that was our best overall experience in music that I got to do recently, live.
Jesse and I chatted about San Diego (my favorite city), my hometown Nashville, and we chatted about the hot weather ;)
Is there any music that makes you cringe?
Jesse: Cringe in a good way or cringe in a bad way?
Cringe in a bad way!
Jesse: You know, my ex-girlfriend used to make fun of me and give me a lot of crap because I'll sit around and catch myself watching an hour of music television that seemingly is terrible. I can just watch it for 25 minutes, and she'd walk in and ask, "Why are you watching this?! It's terrible, don't you hate this?," and I'd say "Yeah, but I can't stop watching it." People watch reality shows they hate, you know, but I just love music so much and sometimes when I see things that I hate, I try to figure out why I hate it, you know, by just watching it.
I guess the kind of music I'm really not inspired by is...I'm trying to think of the band, even though it's kind of rude, a band like Creed maybe or those types of bands...
Jesse: Yeah, Nickelback is not one of my favorites. Um, yeah sort of all that genre; super-dude-rock-music-with-baritone-voices, sort of like hard, with their guitars, rocking and too much jaw-forward, baritone singing stuff; that's usually off-key when sung live. Probably the reason I watch it, is because the drummers are the best part. They're fun to watch, because they're trying so hard to make it work. I mean, I guess I'm just not inspired by it, but a lot of other people are. That's why I say, like the older I get, the less I get down on other music, and that's why I can still watch it. It just doesn't drive me or push me forward, but all the more power to them. If people are inspired by it, then that's enough, and that's great!
I'm sure you get asked this all the time, but I watched a video with you and your brother (Gabriel Macht) and was wondering if you guys ever plan to duo?
Jesse: You know, I love my brother, we have a great relationship, and my other, brother, sister and my whole family; we're all close. We're stoked about his success, and everything about it. So, I never mind when people ask me questions about him and how he's doing. I'm proud to show him off anytime of course. You know, he's great as a natural singer, just natural voice; he's got a great voice, a greater voice than I do. He's not trained nor does he practice. When I try to get him to sing something, he's not able to sing it back necessarily, but when he's got the moment, singing something he knows and just goes for it. He's a really great singer. I wrote him a song actually with my friend, Jeremy Silver. It's called "It's Me Tonight," (I think I have it up on my SoundCloud with me singing it). But, we wrote it for my brother, and Gabriel's been super busy with Suits; it's an incredible amount of time he's on set, 12-16 hours a day for 8 months out of the year, and when he's got his off time, that's his time spending with his wife and kid. You know, he barely gets to see them during the week, and he's just working on the time, which is great, because everyone's got to work, and we're grateful that he's got that work. That being said, I wrote this song for him, because he said he wanted to sing something and maybe could sing it. We all used to play music together when he had more free time, he'd come and sing, and we'd have these family jam sessions, and just have a good time. So, I wrote him this song to sing and he sang it, and he sounded good, but we needed to put a little more work into it. We're saving it, so we hope that when he's done with this season of Suits (which is in Season 3 currently), in October, we're going to get some time and really lay it down, and have him sing this song. He really liked it, wanted to sing it, and we thought it would be fun for all of his fans, with him singing; people love all that different stuff. If we can do it, that would be great, but we probably won't do any duo or duet stuff. I would love to write music for him and record if he'll do it, or write a song together. Yeah, that's a good question, thanks for asking!
Good, I'm glad you liked it!
Jesse was so much fun to interview and he's a great conversationalist about life, music, art, and what he enjoys doing the most, his music! Purchase his music by clicking HERE.
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