Jesse Sheppard may be only 20 years old, but he is a seasoned musical professional. The Walden, New York native began his musical career at the age of 13, and by 14 was already a singer/songwriter with the band Six Stories Told. Over the years, SST’s fanbase grew, and the group toured extensively in the US and the UK. The band played over 300 live shows during those years, and part of the band’s appeal was Jesse’s original, catchy and meaningful songs.
In March of this year, Jesse decided to embark on a solo career. After months of hard work, Jesse released his first EP, “These Days,” a blend of his favorite sounds and influences, country and pop. Jesse has just released a unique cover of Kelsea Ballerini’s hit song, “Peter Pan.” Jesse is also planning a November release for a full-length album, as well as a tour -doing what he loves best, performing on stage for his fans.
Taking a break from his active lifestyle, Jesse was gracious enough to take some time and answer a few questions for Talk Nerdy With Us:
You have had an incredible career for such a young man. Can you tell us about what it’s like to enter the music business so young?
Entering into a music career at a young age was truly such a blessing for me. The reason being that I find the music industry to be one that is filled with a ton of trial and error. So the beauty of me starting early was that I got a ton of that trial and error time out of the way when I was very young and really didn’t have to worry about bills or responsibilities. And because many musicians start their career around the age I’m at now, many are just starting to learn from those trial and errors at twenty, while I may have done and learned from them at fourteen.
What, if any, was your deciding factor in pursuing a solo career?
The main reason I started a solo career was because if I ever got to the “end” of my music career and never hit that point of what I considered to be “making it,” I wouldn’t be able to blame that on anyone else. Although being in a band has a ton of pros, if I ever got to the end of the road and it was with a band, I could start making excuses like “oh we weren’t successful because ‘so and so’ didn’t dedicate enough time” or whatever the excuse may be. With a solo career, all the pressure is on me which is kind of terrifying but exciting at the same time. It allows me to take full responsibility of how far I take my career and that was exactly what I needed. Plus of course I get to be the boss which is pretty cool too. 😉
Can you tell us a bit about your EP These Days, and your upcoming album release?
These Days is an album of exploration for me on a creative point. Once I began my journey as a solo artist, I knew that I wanted a sound that had a heavy country influence, but was still exploring exactly what that sound was. So the EP was more of a melting pot of all of my influences while this upcoming full length is a lot more focused and honed in on what my sound is and who I am as an artist and a writer.
Your version of “Peter Pan” is so unique and haunting. How did you choose this song, and what was your inspiration in changing the lyrics?
When I first heard the song, I was totally blown away with everything about it. I thought everything from the production, the lyrics, the melody choices, and just the concept itself was brilliant. Because of this, I wanted to cover it, but didn’t know exactly how that would work since it is specifically about a guy. I tried putting my own twist on it, but couldn’t really find the concept or the words that really resonated with me so I almost dropped the idea completely. But thanks to my awesome manager Joyce, she had a gut feeling that if I could pull it off it would be very cool so she give me the little extra kick in my butt to continue working on reworking the lyrics and the concept. And eventually I came up with this interesting perspective of a Peter Pan that has hit his rock bottom and is realizing that it’s time to grow up and learn to be a man. I showed it to my team, they dug it, and then we hopped right into the studio and began knocking the song out.
You have an incredibly active lifestyle – scuba diving, skydiving, surfing, and hiking. Do you have any one activity you enjoy the most? How do you find time to squeeze in such fun?!
(laughs) I definitely love having an active lifestyle because I feel that I experience more of life when I’m active. How I work it into my schedule however is from becoming very disciplined with my time and how I use it. I have also discovered that I personally function best on about five hours of sleep. At one point I decided to change my mind set from waking up in the morning going “I wish I could sleep more” to “YAY it’s the morning! What amazing things does life have in store for me today?” This took a lot of practice, but eventually my mind started believing it, and it became a habit for me. So I have nineteen hours per day to get my work done with my music, take care of whatever non musical responsibilities I have to take care of, and then then do those fun activities! In terms of my favorite activity, I would have to say that it is a tie between Yoga and Boxing! They are both equally as enjoyable to me, but in complete opposite ways.
Your press release says you draw inspiration from “every music genre, experiences, books, movies.” Do you have any particular favorite books or movies that have inspired you? What musical artists have been your biggest influences?
To be perfectly honest, no one specific book or movie stands out to me in particular because I generally pull small details from each one that I watch or read. Whether it be a type of chemistry between a couple, or an interesting way that a couple met, an adventure between friends, or an interesting breakup. It really depends on the movie. In general my mind kind of decides what it wants to be inspired by when watching movies and reading books. I know that sounds hippyish but it’s how it works for me. In terms of artists I am massively influenced by, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, The Script, Jason Mraz, and Lady Antebellum. Those seem to be “go to” artists. But to be honest, the biggest influence of all for me is an exercise I tend to practice as a writer! I usually go on Spotify, and go to the different genre playlists and try to listen to at least ten minutes each day of a different genre. When I do this, I try to come up with why I personally believe people resonate with that type of music, and what it is that makes that genre/artists/song connect with people.
Our site is called Talk Nerdy With Us – do you have any hobbies or interests that could be considered Nerdy?
Well, I absolutely love listening to Harry Potter audiobooks. (laughs) Like every second I get a free chance to pop one on in my headphones I practically get giddy with excitement. And also the same applies to every John Green book ever written. I’m a sucker for “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Chasing Alaska,” and I’m unapologetic about it! 😉