Photo courtesy of Christopher J. Essex
Denise Zylow: Hi, Christopher. It is Denise with Think Country.
Christopher J. Essex: Hello. How are you?
Denise: I am good. Thank you for taking to time out of your schedule to talk to me. How are you doing?
Christopher J. Essex: I am good. I am happy to talk with you. I have been thinking a lot about time. There is always plenty of time; you just need to prioritize what you want to do with your time.
Denise: I was also reading that instead of resolutions you set goals for yourself.
Christopher J Essex: I am a big goal orientated person. I think that post came from the idea that 2021 did not suddenly come along and now everything that made 2020 hard is suddenly gone. I wish 2021 came on January 1st life is perfect again.
Denise: I wish we could say that but it does not work that way. So many different rules everywhere.
Christopher j. Essex: That is why I wanted to look at it as goals instead of resolutions. Something that you set out to achieve. Focusing towards something. One of those goals was a music tour in 2021. If it happens with everything going on all the better. If it doesn’t happen, I have not failed my “resolution” so to speak and I will continue working towards that goal in 2022.
Denise: I saw that you did get to play out at some venues. That is great.
Christopher J. Essex: I have been very lucky to still be able to play out. Definitely still looking forward to the touring element. I love being able to share my songs. There is definitely a different feeling once you leave Nashville. You can bring music to a place that does not have music as readily available as we do here.
Denise: Where would your dream place be to play on tour?
Christopher J Essex: Good question. I have not thought about a dream place as much because I have been thinking about a lot of potential realistic places that could come about in the fall. We are in the process of setting up a collegiate tour with the fraternity that I was in while in college. Predominant fraternity in the south, so we could bounce around the houses down there in the fall that would be a good starting point. They have a social budget because they have basically gone a year without spending anything from the social budget.
Denise: That is a great idea! That was always neat when someone came to the school I attended. Especially since it was a small-town school.
Christopher J Essex: It is a great opportunity to do a full band show that has the type of audience that does not have to know you to be excited to see you. They are excited to see what you got and are ready to follow you on your journey.
Denise: That is how you find some of your biggest supporters.
Christopher J Essex: Yes absolutely. Touring in general has taken a hit for artists not being allowed to tour. I think it is more than the monetary loss. It is the loss of the connection to your fans that you get through touring. Where you get to meet the fan base, shake hands, take pictures say hi. Those are the strongest relationships that last say five years down the road. Right now, you can only keep the fans/supporters entertained on social media. It has been a very tricky year in the music business. I would love to perform live but it is just virtual. All that is free.
Denise: It is hard through a computer screen.
Christopher J Essex: It is a pretty tricky thing. I am pretty use to a virtual live show. I did many Instagram Lives at the start of quarantine. My supporter page enjoys them. I spend a lot of time and effort in making them sound and look good. I make it as much of a full show experience that I can. There are things I don’t like. Especially when you finish a song there is no applause. You have to look at your chat to see a reaction. I am alone in the room and it is quiet.
Denise: I would think it feels odd not to hear the applause.
Christopher J Essex: I like to interact with my supporters on a live. I like to ask questions and get a response from them. I get to dig in on a more personal level. Get to know where they are from, what kind of country music they like, which of my songs they like and why they like it. Their backgrounds. It is an opportunity to strengthen your supporter base.
Denise: For them that has to be neat to as you are actually answering them back in real time. As a country music fan real time comments make me happy. Kind of “Oh my gosh they answered me”. Let the fan girling begin!
Christopher J Essex: I tell everyone on social media all the time to please DM me. There are very few DMs that I don’t respond to. Of course, there are some questions that I will not respond to. The majority of supporters I will respond to as I have never been one that should be “idolized” I am just a person.
Denise: That is a wonderful thought. Your supporters will be there for you because they want to not because they have to because you are down to earth.
Christopher J Essex: I am always grateful for my supporters. I love them. There are times when I get frustrated with social media. There are a lot of things that sometimes make it difficult to get content out to them. I get messages saying I pre-saved the song. I am always grateful when someone does pre-saves my song.
Denise: Pre-save, share, comment post…
Christopher J Essex: absolutely! I always tell them, which there is a good strong group of them all the things to do on the posts. They like, Comment, share to their timelines on any post that I do. These things really do add up especially right now.
Denise: Exactly. Is there anything that you want to get out to your supporters?
Christopher J Essex: Yes, I don’t think that I can say it enough THANK YOU! They were a big help in releasing the song. It was all set, recorded and I did not know is this the first song that you guys would choose to be the second release off the EP I am building up to release. I had over 100 comments that this was the one. So clearly, I could not choose a different one. It is a great feeling when people want to hear your music. The feeling of every additional person after that first one is indescribable. So, supporters keep doing what you are doing because you guys are great!
I have merchandise coming out soon. We are still trying to work out the details. If you are able to support by buying merchandise please do so. We are working hard to keep the cost low, but those sales from supporters will help me out, more than streaming does.
Denise: Anything else new in your life?
Christopher J Essex: I am going to start back in March to train for Ninja Warrior. That was one of my goals to get back to a place with my fitness training where I could get back in to Ninja Warrior training. (laughs)
Denise: Wow. I was going to ask about that goal. Is the ultimate result being on the show?
Christopher J Essex: Absolutely! That is my end goal, the show. I first started training in 2019 and was in really great shape and then of course quarantine happened and well… fell off the wagon a bit. But that goal has not changed. My best friend and I used to watch the original Ninja Warrior from Japan when we were kids. I have had the goal since then.
Denise: I’ll watch those athletes are amazing.
Christopher J Essex: It is not only a physical thing but a mental exercise. It is about the mental strength of not letting doubt overcome you. It is great to have an outside element to keep you interested outside of the music industry.
Denise: Varied interests and bucket list items. I will cheer you on from my couch.
Christopher J Essex: I appreciate that. #NashvilleNinja until the show takes me.
Denise: Awesome. “On the Inside” is the new single?
Christopher J Essex: I am very excited for it to be released on February 10th! It is the second single I have released. I am a little more prepared with what will happen. I am a little less nervous and more excited. I will then have two songs that supporters can choose to listen too.
Denise: It is a great song. Where did the idea come from?
Christopher J Essex: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it. I wrote this song with Liz Anne Hill. I am really excited! We have not written together in about six months with quarantine, schedules. I love writing with her because we just sit and have conversations. We talk until we catch a word or phrase.
It was the first time we had ever written together and we were just talking and trying to get to know each other. We started talking about relationships. I was telling her about the relationship that had just ended for me. It was not a bad breakup by any means. In fact, we are still friends. I was speaking of her very positively and describing qualities like her strength, her patience, her energy and the drive about her that is just infectious. Liz Anne asked after that if I found her attractive? I was surprised and said of course. Liz Anne than told me she asked because I did not describe any of her physical features only those on the inside and then this is the story we came up. She could cut her hair, buy a new outfit or wear the same old thing I had seen 100 times but all that did not matter I would notice the beauty on the Inside.
Denise: That is a beautiful concept for a song. More people need to be judged by what is on the inside rather than the outside of a person.
Christopher J Essex: I appreciate that, and I agree. I get the question on social media about my relationship status. I hate to break my fans’ hearts but there is nothing exciting happening, no drama, still single. What is on the inside is what I am looking for first. Always someone who is kind, has a good heart and is a good person.
Denise: That is wonderful. The woman that the song is written about is a lucky lady. It is a flattering way to be described.
Christopher J Essex: She definitely knows. I told her. She has pre-saved the song. She is a good friend and will always be a good friend. I have had conversations with her new boyfriend, I know that is odd because that is my ex but there is not a bad feeling there. I am very happy that we are still friends. She’s got a new boyfriend and I got a song!
Denise: Maybe your person is right around the corner in Nashville.
Christopher J Essex: You never know.
Video (audio) courtesy of Christopher J. Essex and YouTube
Denise: Did Liz Anne and yourself write any other songs together?
Christopher J Essex: We wrote three or four songs together. “On the Inside” is definitely going to be on the new EP. There is another song but I have not announced that one yet. I am excited for that one too.
Denise: We will save that one for another day.
Christopher J Essex: Absolutely!
Denise: Where was On the Inside recorded?
Christopher J Essex: It was recorded a little bit of everywhere here in Nashville. Kent Wells is the producer on the song. He is also the producer on all of the tracks on the EP except for one. We ended up doing the instrument tracking at Castle Recording Studios in the Franklin area. Did some vocals at Skyway Studios. Wrapped and did the more polished stuff at Dark Horse Studios. Dark Horse is so beautiful.
Denise: Dark Horse is your dream studio?
Christopher J Essex: Yes. Recording with Kent is one of those experiences that you just can not make up. He is the best in the business and it shows. The studio is great all the platinum records on the walls, the guitars that have been used on the tracks, and of course all the Dolly Parton memorabilia.
We would be sitting there and Kent would be like give me five minutes. Dolly is calling and I need to talk to her. I could hear heron the phone (like through the speaker) You are just kind of like this may be as close as I will ever get to Dolly Parton! But this is awesome! (laughs)
Denise: Maybe a Christopher and Dolly collaboration?
Christopher J Essex: I would love that! Of course, you can put that out into the universe. But it is only fair to earn your seat at the table first. I mean she is a legend for a reason. If she called me tomorrow and asked to collaborate (which I can assure you she will not) I will definitely seize that opportunity. I am going to work hard in my career so that I can earn a spot at the table with someone as legendary as Dolly Parton.
Denise: Two goals right there. (laughs)
Christopher J Essex: Exactly!
Denise: Who played on your new single “On the Inside”.
Christopher J Essex: In terms of the musicians that played on this single, when we did this, I was so young, in town meaning that I did not know anyone. if I could go back, I would relish in that moment a little more, because I didn’t get the opportunity to get to know all the musicians.
Engineer on the track: Patrick Murphy. Keyboards: Kevin Willis Bass: Paul Hollowell Drums: Gary Lund Evan Hutchins: Lead Guitar : Jerry McPherson Rhythm Guitar: Kent Wells
They are all very talented. The lead guitar, Jerry McPherson, he is a boss. The guitar solo for “On the Inside is hard. I learned the solo, so I could play with the band. I spent hours listening and teaching it to myself.
Denise: I am impressed that you are a self-taught guitarist.
Christopher J Essex: I have been working very hard on becoming a lead guitarist. I am very excited to get out on tour to show some of the best qualities of myself as an artist. I want to provide the total live experience like a Brad Paisley or a Keith Urban. They’re lead singers that step away from the mic and play their own solos. That is a level of mastery that I have always dreamed of being that kind of rock star. I started teaching myself to play guitar as a step towards that goal.
Another goal is to be a combination of TJ and John Osborne. TJ’s voice is so recognizable. I love his low voice. John in my opinion, is one of the most underrated country lead guitarists of my generation. I have been spending the last few days trying to learn the three-minute guitar solo for “Stay a Little Longer”.
Photo courtesy of Christopher J. Essex
Denise: You are going out on tour. What would your dream tour look like?
Christopher J. Essex: I am working so hard on that song because I would actually want that to be my opening song for my set when I am starting out on tour. When you are starting out on tour you do a lot of cover stuff because that is what people recognize.
My dream tour would be opening for Tim McGraw and Chris Janson. They are two people that I admire in the industry. Tim McGraw has been a staple for over two decades, a country music legend. Chris Janson is such an exciting entertainer. I play harmonica but he is a harmonica god. I tried to learn his harmonica solos. They are not only great entertainers they are well rounded artists: great songwriters, great vocalists.
Denise: That would be a great tour. Three months from now what is your goal?
Christopher J Essex: In three months we will be back on the phone talking about my next single. We are on a timeline. So, three to four months after “On the Inside” comes out the next single will roll out. Followed by the EP, three or four months after the next single. Then get out on tour and play the hell out of the songs. Write some more songs. This EP has a lot of tracks. I love the tracks they are very dear to me. When you eventually hear the EP, you will notice that no song sounds the same. I am nervous about that but I am trying to find my artistry in the tracks. I am worried that I am not finding my brand but this EP has allowed me to choose songs that tell a story. That was my goal to tell a bunch of stories through my songwriting that I really wanted to get out there. Then it will be time to focus on who I am as an artist and what my sound will be.
Denise: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Christopher J Essex: As long as this is coming out after the live stream event, I can let everyone know that I am also releasing a video for “On the Inside”. It is already done, filmed, and produced. It is waiting on my computer, it was filmed on December 15th, I have been waiting for a while to release it.
Denise: I feel like I have taken up enough of you time.
Christopher J Essex: I appreciate you takin the time with this. It has been great. Thank you again for reaching out.
Denise: Your welcome. Have a good night. Goodbye
Christopher J Essex: Goodbye.
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*Featured photo courtesy of Christopher J. Essex