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Life & Work with Jesh Yancey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jesh Yancey.

Hi Jesh, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I am a Folk Singer and songwriter since 2014, when I got out of the Navy and landed in Fort Walton Beach, Florida with my wife Miranda. Once I got out of the Navy my life opened up in such a way that I was able to dip my toes into the waters of a full-time musician. The few bars and clubs available there were very welcoming and willing to be patient with a new musician. I have been playing music since around 2006 but never by myself. I had been a bass player in various cover bands in Alabama when I was going to school at Jacksonville State University. It was that band that ultimately led to me failing out of college and having to join the Navy to stay above water, pardon the pun! So once I started dabbling in “gigging” around Fort Walton Beach, I was also working on my Bachelor’s degree, Environmental Science, at The University of West Florida in Pensacola. It was during this time that we moved over to Mobile, Alabama.

In Mobile, I stumbled upon one of the best music communities in the country. By this time I was getting more confident in my solo artist work and was itching to find some musicians to play with, which turns out, wasn’t too hard. In Mobile you can barely walk your dog without finding a Harmonica player, that’s what happened to me! I found Jef Funk, he started playing some duo gigs with me and then I found Lizz Hough to play Upright Bass with me and then I found Ryan VanDyke to play drums and so many more musicians that helped me get started! I recorded my first album, Livers and Diers, at Dauphin Street Sound in downtown Mobile and I’ve spent every day since trying to find new folks to listen to it! In 2019 my wife and I moved to Denver and I’ve been working day in and day out to try and find a place to fit in within the music scene here in Denver! It has been tough, especially with the Covid situation, and also finding time between gigs to find new musicians to build my band, Jesh Yancey & The High Hopes. 2021 was a decent year for me but 2022 has been even better. I’ve been given several opportunities to open for national acts such as Chicago Farmer and The Field Notes and the great Joshua Ray Walker while also getting to play my first real festival up in Evergreen called Hops and Drops. In October, I get to bring my band to Cervantes Other Side to open up for the mighty Jerry Joseph and The Jackmormons which is a huge deal for me!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
So far things have been very incremental since I got started, but things have also been steadily moving in the right direction. One of my main challenges has been finding reasons to keep going when it looks like there isn’t much point in it. In my career field, it is hard to get the right kind of feedback from any audience that encourages you to keep at it. So a person like me has to dig deep to find the will to just be patient and stay at it. I have become good at landing in a new place and just getting to work and finding the right people with which to surround myself. All the while being diligent to find venues and the people that run the venues and everything that goes into getting people to spend their hard-earned money to come out and hear what you have to say. But it gets a little easier every day.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I see myself as a songwriter, I view the world through writer’s eyes and I reflect what I see in the form of Music. Singing and playing guitar are just tools that I have to help get the job done. So what I try to do is write songs that I feel the world needs. I’m not the type of songwriter that has a hundred similar love songs about the same failed relationship, that’s not what I do. I try and fill voids that I see in Music and also try and sneak in a few of my own points when I can. If I were to have a specialization, I’d say it has to be my groove, I feel that is what makes what I do work across my whole catalog. It all has a groove. No one cares if the groove ain’t there. I have created a diverse catalog of Music that doesn’t really fit in any one genre, and what makes me most proud is that my songs don’t require much categorization. Just press the play button and check it out. If you don’t like the first one try a different one, I’m sure you’ll find something you can relate to. I feel like the looseness of my Music is what really helps me stand out, I tell my band all the time that I just want them to know the skeleton of the songs so that when we get on stage we can then make a moment out of the Music. Those moments are what I’m trying to make more of!

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
Denver is a crazy place to say the least! I enjoy being able to navigate through town with relative ease, especially when compared to other cities I’ve been in. I keep finding better restaurants here and there which really helps this Southern boy out! But what makes Denver stand out for me is that there is so so so much to do here. If you’re bored in Denver that’s your fault. The concert schedule for the region is ridiculous, and I like to go watch as much music as I play. Lately, I’ve been finding more local Denver bands that I like and try to help support when I’m not playing, which can be tough, but it matters. I’ve mostly been looking for a community that I can fit into without having to compromise myself and I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to that here in Denver.

The food here is not what I’m used to, though. I try and find great spots around town and sometimes I just come away feeling indifferent. But, I did live on the Gulf Coast for a few years before coming here and so it’s tough to beat that cuisine, especially when New Orleans is a day trip away! But there are bright spots I’ve found, for sure! If you read this and you know of a dope spot for tacos please hit me up!

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Image Credits
Seth Johnstone, Tait Debaca

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