Jesse Bond is a fantastic guitarist out of Atlanta that makes a living as a touring sideman. I met Jesse through a mutual friend and after learning about his career and artists with whom he’s recorded and toured, I knew he’d have a lot of great information to share through our working musician interview series.
MW: When did you start playing music, and when did you realize it was something you wanted to do professionally?
JB: I started playing guitar around 14 years old. My mom is the one that actually got me into the guitar. She was the music director at our church and picked one up when I was about 13 so she could accompany herself and lead the band.
I had friends in high school that were starting metal and punk bands so music and guitar were all around me. I joined a band and also started taking lessons.
My sophomore year in high school is when I started looking at colleges and my counselor suggested Berklee college in Boston. It sounded like a good idea so I made the decision to pursue music seriously then. I also joined my high school jazz band.
Did you study music in school? How has that impacted your career?
I did end up going to Berklee and it has definitely helped me in many ways. First off, the musical knowledge that you get at a school like that is amazing. There’s so much info that you actually have to forget half of it and just play when you get out.
On top of what you learn at a school like Berklee is the connections you make. The networking is worth its weight in gold. I got my first big touring gig (Anthony Hamilton) from a Berklee connection.
I did take high school lessons as I said earlier, and I took two high school music theory classes as well. My advice for all who are considering music school:
- Know as much as you can before going. The more advanced you are is the more you can pull from your teachers.
- Get the text books early.
- Test out of classes.
- Take a few semesters off before starting.
- Take general education classes first.
That’s what I wish I would’ve done anyway.
Briefly describe your career today. What kinds of work do you do to make a living?
My career today is mainly dependent on touring with artists. I moved to Atlanta to play with PJ Morton in 2002. I started playing in churches soon after, and in Atlanta that’s a decent steady income stream for a musician.
I then got on Anthony Hamilton’s tour in 04. My biggest touring gig was Kanye West from 07-09. I’m currently music directing for Melanie Fiona (since 2010) and we’re opening for D’angelo and Mary J Blige as we speak.
I also do studio work but touring makes the bulk of my income. I’d like that to switch in the near future however.
How do you find work as a musician?
I find work as a musician by networking and networking and networking… and networking. It really is less about how you play and more about who you know and your professional reputation. I know that I would rather hire a friend than someone I don’t know. It’s important to be on time, personable, dependable to learn material, etc. Make friends and be professional. Work will come.
What skills are necessary to be successful at your job (or jobs)?
Other skills that help me are definitely on the engineering side. I have the capability to cut guitar tracks out of my house via email. I also program live shows for artists and run their tracks from stage. It’s the age of the home studio so know how to be self sufficient.
Also… The Nashville number system is the fastest way to chart. Learning that system streamlined the way I learn music.
Finally, do you have any advice for younger musicians aspiring to be professionals?
Stay humble; soak in as much information as you can from your peers and mentors; learn your music; develop your ear; learn your tunes; don’t overplay; be prepared to step out and shine when you need to; look the part as well…
And, make sure you get paid for what you do. If you’re spending 8 hours a day at a day job, you only get 4 hours or so to work on your craft. You’re already behind because others are spending 8-12 hours a day specifically on their craft. The raw number of hours spent just won’t allow you to keep up. Demand compensation.
And write write write! One song placement can get you the same compensation as a year or two worth of gigs.
Keep your head up in the hard times (and slow times) and don’t forget why you started playing in the first place… because it’s fun!
More about Jesse Bond:
Jesse Bond is an Atlanta based guitarist and producer that originally hails from Reno, Nevada. He is also a graduate of Berklee College of Music (02′).
He is a member of the PJ Morton Band and has toured and recorded with Kanye West, Rihanna, Celine Dion, Anthony Hamilton, Ledisi, Melanie Fiona, Toni Braxton, Faith Evans, Janet Jackson, Ne-Yo, John Legend, Jazmine Sullivan, Chrisette Michelle, Mary J Blige, Mary Mary, Kim Burrell, Adam Levine, India Arie, and many more.
He is a husband and a father and is currently music director for Melanie Fiona. Follow Jesse on Twitter to keep up with his life as a touring guitarist.