Christopher J Essex is a Fort Lauderdale, FL native, finally living in Nashville, TN. He went on to receive his Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. He immediately moved to NYC and continued acting professionally until he took a job in Chicago playing Johnny Cash in Broadway’s Million Dollar Quartet. Then he went and toured through 13+ countries in Europe reprising that role on Norwegian Cruise Lines. In honor of Christopher’s new single, “Swipe Right on Me,” we have decided to feature him as our Artist of the Month for November. Check out our interview below!
Jerrett from Nashville Music Reviews – Thanks for doing this interview today. So, to get started, How long have you been singing/performing?
Christopher J Essex – Pretty much my whole life! I first joined the choir when I was in 1st grade, but when I was able to finally audition for my elementary school’s first show in the third grade thats when I really fell in love. I loved everything about the stage and performing. I think it for me its always been about story telling – and to this day thats what I still love the most about what I do. Each time I get to sing for an audience I want to do more than just run on a cool melody line, I want to make sure what ever I am singing connects to people and that the story comes through!
All artists have someone who they look up to musically. Who would you consider your musical inspirations or influences?
Johnny Cash. Obviously doing Million Dollar Quartet for 2 years and getting to play the Man in Black has had influences on my music but he certainly is also a beacon for the type of artist I want to be. Cash lived his life doing what he felt was right. Was he always in the right..? History can judge but no matter what he made his own decisions and let his morality be the guide and I think an artist that is definitely inspiring! A lot of my sound is also influenced by 90’s and early 00’s country! When I was growing up it was called Country Western but I can still remember every word to every song from that generation. When they sang their songs and told their stories… you listened! That is 100% what I want to continue to do!
What was it like playing Johnny Cash in Broadway’s “Million Dollar Quartet.”
It was absolutely amazing. First off the show itself is just unbelievable. For those who don’t know- the Million Dollar Quartet was the name given to Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. On December 4th, 1956 the four of them found themselves together in Sun Records for the first last and only time as a group. The show takes the audience through what that night would’ve looked like and throws in some high energy show stopping moments where the 4 actor get to play these artist most iconic songs. As Johnny Cash I could feel the level of respect people had for him. Every time I would start a number I could see people’s eyes light up. For some people- they were reliving what it was actually like to watch the man in black live on stage. For others they were getting to see for the first time what that must have been like. Truly there has been no experience more amazing than doing that show up to this point in my life!
So, you previously said that you have been to over 13 Countries. Which one of those countries was the most memorable for you?
Definitely Norway. Norway is such a beautiful country. When you hear all the legends of Nordic God’s its really easy to understand where they came from because the land truly looks like something only God could have created. It is just beautiful and everything seems so peaceful as well. Coming from big cities all over the United States and even through Europe, when you find yourself in Norway (especially where I was) you feel like you’re in a small town immediately. It truly is a place I would love to go back to and spend more time in!
That sounds pretty amazing. I will have to add Norway to my travel list. Switching gears, You have a new song out now, “Swipe Right on Me.” What is the story behind the new single?
Yes! My new and DEBUT single ‘Swipe Right On Me is now available EVERYWHERE! It is also doing really well so far!
The story behind the song is a funny one! I was on my way to a write with Bill DiLiugi and was actually swiping on tinder at a red light. I was new to town and when your new in a location a lot of times dating apps will send you push notifications that you should start swiping because there are a lot of new matches in your area. So I am there Swiping haha and thinking to myself.. I wish that I could just meet up with someone and go out dancing. Just have a fun night out! Then, ‘Good Time’ by Alan Jackson comes on my playlist. Thats when the idea sparked. It had been a while since I heard a line dance or country swing come out (especially one with classic country roots) and so I thought what about a song where I can literally tell people to swipe right, right on over to me. We sat down and wrote that song in a few short hours and now the rest is history!
It is pretty cool how inspiration for new songs can literally come at anytime, even driving around Nashville. How long have you lived in Nashville? What is your favorite part about living in Music City?
I actually moved to Nashville December 1st of last year! I am coming up on my year Anniversary of being here which definitely doesn’t feel real! Obviously this has been a tough first year to be here. Between losing my home in the tornado and then the pandemic I have had to really dig my heals in and try to make this all work. In some ways, thought, I am grateful for that because with everything going on I have worked harder than I ever have to get creative and find ways to make music! My favorite part of living here is the community. Obviously having a city where that community is centered around amazing music doesn’t hurt either, but when it comes down to it the community of people out here are like no other. I know when I first lost my home in the tornado in March I was shaken. Not only from the tornado but also from the nervousness of what was I going to do. I was still so new out here and didn’t know ANYONE! That being said so many people came together and helped me get back on my feet! The support out here is strong and its clear to see that people want to be more than friends, they want to be family!
Also, hot chicken. That’s pretty great!
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken is where its at. So, If you could do a project with anyone, who would be your dream duet?
Wow. So many people. Honestly I could list off probably 50 artists that I would love to duet with, but I thin right now the one that I would love to do a project with is Lainey Wilson! She is a story teller and has a hell of a voice! She is also just real and funny… real funny! I’ve always said the best actors are the ones who can pull off comedy and I think the same goes for musical artists! If you can sing music that makes people laugh and do it well.. then its a guarantee you can tell a story that’ll make people cry.. She definitely can do both!
2020 has been tough for all of us, with the pandemic and uncertainty. How are you staying busy during these quarantine times?
Honestly, just getting ready for the release of ‘Swipe Right On Me has kept me more than busy! So much goes into the release of new music, but it is all worth it when I get messages from supporters saying how much they like the song and videos of people dancing at home to the track! I’ve also been doing a ton of writing and getting prepped for the release of a TON of new music in 2021. Swipe Right On Me is just the first track off of what will be an EP release at the end of next year! So getting new material flowing and making sure all the songs are ready to go is super important right now!
You have been performing for some time. What advice do you have for someone trying to make it in the music industry?
You are your own small business! Don’t get me wrong I definitely think your music and artistry should come first when you are being a creator. So don’t try to create art for the purpose of business. But once you have done the creating part of this industry then run your small business like every other small business does. Market yourself and don’t be afraid to tell anyone and everyone about what you are doing. Sometimes it can feel weird to self promote, and there is definitely a trap out there of wanting to just having things grow naturally and have new fans and supporters just come through on their own but the problem is that can’t happen if you aren’t marketing yourself to begin with. So get out there and tell the world who you are and what you are doing because no one can and should be supporting you harder than you support yourself!
What would you like to tell your fans and people that have followed you throughout your professional career?
Thank you. Any of my “fans” know that I always feel like they are supporters, not fans! The reason for that is they do so much more than any fan could, my supporters always go above and beyond to support me and the proof is in how swipe right on me is doing after its first weekend! So thank you. If you know me, then you know I am so grateful for you and everything you continue to do- and in return get ready because 2021 is all about giving you more and more music!
Just wanted to give a huge shoutout to Christopher for doing this interview with us here at Nashville Music Reviews. Make sure you follow him below and stream “Swipe Right on Me,” on all major streaming platforms.
Jerrett Franklin grew up in a small town. He moved to Nashville to pursue a music career. After writing for a few different artists in the area, he decided to branch out and give local music the spotlight. That is where the idea for Music On The Rox originated from. We are dedicated to shining a light on local music and giving a voice to those who aren’t being heard.