Interview W/ Jesse Nighswonger

Conducted by Scott Belzer | March 10th, 2023

SB: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! You’ve been an Atlanta musician for a long time. Tell me a little bit about how you got started in music and how that music has morphed and changed over the years. You’ve been a part of a lot of projects!

JN: Well! I learned guitar as a kid but couldn’t get much luck getting a band started. When I was around 20, I finally decided I had to do it alone and I started writing and performing folk punk songs on my ukulele.  Over the years that has expanded in many ways. I’ve upgraded to other instruments, had a few different band iterations, and also new influences the more I would listen and learn. 

SB: What has you excited about this latest iteration of Jesse Nighswonger music? How does it compare to past projects?

JN: I have always been chasing something, and I definitely still am. With my current iteration I am combining my songwriting with more sound design, atmospheric elements and beats. I’m excited to see how this will evolve and if it will evolve into a band. 

SB: For your latest project, what are your top five major influences?

JN: Oh jeez. Let’s say David Bazan, Daniel Johnston, Low, Tim Hecker, and Jason Molina. These artists bring me a lot of inspiration, even though I might not sound like them. 

SB: Provided you had a way to listen to it, what’s the one album you would bring with you to a desert island?

JN: The soundtrack to “Barney’s Imagination Island: The Movie”.

SB: When it comes to Atlanta, what’s one thing most people don’t know about its music scene(s)? What’s it been like playing in Atlanta for as long as you have?

JN: I think one thing to remember is to never cater to a certain genre or scene or band. There will always be room for you and what you’re doing. There’s so much going on in Atlanta, just keep working on your art and play as many places as you can. 

SB: What Atlanta bands have you the most excited about right now? What should ATLiens be listening to? 

JN: Hmm. I really like Lowtown’s new album. Faye Webster is badass, and so is Rose Hotel. I don’t know, just go watch Emotron.

SB: Outside of music, what art projects or recreational activities are currently blowing you away in Atlanta?

JN: I love everything The Bakery is doing right now, and Underground Atlanta has so many great art spaces and events too.

SB: You’re a big movie fan — does this fandom play into your music at all? How so or why not?

JN: Oh yea, movies can get me feeling raw, open, emotional, and everything else. People like Charlie Kaufman, P.T. Anderson, and countless others inspire my music just as much as any band.   

SB: Best movie soundtrack/score? Feel free to list one or the other — or both!

JN: Film scores are a big influence on me. Even films in the last 5 years. I love composers like Ben Sailisbury and Geoff Barrow, Daniel Lopatin, Mica Levi, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Colin Stetson, and Hildur Guðnadóttir. A crazy good soundtrack you should check out is Last and First Men by Jóhann Jóhannsson and friends. 

What advice do you have for anyone trying to get started with music in Atlanta?

JN: Open mics! That’s the best way to get up on a stage in front of people with low stakes. Then you also meet lots of creative people. That’s what I did. And then just general research on venues and bands in the area you connect with.

SB: Pizza, nachos or wings? 

JN: 10 mild wings, extra blue cheese, and a side of fries. Please. 

Jesse Nighswonger is playing with Closebye and Curt Castle on Sunday, March 12 at 7:00 p.m.