Set 18 | Jes Spires
After ten years of hosting numerous open mics in Dallas, Jes Spires reflects on what initially drove him to get involved: “I’m a big advocate of having art and making sure there are places for people to come and perform if they want to, at different venues, so they can get more comfortable being on stage." This is a topic many local musicians often bring up when asked about the ability to book gigs at various venues. It frequently boils down to connections. Do you have a contact? In the beginning, Jes would walk from bar to bar asking if they booked live music and leaving his contact information for the manager. He combined his street efforts with playing open mics, which basically acted as an audition, and eventually over time he began to get call backs. The more exposure he got and the more people he met and developed relationships with, the easier it became to book shows. Now, being an established musician in Dallas allows him to return the favor and play the role on the other end of the line as host of the open mic, "…if they do actually have high quality talent or the high drive to become a full-time musician, then I can introduce them to people. I keep the network tight and leave the door open.”
That process of networking in Dallas has provided Jes with many opportunities over the years. Every Tuesday night from 10-2am for ten years, Jes hosted the open mic at O’Riley’s, which the Dallas Observer ranked as one of the top ten open mics in Dallas in 2014. He also landed a job booking for the Bone, before it closed and reopened as Wits End, where he was asked to be the first musician to play the stage. In fact, Jes was the first musician to play at a lot of places around Dallas including the Bottle Shop, Green Door Public House, HG Supply, and the Green Room when it reopened in 2011. His resume lends credit to his diligence and dedication to make a living as a full-time musician, but the thing that seems to drive him above all else is his passion for music. “If someone’s gonna make art, then I feel like it needs to grab something out of you a little bit, make you realize something new, or think about something differently.” This mindset is quite visibly reflected in Jes’s music, especially throughout the track list of his recently released, self-titled album. The 4th track on the album, “Lonely Souls” is a prime example. The lyrical content deals with the disillusionment of the homeless population, and the singer’s inability to make a difference or help. “Some songs I can write in thirty minutes, and it just pours out of me, and some of them take me months... I have written songs where it’s a poem and I try to find what chords will make that poem mean what I think it should mean musically.” Lyrics, he explains, were what sold him on playing music. The more he delved into the words and began to understand what musicians were saying, the more he felt the need to express his own thoughts. The more he reached for that outlet. His self-titled album, split recorded between Dang Studios and the Kitchen, came together as culmination of years of developed material. Though the personal nature of the songs on his album speak to his own experiences, Jes likes the idea that no matter what music is always left up to the interpretation of the listener, “Everyone has a different version of life, so it might mean something different to one person than it does to me.” To me, this approach is what gives Jes’s music true depth and the ability to connect.