Known across Hampton Roads as one of the hardest working musicians of the area, JESSE CHONG has been captivating audiences all over Virginia and beyond over the past 10 years. In his hometown of Virginia Beach, Chong plays local bars, venues, and festivals relentlessly all over the area not just to make a living but because his biggest passion is to share his talent with others. His music combines elements of reggae, pop-rock, Americana, blues, and funk so you never know what to expect with this talented artist.

How did you get started performing in the Hampton Roads music scene?

I started when I was 15 playing in punk rock and ska bands. We played at house parties, surf/skate events, and even oceanfront bars like Peabody’s and the old Chicho’s. At the time, I had no idea that it would become a legitimate profession. Actually, I’m still not sure if it’s legitimate, but it is my profession.

What are some of your influences as a guitarist and songwriter?

NIRVANA was the band that started it all for me. Since then, I’ve been interested in all styles of music from Americana to Zydeco and can say I genuinely enjoy them all. As a guitarist I gravitate to guys in the jam scene and prog-rock, though I certainly haven’t attained that level of virtuosity. There are so many songwriters that I love, but I think PAUL SIMON is a genius, as well as JERRY GARCIA and ROBERT HUNTER. A modern guy that I have the utmost respect for is DAVE MATTHEWS, who has been mind bogglingly prolific considering his touring schedule.

How would you describe your unique, signature sound?

This question has been the bane of my professional existence and causes most people to scratch their heads. I have songs that are reggae, pop-rock, Americana, blues, and funk. I think of myself as a bag of trail mix. Some people aren’t gonna like the raisins, some may just pick out the M&M’s, but those who are open minded enough will be able to eat the different flavors and appreciate how they complement each other. Mmmm I’m hungry (laughs).

Over the years you have earned the unofficial title of Hampton Roads’ hardest working musician, as well as various other well-deserved awards. Is music your full-time job?

Music and the business surrounding it are on my mind from the moment I wake to when I’m drifting off to sleep. Most people can leave work at the office, but when your office is in your head, it can be maddening. The gig is only one small aspect of what I do. The art of making a living with music is a multifaceted challenge that is deserving of the title “occupation”. And yes, it is my full-time job.

Have you been working on any new material recently?

I’m continuously working on new material and one of my goals is to transition from a gigging artist back to a full-time songwriter. Writing excites me more than performing at this point, and I hope to release an album within the year.

What is your favorite song to perform, and why?

I can never perform a song the same way twice and the improvisational nature of what I do means that my favorite song of the night is always different. Sometimes I feel like I’m going through the motions, but sometimes a song becomes a living thing. When performing a song is an emotional instead of a rote experience- that is my favorite song.

Is there anyone in particular that you look up to for guidance as a musician?

One man who has paved the path for a guy like me is LEWIS MCGEHEE. When it comes to longevity and integrity, he still shines. He’s been doing this as long as I’ve been alive; he’s raised a beautiful family, and he’s still rocking to this day!

What are some of your favorite local venues to perform at?

Two of my favorite places to play are places I’ve been playing the longest, which are Murphy’s Pub and LunaSea (both at the Oceanfront). Playing these places is like playing in my living room and has given me the opportunity to develop myself and my material in a very comfortable setting. Most importantly, these places treat me like family, and that is something I cherish above all else.

Who do you think are some of the most underrated solo musicians or bands in Virginia that more people need to hear?

My two favorite solo artists of Hampton Roads at the moment are EASY D of JACKMOVE and SETH STAINBACK. These guys are the real thing. They are both brilliant writers and performers and have their own unique voices. They are also friends of mine and are going to owe me big time (laughs)!

For more updates on Jesse Chong and his upcoming performances, visit his website and be sure to “like” his Facebook page.

Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

As editor-in-chief, Joe is very passionate about promoting music and culture in Virginia and DC. A resident of Falls Church, Joe enjoys going to shows, checking out local breweries, and trying new foods with friends.

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