Originally from Springfield, IL, Johnson grew up listening to his parents cassette tapes of Genesis and Don Henley while dancing around the dining room table in his underwear. After falling in love with the idea of songwriting through the Beatles, Jesse decided to pick up a guitar after seeing a CSNY concert in 2001. Locking himself in the basement for a few years with his axe in hand, Jesse then cut his teeth playing open mic nights around Champaign, IL before forming the band ‘Post Historic’ with Chicago songwriter/producer Yoo Soo Kim in 2005. They released the album ‘Memory Banks of Blue’ in 2007.
In 2008, Johnson formed the band ‘Jet W. Lee’ with multi-instrumentalist Patrick Mangan and the pair re-located to Chicago. Jet W. Lee released the album ‘Who Shall Remain Shameless?’ in 2009 and Jesse also released his first solo record, ‘Home to Roast’ the same year with Clint Dodson playing drums and bass. Jet W. Lee teamed up with Ayo Kdoe Productions to make a music video for the song ‘Anticipation High’ as a result of a zombie masquerade party they threw for the album release. Over the next 4 years, Jet W. Lee toured and played shows in over 40 states around the U.S. with Pierre Achille and Mickey Mangan both joining in on bass guitar. The band released their 2nd album, ‘Western Nightmare’ in 2012 to local acclaim and set off on a year-long tour around the country to support it.
Jesse released a solo acoustic EP called ‘Cannon Rows’ in 2014, including a cover of the obscure Neil Young song ‘Without Rings’, only available on CD. Soon after, Jet W. Lee recorded a full 3rd album just prior to Patrick Mangan moving to NYC and the band going on indefinite hiatus. Due to unhappiness with the overall cohesiveness and sound of the record, it was ultimately scrapped and many songs still remain unreleased.
That same year, Jesse formed a new band for his solo project with Yoo Soo Kim (viola, keys), Paul Doerr (bass) and Zach Benkowski (drums). The full-band EP and 7” vinyl ‘Primal Scream’ followed in 2015 and saw Jesse teaming up with RMG Artists to promote the record. The EP saw widespread coverage around the country, as well as extensive radio play in the U.K. while he toured both solo and with the band that year.
As the result of a chance meeting at his rehearsal space, Jesse teamed up with Vinyl for a Cause in 2016 and contributed music to VFAC #002 as a split 7” covering songs by his friends ‘Coed Pageant’. In turn, they covered his song ‘Cannon Rows’ and Jet W. Lee song ‘Down for the Bounty’ on the release. Jesse joined the board of directors at VFAC and currently works with them as an advisor on upcoming projects and opportunities.
On his 2nd full-length album, ‘American Dumpster’, Jesse once again teamed up with Yoo Soo Kim to record and co-produce with the band from the ‘Primal Scream’ EP. The record is a thorough examination of the journey from disillusionment to optimism, and is the most lyrically intense and personal record for Johnson to date. Released in July 2017, the album is available on transparent red vinyl and digital download. Jesse teamed up with Jon Burns on the music video for ‘American Dumpster’ and is working on another video for ‘Through the Light of the Stars’ with Sadie Rogers (RPG, Alien Brides) as director and Eon Mora (Joe's Swanberg's EASY and WIN IT ALL) as cinematographer.
The current band, Jesse W. Johnson & Coyote Scream, consists of Dane Marcussen (drums), Yoo Soo Kim (viola, synth), and Matt McGuire / Timothy Cap (bass). They just finished a tour in support of ‘American Dumpster’ and are currently promoting the record and working on new music for an upcoming album.
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