By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Jesse Macht.
Jesse Macht is not one to be overshadowed by the sway that his family has cast over the Hollywood hills. His brother, the wildly successful Gabriel Macht, plays the lead role in USA’s hit series Suits. To boot, their father is none other than veteran actor Stephen Macht.
For Jesse, the path has been clear for years. But it doesn’t involve following in the family legacy.
“I grew up acting,” he tells BTR. “And I have incredible respect for the craft from watching both my brother and father. But I just never liked the idea of having to wait for somebody else to give you a job. Very rarely do you see actors saying their parts or practicing their monologues when they’re having a bad day.”
Rather than continuing with acting as his chosen avenue of expression, Jesse took up singing and playing guitar instead. His lasting relationship with music provides him with the necessary control he seeks. Furthermore, composing songs allows an outlet to express his many desires and stories.
The road to self-discovery started for the Los Angeles-based songwriter while he was playing guitar in a high school cover band. It was a hokey gig that included oldies, powder blue suits, and strumming the same three chords again and again, but Jesse was enthralled just to be playing.
“But there was this kid,” he recalls. “He used to come pester us every day to play. Eventually we caved in and said ‘okay.’ But it didn’t stop there. He told me there was a concert happening that I needed to check out.”
Reluctant at first, Jesse tagged along with his new friend to the Roxy Theatre, where a group known as Cars Flowers was headlining. It turned out that they were the other neighborhood band–though the latter was performing in a legitimate venue in front of a real fan base to cheer them on.
The concert was a defining moment for Jesse, who had never considered the possibility that a bunch of guys his age could actually become capable of running a successful band.
Cars Flowers went on to become quite successful indeed. You might have heard of them; they currently tour the world under the moniker Maroon 5.
“Watching them go from 15 people a show, to 50 people, to 500 people… it was inspiring. But what made it all the more real was that it took them two years to establish any sort of following,” says Jesse.
Eventually he started receiving guitar lessons and musical “mentoring” from the band, and soon after put pen to paper to try his own hand at the craft.
Although his training was slightly limited, Jesse doesn’t show any signs of letting up.
For this determined musician, songwriting is infinitely explorative. There exist no limits that make the craft too personal. There are no depths of the self or mind that cannot be plumbed. Jesse recalls the words of longtime friend Dan Wilson by quoting, “so you want to know which song your single is? Take the one that makes you feel the most uncomfortable, and there you have it.”
Jesse’s musical philosophy is simple and intuitive: if you feel it, it’s visceral.
“If someone else can’t feel that, well that’s not your problem–that’s on them,” he insists. “You’re already putting yourself out there, with feeling.”
The singer-songwriter may be young, but that doesn’t mean he’s walked an easy road. At the age of 30 he was diagnosed with a serious condition in which his body produces extra electrical impulses in the heart. For some biological perspective, most human heart rates hover around 150 beats per minute while exercising. If Jesse becomes excited about something, that means his hear rate could easily skyrocket to 260.
“My parents always wrote it off as stage fright, or butterflies,” says Jesse. “But I figured there was something else to it. Whenever anything happened to excite me I felt like I was on the brink.”
Jesse finally passed his brink one evening at a show, where he nearly passed out on stage during a performance. The fall became the songwriter’s first serious brush with mortality.
Weeks later, Jesse lost a girl once long loved and cared for. With both his physical and metaphorical hearts searing with loss and passion, Jesse recorded his album, Suitcase Heart–a testament to the artist’s strength, fears, perseverance, and perhaps most importantly, uncompromising honesty.
To hear the rest of the interview, tune into this week’s episode of the Discovery Corner.
Or discover Jesse Macht for yourself on his website.