Mississippi has produced some of the best musicians in all genres of music, and today’s home-grown musicians try to uphold the legacy of those great musicians. Two such musicians are Jessie Howell and Chad Knight.
Jessie Howell is a local musician from Collins who has been in the local music community for years. He was born into a musical family who toured all over the south as a successful gospel group. Howell said he is also a part of a great music community that supports and encourages one another.
“I have never known any other way than music, singing, and instruments,” he said.
Howell has been performing since he was three years old, all thanks to the influence of his family. As he grew up, Howell was also influenced by many of the musicians he met through the years. With each meeting, he was able to take something away with him, whether good or bad. Other influences were Elvis Presley, BB King, Jeff Healey and most all of the Motown groups. He tries to stay open to learning in every situation.
Being a musician means playing music, whether that be a cover song of another artist’s work or a piece of one’s own. Howell makes it a goal to do a mix of both his original songs and the greatest hits of the oldies and recent releases.
“I love to take a cover song and make it my own by working with the format, keys and arrangements of the song,” he said.
Howell has been fortunate to play many shows this year and is excited to continue. He has several festivals for 2021 lined up. Recently he was able to play View the Cruise 2020 (the starting event for Cruising the Coast that occurs around the second week of October) as well as the MS Peanut Festival 2020. Howell streams his shows live on Facebook and encourages everyone to send him a friend request, tune in and share thoughts on his music. He can also be found on sites like YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, Reverb Nation and iTunes.
“Times have changed in this modern age, and it can be difficult at times to be a homegrown musician,” Howell said.
Although Howell is a local musician, he has had some success as a mainstream artist, but he believes that “there is no place like home.” Due to the pandemic, home-grown musicians are having a tough time.
“By going to see your favorite local musicians regularly and supporting live music venues, people can help Mississippi’s music community,” said Howell. “You have to have love, appreciation, passion, and a thick skin to be successful in music; however, my advice would be to enjoy it and never give up.”
Howell was given advice by a world renowned musician: having fun and the fire to make music is important, and when a person no longer has fun nor has the fire for the music they should stop. Howell has continued to have fun with music and still carries a fire for it which is why he has stayed with music.
Howell is the County Line Music Grand Prize Winner for 2020 and is currently working with GTS Entertainment out of Panama City, Florida, as an entertainer, D.J. and Entertainment specialist. Howell encourages other musicians to enjoy music and never give up. People can find him on Facebook using his name Jessie Howell.
Another Mississippi-grown musician is Chad Knight, a local of Laurel, former Jones College student, and the owner of The Knight Butcher, located in downtown Laurel. Knight connected with music at an early age and has been with it since. At the age of 17, he began learning guitar. When he was 20, Knight was in a couple of bands, then he began his solo career where the writing process began and never stopped flowing.
“I do it because I love the challenge and most importantly, it makes me happy,” Knight said.
Knight got into playing when he saw the ’90s Alternative/Grunge scene that was spreading when he was a teen. He idolized bands/artists like Bush, Everclear and Sublime because of their sound and lyrics. These musicians inspired Knight to pick up the guitar and start performing. His first performance was in front of West Jones High School during a talent show. From there, Knight played his first gig at Signatures Coffee House, which is now The Knight Butcher.
Knight started playing and writing more alternative rock, or post ’90s rock, until he got into the West Coast reggae-rock scene that Sublime started. He played mostly cover songs, then slowly started to add more originals. Now Knight plays mostly original songs with a few covers added in.
Knight often gets together with other local artists from Laurel to play. One major event is Laurelpalooza, which his business, The Knight Butcher, brought back in 2016. This event is a music festival held every year in downtown Laurel where people can catch some of the local artists and bands.
“It was my dream to present this event to create a platform for up-and-coming talents,” he said.
Due to the pandemic, Knight has not performed in many places and does not plan to perform anywhere unless the venue has all COVID-19 mandates lifted. Knight will host Laurelpalooza this year at The Knight Butcher on Saturday, Nov. 17 on the patio stage from noon to 6 p.m. Every year, Knight plays at an annual show called America Bash, July 4, right before the Sawmill Square Mall fireworks show. He hopes fans will not have to wait that long for another performance, and he will post information on social media as he sets dates.
“Most of this year, we spent more time in the studio working on projects like the new DVD+Live album we released over the summer,” Knight said.
People can hear Knight’s music on most major digital platforms like Amazon Music and Apple Music. He also has social media, YouTube especially, where he posts all the music videos and live show footage. The official website for merch is www.chadknightbsnd.bandcamp.com.
“I’m proud and grateful to have been born and grow up in this state, getting my feet wet in playing music up to moving off to Seattle, WA, to get a real taste of the music scene, and coming home really helps you appreciate what we have here,” he said.
When Knight was young he wanted to be a mainstream artist, but after learning about the music industry and seeing all of the corruption that goes on behind the scenes, he decided to create his label, Knight Features. At Knight Features he can record and self-produce everything he releases. Since he is independent, Knight has total control over his music and never has anyone telling him what he should write or perform.
“Everything nowadays for musicians is all basically ‘Do It Yourself,’ plus, being we’re in the digital age, you might be today’s news, but tomorrow you’re forgotten. Instead of constantly craving the attention and satisfaction, what I love the most is the creativity and the feeling I get from it. So getting to the highest level of fame is not my interest,” Knight said.
Knight’s tips for being a small-town musician is to practice and start as soon as possible playing with other musicians and bands. He said they should take the leap and make a demo to have on hand because artists never know who they will meet along the way. Small-town musicians should also take advantage of social media to get the music heard. If musicians want to go all out, moving to the big city is the thing to do.
An interesting fact about Knight is that he once opened for Long Beach Rehab, which had members of ‘90s-famed bands like Smash Mouth and Bad Brains. Recently Knight got the opportunity for one of his songs to be played on T.V. The song She’s Got That Good Love was featured in season four, episode nine of Home Town, a Laurel-based show on HGTV. The song became Knights’s top-selling single and the most viral music video he has ever had in his whole music career.
by Loren Jones