Jesse Brand is half way through a four year, double degree in Contemporary Music and Audio Production at the Southern Institute of Technology’s Invercargill campus.
Originally from Canada, he played guitar and sang in a punk/metal band in high school.
“I studied classical guitar at Memorial University, in Newfoundland, Canada for one year of a four year program before coming to New Zealand. Although I enjoyed the guitar technique, my interests were suited more to contemporary music study but this did not appear as an option at that time,” he says.
Jesse left study to travel Australia and New Zealand, and has never returned to Canada, diving into sustainable living.
“After several years, he returned to his musical roots as a solo singer/songwriter, filming a seven part documentary of a “Travelling Musician’’. Self-shot and produced, it featured busking, hitch hiking, finding gigs, and adventures across New Zealand with no money, just a guitar and a pack.”
This was then followed by a month-long New Zealand solo acoustic tour in a van, from south to north, then remaining in Auckland for several months. In Auckland, Jesse spent afternoons busking in front of grocery stores, nights at open mics/any gigs he could score by rubbing shoulders, and mornings sleeping on side streets in his van. Jesse even tried his luck busking in Warner Music’s underground parking lot each day at 5 pm for a week.
“I turned a few heads, but oddly, no record deal, haha.
“I feel that during this period I was ‘waiting’ for a break, rather than creating one.”
Underneath it all, Jesse was conflicted by the lifestyle he had created for himself. He loved the music, but hated the nights, alcohol and smoking, so decided to leave it all behind and commit to his spiritual interests and study as a yoga teacher at a yoga retreat in Australia.
“I remained working at the retreat, managing around 40 volunteers, it was during this time I first created my “rap yoga”, and this was the beginning of merging my two loves together. My passion for freestyle rap/singing had become my primary focus as a musician, feeling empowered by the ability to flow freely anytime, I no longer relied on my pre-written songs to express my thoughts and emotions,” Jesse says.
He returned to New Zealand, where he enrolled in the Audio Production degree at SIT to develop his skills as a producer, and decided to take up the Contemporary Music course too.
“ Now, I am pleased to be doing both degrees as they complement each other so well, and I am learning a lot of theory and music education that will come in very helpful, as a musician today needs to wear many hats to secure a living.”
Jesse chose SIT because he had spent time in Southland and met many music and audio students who spoke highly of the course, he says.
“It was something I had always wanted to do, but the time was never right, until now.
“I once had a tour of the recording facilities and had attended the schools Friday public concerts over the years and knew the program was of high calibre, and well respected.”
Expecting his studies to be similar of those undertaken at university in Canada, Jesse was pleasantly surprised when it came to SIT.