Music Industry

Meet the Composer - Jesse Billson

4 Minutes |

Jonathan Parks

How did you get started?

Well, it all started in second grade… kidding! I had a friend who started playing bass when I was about 16. He didn’t have very much talent, so he spent the majority of his time playing video games. That worked out perfectly for me because I would go over to his house everyday and play his bass while he played video games. I was constantly trying to learn the music in the games, and when Christmas came around that year, my mom asked him what she should get me. His response was “get him a guitar! He won’t stop playing my bass!” I don’t know why he suggested guitar, but if I’d had my way, I would have gotten a drum set. I always wanted to be a drummer.

Anyway, I got started in production music libraries about 7 years ago. I didn’t have any idea what that meant when I was asked to do some music. Back then, just like now, I said yes to everything. I never say no to a gig! Honestly, that has put me in some really tight spots. I would highly recommend it for the experience it builds!

So I was recording the band Great White live at the Key Club in Hollywood, and I had some really bizarre tech stuff happen to my mobile recording rig. A friend of mine who was assisting me that day called his friend who did tech for a lot of the high-profile gigs in Los Angeles at the time. Somehow, we got along well enough from that phone call to where, weeks later, he asked if I would be interested in writing music for the production music library Selectracks. They were bought out a while back, and I didn’t really do that much work for them, but the advances per track were really big, so I saw that as a fantastic way to get away from trying to be a rock star.

Please list your top credits.

I had some in-show music for “The Mandalorian.” It’s pretty amazing to say I had music in “Star Wars.” My favorite placement through ALIBI was the theme song for “Extinct or Alive” on Animal Planet. I think that’s a really cool show. I also had trailers for “Spies in Disguise” and “The Kid Who Would Be King” through ALIBI.

Recently, I did the 2020 election music for FOX News. I guess it’s a show called “Democracy 2020,” though I’ve never seen it. I’ve got a bunch of those kinds of things. Someone posted that music on YouTube, and one of the comments said, “I went to bed and Trump was ahead. I woke up to this song and he was losing. Now this song gives me nightmares.”

Waaaahahaha! I like to know that I give someone nightmares.

Jesse Billson Rock Music Composer

What types of genres do you work in most?

I love all music, and like I said before, I never say no to any project, so it could be orchestral, electronic, rock or something more experimental, and I’m happy with all of the above. It makes sense though, given my background, that I get asked for rock more than anything else. Don’t hire me for jazz though. I love the stuff, but I’m not smart enough to play it.

What is your favorite track for ALIBI?

I’m kind of guilty of the “newer is better” mentality. I just turned in a track for ALIBI’s 1,000th album titled “One Love” that I think turned out really well. I did an album called

a while back and, creatively, that stands out in my mind. I’ll be surprised if any of that ever gets used, but the track might be worth listening to if you want to hear what the Terminator T-1000 would compose if he collabed with Diplo.

Music Composer Jesse Billson

Who are your biggest musical inspirations?

I love to dive into really challenging technical music whenever I get the chance. Guys like Virgil Donati, Frank Zappa and Allan Holdsworth had huge impacts on me. As a kid, it was all about Dream Theater, Yngwie, Meshuggah… You know – basically anything that is high-information music, but I also liked the rock aspect!

Unfortunately, these days I don’t hear too much that inspires me in the same way those guys have, but I’m also aware that if I only listen to that stuff, it’ll probably permeate my own works, and there’s not much demand for any of that stuff in the library world.

So, with that said, I do try to listen to other production music regularly. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying the Black Hydra stuff! Those guys are fantastic. Oh! And I heard an album called Blackspace by Ghostwriter the other day that made me very happy.

What makes your work unique?

I like to sneak lots of notes into things. In most cases, I’ll pull that back before I send anything out, but occasionally I can’t help myself and I need that septuplet woodwind run, or a wide-interval, nearly unplayable thing. I know it does more harm than good, but it makes me happy.

Tell us one surprising thing people wouldn’t know about you.

I used to love training so that I could theoretically compete in the NFL combine, but I never played football, and I don’t even watch sports. I just thought it was fun.

Your funniest/strangest music experience

I jumped out of a road case in a thong as a present to Udo Dirkschnieder for his 65th birthday. Udo is most famous for singing in the band Accept in the ‘80s, for those of you who don’t know him.

I could hear the audience singing “Happy Birthday” to him as I was wheeled up to center stage. This wasn’t a small night club. We were in Finland, playing a very full arena. So he opens the case, I jump out. I ran around the stage a couple times, then the tech handed me my guitar and I played the song “Fast as a Shark” in a thong. Halfway through the song, Udo looked me in the eyes, smiled and snapped my underwear. He thought it was hilarious.

Why do you like working with ALIBI?

Challenge! It seems to be a moving bar that gets set higher and higher every time I jump. The best part about that though, is that there’s no room to stagnate under those conditions. ALIBI has a lot of really good composers, and I know that if I’m going to try to compete with them, they have already cleared those high jumps. I don’t like to be beaten, so I keep trying as hard as I can to beat those guys. I’m hoping I’m getting closer.

Any words of advice to share with composer hopefuls?

Do what makes you happy. Even if you gotta sneak it in there.

How can people follow your work (website/Spotify/social channels)?

Well, surprisingly, I think I’m the only one with this name, so if you search for me, you’ll find all the good and the bad. There is plenty of bad! I have a

where I get a little bit silly with music and occasionally challenge myself there. It’s just kind of a reason for doing things that nobody would ever ask for, and I get to have that creative freedom. That’s important for me. I also have , but I’m certainly not jumping out of any road cases on that site.

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