Jonathan Sexton outside of Bread of Heaven in Alcoa, 2011
The last time Jonathan Sexton performed in East Tennessee was on a stage in Maryville at the 2011 Foothills Fall Festival, but that’ll change later on this month.
Sexton, former bandleader of Jonathan Sexton and The Big Love Choir and a former member of Oversoul, Redhouse Project and The Whiskey Scars, will debut his new project, Badlands, on Thanksgiving night at Preservation Pub in downtown Knoxville. Since the launch of the mobile software platform Artist Growth — a project he founded with Knoxville expatriate and Nashville singer-songwriter Matt Urmy — he simply hasn’t had the time, he said.
“Everything’s finally kind of leveling out, and that’s why I’ve had time to do a band,” he said. “I don’t have time to get in the van and drive all over the country, but I’ve got time to rehearse a night a week and play a gig every now and then. Thanksgiving at Preservation Pub has a special place in my heart, because that’s when and where Whiskey Scars started. It’s just a good night.”
Badlands features former Big Love Choir members Andrew Sexton (Jonathan’s dad) and drummer Dave “The Animal” Campbell (also a member of The Coveralls and a number of other projects) on vocals. The group is rounded out by Andrew Bryant on drums and Aram Takvoryan on bass. It’s a cover project, Sexton said, and the guys play “mostly ’70s hard rock.”
“Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Bad Company,” he added. “I was just looking for a reason to hang out and rock out, but with no pressure, and I wanted something that can exist without me. If those guys get a gig and can’t come, they can find a sub, where as if I’m the lead singer and the songwriter, that’s not the case.”
In the meantime, he’s looking at putting together an original Jonathan Sexton project sometime next year. He still travels to Nashville three days a week for Artist Growth business, and he’s looking at an August date for a wedding to his long-time girlfriend (and Big Love Choir bandmate) Elodie Lafont. In the meantime, though, he’s excited about playing music again.
“I want to play for the love of it and not to chase a career; just something on the side that won’t take up a lot of time but will scratch an itch,” he said. “I suffer from the same thing any artist suffers from — wanting to do someting different — but I haven’t had time or energy to commit to deciding on what’s next for me as a songwriter and an original project. I’m thinking real hard about it, and I still jot down ideas all the time. The songwriting muscle still works.”