By Noe Gutierrez
The Coachella Valley and High Desert are home to many musicians who are vested in their careers and established in the music world. The three individuals below represent the surface of musical mortals who inhabit our delightful desert. It is our intent at Coachella Valley Weekly to continue to uplift our artists and request that the community help support the art they make by purchasing their music or financially contributing to their efforts. Please enjoy our interviews with the most modest of them all Esjay Jones, Courtney Chambers and Tyler Ontiveros.
Producer/singer-songwriter Esjay Jones is known for her number #1 singles in her native South Africa as vocalist for the band Stealing Love Jones. The band achieved mainstream success and shared the stage with major international acts like Fall Out Boy, Violent Femmes, Seether and Jimmy Eat World. Now she has developed an illustrious career because of her work as a songwriter and producer with artists like Grey Daze, Alien Ant Farm, Justin Tranter (Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Linkin Park, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande), Jamaican-American rapper Sean Kingston and Mystery Skulls with Nile Rodgers and Brandy just to name a few. Over the last two years in between writing and producing for artists, she has been building a repertoire of Hip-Hop and Metal influenced productions under the moniker (WE ARE) PIGS. She produced five songs on the enhanced recordings of Chester Bennington’s first band Grey Daze featuring artists like Head and Munky from Korn and Jasen Rauch of Breaking Benjamin. Needless to say, Jones determination is unyielding.
CVW: It sure seems that you have not allowed the pandemic to stop you from getting shit done and remaining a music industry leader. Who instilled that work ethic in you and how have you been able to take it to another level?
Jones: “Hi Noe! Thank you for your positive and kindness affirmations. It’s been a scary time for all: losing jobs, incomes, battling with mental health…honestly, I’m a person that works really well under pressure, so the uncertainty in all of this chaos, seems to have fueled my ambition and alter what I placed importance on. I think South Africans, in general, have a very strong work ethic instilled in us…no one owes you ANYTHING, you have to make yourself…so it’s just up to you to keep pushing against adversarial forces!”
CVW: You’ve written, co-written, produced so many bad-ass songs in your career. What do you continue to derive from participating in such powerful collaborations?
Jones: “Thank you! The music industry is ALL about relationship… it’s relationship building and word of mouth…all of these writes/co-writes/productions that I pour all of my soul into, open up doors to more opportunities and more connections. The music business is like quicksand: If you keep still, you will sink…so you’ve got to keep moving and hustling!”
CVW: (WE ARE) PIGS is your new music project and you released a reimagined cover of Slipknot’s ‘Duality’ featuring guitarist Terry Corso from Alien Ant Farm. The video is an optically captivating, seizure-inducing spectacle! The song has that cool industrial quality while protecting the reverence of the original. What is next for PIGS?
Jones: “Hahah! That’s a great description! This project is just a snowball…it keeps rolling and it’s got me on my toes and the edge of my seat at the same time! I just finished a co-write with Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins as well as having Head from Korn jump on a track – his voice is so haunting and inviting… you guys are going to love it! I think the next PIGS single is going to be a call to action song called ‘Protector’ featuring P.O.D. This project is a nod to all the beautiful artists that made me.”
CVW: You and Shasta have established your home in the High Desert. A recording studio, a chicken coop, what’s next? Please tell us more about the plans for your property.
Jones: “It’s all a work in progress…a very slow, financially taxing and physically demanding process, but it’s great to see your hard work and vision come to fruition. We don’t have any grand plans other than getting the house renovations completed…we have been doing everything ourselves, so it’s taking a long time but will be worth it in the end.”
CVW: You recently began a livestream series entitled ‘Live from the Coop!’ every Friday night from your property in the High Desert. You provide an education on your lovely feathered creatures as well as give us some excellent live performances. How did the idea come about?
Jones: “That’s a good question…most of my ideas and actions are spur of the moment and not very well thought out! Haha! I’m a dive in and work it out as I go kinda gal. I got a little itch to start playing again and venues were closed due to COVID-19, so I thought I would bring the Word Wide Web to my chicken coop for something light and joyful in the darkness of the current state of the world. It’s silly, but I am madly in love with my hens, they are so empathetic and sweet and truly love music. Cannot wait for my first happy, healthy, adored egg!”
CVW: Amends is a project that re-imagined several original songs by Grey Daze, the band Chester Bennington graced before joining Linkin Park. You had a hand in producing the powerful songs ‘The Syndrome’, ‘Just Like Heroin’, ‘Soul Song’, ‘Morei Sky’ and ‘She Shines’. Now that it’s been out for a few months, what are your feelings about your participation and the welcome it has received by fans?
Jones: “Being a part of this album and the Grey Daze family has been such a blessing. I never imagined in a million years that I would have credits with my name next to one of my idols. Even through the tragic loss of Chester, he continues to bring so much joy and connective-ness. The response to this album has been overwhelmingly positive and beautiful, the many fans that I have had contact with, really love this record. Sometimes when you are so close to something, it makes it really hard to be objective, but after a few months of not listening to the album, I came back to it and was just like, WOW, this really IS stellar! You can hear the intentions behind these reinvented versions and that purity makes the songs so much sweeter!”
(WE ARE) PIGS – ‘Duality’ Slipknot cover
“Behind The Board” video feature for the Recording Academy’s GRAMMY.com here:
The name Courtney Chambers is synonymous with impassioned music, meaningful live performances and righteousness in the Orange County and Coachella Valley music communities. Much like Esjay, Courtney has not sat on her laurels or allowed this external force known as COVID-19 to derail her plans. She adjusted and continues to thrust forward with the production of her new album Evolver. You can get a ‘sneak peek’ of the first single, ‘Run, Girl’ by participating in her Patreon platform (patreon.com/courtneychambersmusic).
CVW: Your YouTube series ‘Chronicles’ is a huge undertaking. Why did you decide to perform every song from your first five albums?
Chambers: “Every time I release a new record, I listen to all of my previous records in order, it’s a sort of ritual. I reminisce, I cry and it brings about so many different emotions. My records are each a story about a season in my life and relationships I’ve had. With ‘Chronicles’ I wanted to explore that in real time by going back through my records, journals and lyric books and playing them again with the experience I have now and sharing those stories with everyone. I love the stories behind songs, so I wanted to share mine.”
CVW: This retrospect appears to be setting the tone for your upcoming new album Evolve’. How are they connected?
Chambers: “It is all connected. I wanted to tell the story from the beginning so that there is context. It is also helping me to finish writing Evolver. Going through my past, revisiting and evaluating it is very eye opening.”
CVW: You are looked to as a leader in the desert music community. How have you been able to keep your peers’ spirits up while addressing your own apprehension about the future?
Chambers: “Haha, Really? I didn’t know that I was looked to as a leader, but that is an absolute complement. I have been hunkering down and looking inward. Looking at the ways I need to change to be a better human being and part of society. I’m not sure that I have been able to keep my peers’ spirits up, but I do my best to come to the table with hope and the understanding that the road to a better future requires a lot of work, primarily within ourselves and that we are capable of extraordinary things if we just open ourselves up to it.”
CVW: You have a Patreon page to help your new album move forward. What are the benefits of supporting your new album?
Chambers: “Yes! www.patreon.com/courtneychambersmusic. I upload content that doesn’t get on any other social media platform and I will be adding new incentives to help me fund this record.”
CVW: You’ve stayed busy working on the new record and also recently returned to performing live. How are you feeling overall about the state of the music industry?
Chambers: “I have great hope for the music industry. I think musicians are very resourceful, we always have been, we just have to lose the negative messages we choose to accept that our industry is over. Our industry will be what we want it to be. In the end, music will never EVER be stopped. It is an ever-powerful source of energy that humans will always need to be a part of.”
Tyler Ontiveros is the drummer’s drummer. A percussionist, timekeeper and musician who embellishes the musical timbre of all artists he performs with, Ontiveros has toured the world performing and brought back a profound sense of purpose in progressing forward in his career. The former drummer for Desert Metal acts Drop the World and One Shot Thrill, Ontiveros has beefed up his resume with some of the Coachella Valley’s most considerable music catalysts.
CVW: You are currently drumming for Mega Sun, Waxy, Courtney Chambers, Order of the Wolf and Jetta King…whew! (deep breath) Please give us an update on each:
Mega Sun: “Mega Sun has been in the studio working on new material over at Brad Garrow’s Dead End Studios and we will be recording and releasing it at the end of October/early November 2020. We’re working with some big names on this. The mixing and mastering will be done by Chris Collier producer and engineer of KORN and of course our producer and good friend Mikey Doling (Channel Zero, Woyote, JaxxRock Entertainment).”
Waxy: “Waxy will be recording an experimental/acoustic album messing around with a variety of instruments. Steve Feldman (QOTSA, Unida, Fu Manchu, John Garcia) will be the engineer on the album. Knowing Robbie, it’ll be heartfelt, wacky and brilliant all at the same time. Waxy has also been working with new musicians to find a good fit for the next bass player.”
Courtney Chambers: “Courtney will always be an artist I look forward to working with and when the time comes for live performances again, I’m sure you can catch her with the full band backing her and doing our best to properly portray her heartfelt music.”
Order of the Wolf: “OOTW has been writing new material as well and plan to release another single shortly with either a music video shot by Circulation Media (Zak Kupcha) or a lyric video. We are also doing test prints of T-shirts and other merch to prepare for our first full order and be stocked up for shows when the state opens up. We had our first show lined up at the Rainbow Bar and Grill in Hollywood and then COVID-19 hit.”
The Jetta King Band: “We are getting back into a regular rehearsal schedule and preparing to record at the end of November out in Redlands at Room 9 Recording Studio with Jerry Whiting. It’ll be nice to finally have something recorded for this project, it’s been a long time coming.”
CVW: You’re not just a drummer but a student of music. You previously taught drum line/percussion at Palm Springs High School and take your craft very seriously. What can you share with young people wanting to start playing drums?
Ontiveros: “Even though the education and theory side of it is important, that will come in time, let your passion take you for the ride. As long as the passion is there, everything else will follow.”
CVW: The Mega Sun video for the song ‘Svengali’ was selected by the 2020 Marina Del Rey Film Festival and the video for ‘Under Attack’ is kick-ass cool! Why do you feel it’s necessary or beneficial to have a visual for the music you produce?
Ontiveros: “It’s not really necessary but obviously if hearing it for the first time, it’s just an addition to the experience of the music and is beneficial to keep viewers engaged. Attention spans have greatly shortened with tech at our fingertips and the need for instant gratification.”
CVW: How are you handling the pandemic and how much are you chomping at the bit to perform live with any of your bands?
Ontiveros: “I have been able to focus on developing my business, building clientele and also focus on creating some content for my YouTube channel. Just like every other musician right now, I am dying to perform live again. Being able to create that energy and connection with the crowd and leave the stage on that incredible high from playing my heart out. I’m an introvert and socially anxious anyway so the quarantine was nice lol.”
CVW: On your website you have this quote, “Work hard in silence let success be your noise.” Can you elaborate on that theory?
Ontiveros: “Haha, well like I had mentioned, I am naturally socially awkward and introverted so it was a quote for me to hide behind for a while but I’m getting more comfortable in front of the camera since creating content. I do find I can relate to this quote in the sense that not just artists but everyone should try their best to be humble as to not boast about what you’re doing but just do it and put it out there and let your actions speak for you. Just want to say a huge THANK YOU to CV WEEKLY, Tracy Dietlin and Phil Lacombe for the love and support through my journey as a desert musician. Miss everyone in the music scene and definitely cannot wait to get back to playing shows.”
Mega Sun – ‘Under Attack’ Drum Play-through