Jesse Lenat is an singer, songwriter and actor that lives in Brooklyn, New York. Jesse grew up in rural Pennsylvania the son of a cactus farmer. Since the age of 8 he has been making music with his brother David. In the early years it was AC/DC and Judas Priest but now Jesse’s music is more in line with the classic American tradition of the troubadours with the likes of Woody Guthrie or Steve Earle. Jesse’s first role in a film was given to him by chance at the tender age of 9 in the documentary “Wasn’t That a Time” about the singing group The Weavers with whom Woody Guthrie was closely associated. Jesse was interviewed for the film outside of Carnegie Hall just before The Weavers 25th anniversery concert. Little did he know that 25 years later he would share the stage with Woody’s son Arlo Guthrie at Farm Aid 2008. Ever since, he has been equally devoted to acting and playing music. He received his BFA in acting from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He was a company member of a repertory theatre in philadelphia for 3 years. He developed a solo show about the life of Woody Guthrie which he has performed in many venues. After playing the lead role in JoAnne Akalaitis’ “The Rover” at The Guthrie Theatre he moved to NYC because he landed his first off broadway role in what became the hit musical “RENT”. For over a decade Jesse has made his living as an actor. He has worked at many of the best New York theatres as well as some of the best regional theatres. He has worked in TV, Film, and in the world of Voice overs. Some of his favorite theatre roles have been Billy the Kid in “The Collected works of Billy the Kid” by Michael Ondatje at The Dallas Theatre Center, Jewel Estes in “Floyd Collins” at Playwrights Horizons in which he is featured singing the ballad of floyd collins on the Electra/Nonesuch cast recording, Susuan-Lori Park’s “FUCKING A” at The Joseph Papp Public Theatre, and nothing could beat getting to work with two of his idols Sam Shepard and T-Bone Burnett on the world premier of “The Tooth of Crime: Second Dance” at The Lucile Lortel theatre in which Jesse got to give the premiere performance of the song “Kill Zone” (a song written by T-bone that Roy Orbison was going to record but never got the chance). When Jesse showed many of his demos and half finished songs to T-bone he said “…you’ve got lots of great stuff…now you’ve just got to finish them”. Jesse took T-bone’s words of encouragement to heart and is now working on his Fourth Album (“Cactus Farmer”) with his brother David and has written easily enough songs for many more albums to come. In 2005 Jesse had the pleasure of traveling to Amsterdam, Holland where he collaborated as an actor, musician, and songwriter on a staged version of the classic film “Wings of Desire” by Wim Wenders. The production was a co-production between The American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Boston and the Dutch theatre group Toneelgroep Amsterdam. The piece toured all thru Holland and then had a run in Boston. In 2007, after having worked with Stephen King and John Mellencamp on their musical “Ghost Brothers” Jesse was invited by Mellencamp to open Farm Aid 2007 which was held in NYC at Randal’s Island. One of the highlights of Jesse’s life was to get to sing his song “I’m Not The Only One” while standing on stage with Willie Nelson and John. Subsequently Jesse played at Farm Aid 2008 and has enjoyed getting to be a part of such an amazing community of artists who are working for such a great cause as Farm Aid. If your not catching Jesse at one of the coolest singer/songwriter performance spaces in NY you might catch him on tv as a guest star on Law and Order or maybe playing at the DUMBO ARTS FAIR in the back of his van. Jesse continues to look for new ways to be inspired and to inspire thru his many talents. Whether he is singing a heartbreaking love song, or picking a foot stomping guitar ditty, Helping to lead a square dance march for a protest,or playing a strung out street thug on t.v. above all Jesse is a storyteller with a keen sense of observation and the heart and the ability to make any story soar. Most recently he has been playing with “The 99 Cent String Band” (formed at Zucoti park) and Jesse will be featured in the upcoming production of “As You Like It” for The New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park (For which Steve Martin will be writting the music!) Jesse’s music is available at cdbaby and itunes.
1. Why did you write the song and participate in Occupy This Album?
I Wrote the song because as a songwriter I respond to what’s going on in and around me and I am drawn to any kind of progressive movement…with the emphasis being on PROGRESS! I participated in “occupy this album” because I have been participating in the occupy movement and this is one of the places that it has led me…and it is a place that feels like the right kind of home for my music. Like when I got to play at Farm Aid, it’s a wonderful feeling when one’s own story and ittle creations can help tell the story of a bigger picture that ultimately is trying to effect some kind of positive change.
2. What the movement means to me/where do I think the movement is heading?
The movement means a lot to me….it gives me hope! it makes me feel sane! It feels like the natural progression of so many movements that have come before. I truly felt like at the park (although there were definitely all kinds of feelings, and notions, and intentions swirling around…the most tangible thing was an sense of CARE! A desire to take care of one another! A desire to take care of the natural world. And a desire to find a better way to do those things then we have been doing. And most importantly a determination not to give up or back down.