Discovering Joy: Jessie Nelson’s Creative Exploration on her Journey to Authenticity

Join Diane Schroeder, host of The Fire Inside Her, as she delves into a captivating conversation with the extraordinary musician and drummer, Jessie Nelson. In this episode, they explore Jessie’s incredible journey to authenticity and her unwavering commitment to her craft. Discover how Jessie’s decision to create more capacity in her life led to a transformative shift and a laser focus on drumming. But that’s not all! Diane and Jessie also shed light on the challenges faced by female drummers in a highly competitive industry, emphasizing the power of collaboration over competition. Tune in as they discuss the importance of setting boundaries, letting go of toxic relationships, and learning to prioritize self-worth. With Jessie’s inspiring mantra, Diane’s insightful commentary, and plenty of thought-provoking moments, this episode will leave you feeling motivated to believe in yourself and not settle for anything less than you deserve. Get ready to stoke the fire inside you!

Jessie Nelson is a cultural innovator and music industry veteran. She’s currently is and has been a professional drummer for 15 years, Ace Hotel New York DJ for five years, a former music journalist with the Village Voice and other national publications and an arts high school substitute teacher working with Art and Design, Laguardia and Stuyvesant here in New York City. She’s currently paving her way to get into UI / UX and Web Design to ultimately freelance the tech and play pro gigs at night. Her mantra “Believe in yourself more than the world will and don’t ever listen to no” keeps her on her game all the time.

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Diane Schroeder [00:00:00]:

I am excited for today's episode because I have a badass musician. And if you've been following me for a minute or if you haven't, you will know or should know that I am a lover of music. I absolutely love music. And what's really cool is that, drum roll, today, I'm chatting with the talented and inspiring Jessie Nelson. Has there been a moment in your life where the desire to change finally overrides the voices trying to keep you small? Jessie takes us through her love of drumming, her dedication to practicing, and the pivotal moment that led her to create more capacity in her life so she could focus on drumming. Not to mention, she has a fascinating past. And if you've seen the movie, Almost Famous, she lived the life of an intern for The Village Voice. I love how she opens up about the power of self-worth and her liberating decision to step away from social media.

Diane Schroeder [00:01:07]:

We also discussed the importance of chosen family, loyalty, and the regrets of caring too much for those who didn't reciprocate. Jessie shares her mantra, the landscape of the music industry, the rise of female drummers, and the importance of collaboration over competition. Jessie's journey to authenticity will inspire you to believe in yourself, trust in your journey and not let others dampen your progress. So, sit back, relax, and get ready to be uplifted by the incredible story of Jessie Nelson.

Diane Schroeder [00:01:46]:

Welcome to The Fire Inside Her, the podcast where we explore the incredible stories of individuals who have discovered their inner fire on their journey to authenticity. I'm your host, Diane Schroeder, and I am so grateful that you are here.

Diane Schroeder [00:02:09]:

Well, today, I am really excited and I'm trying not to be a fan girl because we are going to hear from a musician. And all of you who listen to my podcast know what a big fan I am of music and how it has changed my life and how I just always go to music, that's where we spend all of our free time is going to shows. So, I'm excited to chat with Jessie Nelson today. Jessie, how are you doing?

Jessie Nelson [00:02:38]:

I am doing well. Thank you so much for having me.

Diane Schroeder [00:02:41]:

This is going to be great. So, for my icebreaker question, I would love to know what drummer has had the biggest influence on your career.

Jessie Nelson [00:02:50]:

Oh, that's awesome. Yeah. Because I don't really, like, single out players. Like, I have a list of players that I like, but I'm just going to say, like, kind of, you know, the theater stuff I do is kind of its own department, but, like, for music in general, I love Questlove big time. I'm such a pocket head. I mean, I come from the jazz world, and I love hip hop and RNB, and I love all that shit. So, I'm such a pocket head. We could throw Questlove from the roots at the top. I don't know if he's the one because I just haven't thought about it. But, yeah, Questlove is sure. Yeah.

Diane Schroeder [00:03:18]:

Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing. And I guess we'll just dive in. I want to know, and if you could just tell me and my listeners your story. How does one become a professional drummer and musician? And I can imagine it's been a windy path.

Jessie Nelson [00:03:37]:

And mine's really weird, and some of it's just because of the time that I came up doing all of this in the 1st place. I was a flute player from the age of, like, 8 to 18 or 8 to 17. And when I was 16, 17, 17, really. I heard Tony Williams on 7 Steps to Heaven, with Miles Davis and said, I need to do that. And the other thing that I had been listening to and heard at the time was, Sonic Youth, huge Sonic Youth fan. Kim Gordon wrote a song called Goo about a girl who played drums. So, both of those things were kind of a thing. I'm a native New Yorker, Long Island, Queens. I was born here. I lived in Phoenix for a long time. And I went to college to learn how to play drums. That was what I went to college for. Yeah. So, I went to ASU. I had never played the instrument. They let me take lessons for, like, a semester.

Jessie Nelson [00:04:19]:

And then I was in the program. And the end of my sophomore year, I got told I wasn't good enough to be here. And I said, cool. I'm not leaving. So, what are we doing? And I went down to the BA's office, the BA music department office. Right? And the percussion head's office and said, okay. So, like, what's the deal? And they said, well, you can get a BA in music instead of the jazz performance degree, which is what I wanted. Arizona State University, which is where I was. And I said, yeah. So, what's the difference? And they said, well, it's just it's the same deal, but without the recital requirement. And I said, huh. I said, can I take lessons every semester? They said, yeah. I said, can I be on ensembles every semester? They said, yes. I said, okay. And I did everything. I did Vibraphone. I did marimba. I did African drum. I did big man. I did small group.

Jessie Nelson [00:05:00]:

By the time I graduated, I was practicing like 6 hours a day, 3 to 4 days a week. And then I was out gigging at night. By the time I was 25, which is when I finished, I was out gigging at night, and I was the only working female drummer in Phoenix at the time. This was 2006. So, if there was anybody else out there at that time, I didn't know about it. So, it was me and my car, and I was playing restaurants and wedding gigs and a prerequisite church gig.

Jessie Nelson [00:05:20]:

I'm not religious, but, you know, they paid me to do so there. And so, I was doing that. I was substitute teaching, teaching drum lessons one night a week at a store. And so, the other side of the line, I didn't know if I was going to get to be a drummer, so I was a music journalist for about 6 years. And so, I was concurrently in music school, I was writing about music. I worked for the little choice when I was 20. I interned, and then I went and freelanced all over the fucking place. But I didn't know if I was going to get to be a drummer, so I was like, well, we're going to find, you know, and by the time I got done with college, I was like, oh, I'll apply for full time jobs in New York and then gig at night.

Jessie Nelson [00:05:50]:

Well, they loved my experience. I had voice clips. I had, you know, Phoenix New Times, San Diego Weekly. I wrote for, like, every alternative paper in the country, and nobody wanted to pay me. And I went well, hold it. I did my internships at, like, 20 and 21, so I'm not sorry. So, anyway, I was in Phoenix, you know, I'm doing the gigs. I'm doing the teaching, and I had a car, a boyfriend, and an apartment.

Jessie Nelson [00:06:08]:

I had a really easy life. After 3 years of that, I was miserable. So, I said, guess what? We're going to go to grad school. I wanted a master's degree anyway. I have educated parents. Educated artsy parents, which I'm grateful for. So, I applied to SUNY Purchase, auditioned twice, they didn't take me. I applied to the MFA at Brooklyn College, one of the most innovative grad programs in the country, performance and interactive media arts.

Jessie Nelson [00:06:29]:

It was a weird way to go to grad school. So, I saved up $2,000, but they let me in, so that was fine. I saved up $2,000. I stayed on a friend's couch, started grad school and played my first off of Broadway show all in 1 month, and now we're sitting here. You know? This has been a ride in a fucking half. And, you know, I've been lucky. I mean, this year was sticky. But grad school ended.

Jessie Nelson [00:06:47]:

I lived on theater gigs for 5 years and I went, this is not fine. So, I went back to substitute teaching. And, you know, if Beyonce was a sub, she'd be me. And I taught in crazy places that most people wouldn't survive, and I did it. I taught in Hell's Kitchen. I taught in Harlem. I did all kinds of shit. And I taught all over the place because I was good at it.

Jessie Nelson [00:07:03]:

And after, like, a couple years in the middle of that and I was gigging at the same time. I was doing that and doing shows at night. Like, you know, I got tired of teaching in the crazy places. So, in the last couple years and I'm trying to get out of teaching, we'll talk about that in a second. But now I teach at art and design, LaGuardia, and Stuyvesant. So, like, you know, I mean, I teach at the 3 best high schools in New York City. So, but I don't love it enough to get certified. And it's not the kids.

Jessie Nelson [00:07:24]:

It's all the back-end shit. And I would have to have a personality transplant, and I'm not interested in doing that. So, I have no use to that. Like, let me show up in my jeans and tank and hair up. Let's go. So then, you know, the other end of this with the gig stuff, you know, I've been in the theater scene hard since 2009, I'm very close to the line of subbing on a Broadway show, but that has been like a 14-year fight. I've gotten jerked around and screwed out of things and all kinds of crap. And most people would’ve quit but quitting just isn't my style.

Jessie Nelson [00:07:50]:

And something that happened and the reason why I'm showing up this way today and I'm going to close the mouth because this is your show, not mine. You know, I went through this, like, big personal evolution 2 years ago. Jessie's evolution. Yeah. End of 2021, I stopped dating entirely. I weeded out tons of people who were supposed friends. I did it very quietly. It was very like mute the socials, take the numbers out of the phone, save the couple of musicians in the email in case you need them, and go on with your life.

Jessie Nelson [00:08:15]:

And then I, like, did I was doing inner work like my 2nd job. Like, I was like, we're going to kill that codependency. We're going to, like, fix our shit. Because what happened was, I turned around and it went, fuck. You know, it was the at the end of my 39 and I kind of said, woah. I said, if we got to undo and redo because I'm not doing the next 10 like I did the last 10. And the 1st year of that was like getting off drugs. You know, the 1st time I didn't have a guy around, I was alone most of the time because I stopped chasing people all over the fucking place.

Jessie Nelson [00:08:41]:

I said, well, your phone works. Sorry. So, I stopped. So, what was happening was, I was shedding. I was learning a certain Broadway book that didn't happen, but I got the book, so that was good. So, I was learning that. I was doing a whole bunch of, like, back-to-back to back high stress, high level gigs, and I was reeling because I did not, you know, everybody else in every show I worked on had a partner or a blah. And I'm, you know, coming home every night at 11 and going, okay.

Jessie Nelson [00:09:03]:

But I did it. But I forced myself to do it because I knew. And the smartest thing I did was, like, no online dating, no settling, no nothing. And that was great because it took the whole thing off the plate. I mean, my playing got better, and now it's 2 years later and two steps in the door working on what I'm trying to sub on. If that doesn't happen, we'll go some other way. I'll get there. It's fine.

Jessie Nelson [00:09:21]:

You know, the gigs have been slower, but this was the year I did a drum promo video. You know, I've filmed that that I wanted because I needed it for whatever. I hadn't done anything that was that slick yet, so we did that. I'm sitting here on your fabulous podcast. You know, again, learning the book for the Broadway show that I might end up subbing on. That's great. So, good. And then with the career outside of the music, which is its own thing, during the pandemic, I learned UI, UX, and web design because I need to get the heck out of teaching.

Jessie Nelson [00:09:45]:

So, my friend, by the time I'm 45, I'm going to freelance the tech, the design stuff, and then do the pro gigs at night, and that's what we're going to do. So, we're getting there. And even to realize that when you get in those places where you're like, fuck. Like, I'm alone 97% of my life, and we're not texting ex boyfriends, and we're not texting people who couldn't be bothered. There was a large chunk of that, and it blew my fucking mind because I was like, hold it. When I was a codependent needy mess, y'all were around. I got my head on straight. Nothing doing, really. Like, yeah. And I realized, like, I'm somebody who loves making people accountable for bad behavior. Like, I really enjoyed that because I don't have the tolerance for it. I was raised to, like, there's a way that you do things and there's a way that you treat people. That's how I was raised. I don't know what the hell anybody else was doing. But manners class, decorum, high. Right? Yeah. So, point being that that I realized I was like, you know, you're in this elevated place and you have to stay there. There's no backwards anymore. You know, that door is closed. And the other thing that continues to blow my mind, and maybe you have some insight, and this is not therapy. It's a podcast. But the biggest part of that whole the personal end of the work, which is that you lose people when you get emotionally healthy and that will never make any sense to me. That will never make any sense to me.

Jessie Nelson [00:10:53]:

I'm sorry because I lost my train of thought. What I meant was that, like, when I was a codependent mess, I had people round up the wazoo. I took my hands off the wheel, got my head out of my ass and people I knew from 10, 15 years in Phoenix, here in New York. Sorry. Bye. I mean, I blew up a 20-year friendship. I had somebody, you know, another female musician who I was really supportive of. But when I started to get busy and successful and because she didn't have the career she wanted, it was a whole thing.

Jessie Nelson [00:11:18]:

And I was like, I shut that down and classily and just said, this friendship dynamic has gotten toxic with us, this doesn't work for me anymore. I wish you the best. Sent her that email, blocked all the crap all over the place, and went on with my life. She ended up bringing that up on a podcast, like, in June, this was, like, you know, May of 2022. And so, you know, I saw it for 10 minutes. I went, like, you're not who you think you are because you're still talking about that. Interesting. But the point is, like, cutting people out wasn't who I was. I was the person who gave people 11 chances. And now maybe they don't know it because I'm not running around saying that, but now everybody gets one. Everybody gets one.

Diane Schroeder [00:11:54]:

Thank you for sharing. So, we're just going to go back a little bit and unpack a little bit more. I first have to just say, girl, you're a badass. And the fact that you can courageously sit and share your story and be vulnerable, and I mean, that is to me, that's what authenticity is all about. And I always say it's the journey to authenticity because it's a messy journey. It is not pretty. It is not for the faint of heart. It requires a lot of, like, soul searching and, you know, you're telling your story and I'm like, I love a lot of things in life. But I'm not sure I love anything as much as I feel you love drumming. And I'm always inspired by that and in awe by that by artists and musicians and just your perseverance and your persistence and, you know, the dedication to practice, practice, practice is commendable.

Jessie Nelson [00:12:53]:

And part of that is I know I love it because I, you know, the most part, I'm lucky to work as much as I do. But, you know, 2015, I had 1 gig. That 1 gig was at the Iridium in New York City, which was awesome. And I took a lesson with Nate Smith that year and that was awesome to level up by playing. But I had 1 gig and so I spent that year practicing. And you have to love it. If you're shedding when you have no gigs, that's how you know.

Diane Schroeder [00:13:14]:

Exactly. I love that. Well and, you know, to go back to the friends and just making the courageous decision to do the work. That is not easy. And I recall a very similar moment in my life at the end of 2020. It was a horrible year for a lot of reasons. My dad died at the beginning of the year. There was COVID. I was working for the fire service at the time, so my life didn't change much except for, you know, everything else that was the world was changing, and codependent relationships were definitely my specialty. So, I did the same. I just started cutting people out of my life that no longer served me. And about a year into it, I realized that some of those people I didn't miss at all. And some people didn't, you know, come around, very similar story. But 2 of my very trusted best friends, we went on a yoga retreat and they said, you know, Diane, you just need to stop settling for crumbs because you're worth more. And, I mean, simple statement. Simple.

Diane Schroeder [00:14:13]:

And I was like, holy crap. That's right. I am. And my life has shifted from that moment on. The 2 years ago, everything shifted, and learning to be okay by myself and learning to set those boundaries and not being a people pleaser gave me more growth as a human, as a mom, as a partner, then anything else I could have done. So, I commend you for doing that. I know it's hard.

Jessie Nelson [00:14:39]:

You know what? This is what I figure. I was smart enough to see what the hell was going on. By the time I got to the end of 20 when I saw it. And I said, well, this is, I'm not doing another 10 years of this. Absolutely fucking not. And if it's just me running my own show, we don't care because I was like, cool. My plan is to get into that design work, which, you know, wonderful Jen, who you just interviewed, Jen Garcia. We love her. You know, she's miss LinkedIn badass, and her and I were doing, like, Google sessions, which were, like, half the, like, my life's falling apart. My life's falling apart. Okay. Great. And now we're going to work on our shit. And we did that. That was the thing. You know, great. But the point is, like, staying in that and going, well, no. We're not texting till we should be texting. We're not turning around and oh, no. No. No. No. No. No. No.

Jessie Nelson [00:15:17]:

You should be coming this way. And I started to like who I was, and that made a difference. That made a difference. I started to like who I was because I kept seeing myself do the thing. Like, here's a really great example that's kind of a big thing. And I can't name names or details, but I'll tell you to make a point. Probably show that I'm 2 steps from the door. Well, it took me 14 years to get to that.

Jessie Nelson [00:15:35]:

Now the last little chunk of that where we are, you have to go play sessions in the theater on that setup with the drummer you're covering for. And I have done that and they're done and we're and they're worth the, like, kind of the last piece and the last piece and we'll see what happens. But all the work has been done, which is great. The point is, I remember the first day I walked in there. And, of course, I made sure, like, I was ready and I was like, we're going to do this, and it went beautifully. And I remember thinking and feeling going, yeah. Yeah. You prepped for that.

Jessie Nelson [00:16:02]:

You're sitting on a Broadway set of 25-year-old you wasn’t supposed to be here, but 41-year-old you is. And I remember walking out of that session going, girl, you know, no, our ass is not in the chair and we don't have the sub date, but you are closer than you've ever been. And you're playing your ass like high. And so then you know that happened and then the 2nd session happened and that was great and then we're at the last chunk and that's like in November and we'll see where we go. But, you know, not for nothing, but even if the show closes before I can get in there, which is what you know, that's how the business works. That drummer has already told me that I'm a potential sub in his mind in general, which is great. Like, that's just as good. You know, if this doesn't work, that's okay. You know, having to kind of go, y'all, y'all, y'all. Like, I know what I have.

Jessie Nelson [00:16:44]:

And also, kind of realizing, you know, how many people in this business are their character is terrible, and they're in it for the wrong reasons, and the run of the mouse all over social. And I've kind of run my whole career this way, but I know enough to know that if you're really about it, you don't have to talk about it. You're doing it. And you'll figure that out now that you're on my IG because you'll see how little I post. You know about the gigs. You know about the food I cook? I'm half Jewish, half Italian. I cook my ass off. I really like that's fun.

Jessie Nelson [00:17:11]:

I like to look at art. I go to bookstores a lot. It's glimpse-y shit. Things I'm listening to, tiny. If you're not talking to me, you don't know what's going on. And I figured that technique out like a couple of years ago and it made a big difference. I haven't been on the social media feeds for Facebook or IG in a couple of years. It makes a huge difference. If you're close to me, I know what's going on with you. Or if we're in the biz and we're all good, I know what's happening. It's just I've had enough. I'm just done. That wasn't going to help me be amazing. You know, if it doesn't serve me being amazing, it goes.

Diane Schroeder [00:17:41]:

That's magic. And it's a simple like, just to remind yourself of that and how powerful mantras are because that's like affirmations. They're where you are now and where you're going to be. It's not in the backwards anymore. It's not in the past. It's moving forward. And to hold true to that, you really understand the saying that you are the sum total of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

Jessie Nelson [00:18:01]:

I have my what I like to call VIP circle, which Jen is in. And that's through that kind of who's stuck around, who showed up, who whatever. Those are those people. And chosen family has been everything to me since I was like a teenager. Unless you really screw with me, I'm a loyal motherfucker. But the problem with that was that getting to the end of 2021 and going, woah. Y'all treating me like I don't matter when your house keys are on my desk from watching your cats or practice space or the million gigs or the this or that. And my head's together and you don't want to be around for this? What the hell is wrong with you? And, you know, making the joke, I love making people accountable. It would feel amazing to call people out, but you don't win that way.

Jessie Nelson [00:18:38]:

You twist the wrench by keeping your head down and your mouth shut. And if all they see is the work, what is it you're going to tell me? Because it's here. It's there. But the me now didn't exist 2 years ago. Me now didn't exist 5 years ago. Like, I have very few regrets, but I have 2. I have very few. At the age of 41, I got 2.

Jessie Nelson [00:18:54]:

One, that I gave so much of a damn about people who didn't give a fuck about me, so that was wrong. And I wish I had the confidence I did now 5 to 10 years ago. I think my career would have been in a different place, but it doesn't mean I can't get there. You know, it's not like an undoable thing. You know, I'm not in a place where, oh, I can't get there. It's over. Absolutely not. I'm not quitting. That's not the deal. But that's alright. That's okay. Sorry. At least we got here now because we know most people don't do this work. They don't touch it.

Diane Schroeder [00:19:22]:

Exactly. And I think I would challenge, maybe just a little challenge, that try not to regret that you cared and loved and gave so much because that's who you are and being genuine and true to yourself is a beautiful gift. And if they weren't willing to receive it and reciprocate in a way that filled your cup, it's their loss. It's the same, you know, boundaries make the people that you're setting the boundary with. It's their problem if they can't accept it. And so, you just being an amazing, kind, giving, loyal human is there's no shame in that. That's a beautiful trait to have as a friend, in my opinion.

Jessie Nelson [00:20:00]:

And I really appreciate you saying that. Like, something that I kind of was shown the last 2 years is that kind, loyal, loving people are not valued in this world and that makes me angry. That makes me berserk because and especially in my industry where, you know how many people I'm around or know or whatever? Everybody can play their asses off. But half those people, I don't want to stand in the same room with after a gig. And now I'm also at a place like another Jessie thing. I don't associate as much as possible. I don't associate with people with bad character anymore. You have bad character; you take it over there.

Jessie Nelson [00:20:28]:

But this didn't exist 2 years ago. This didn't exist a year ago. So, this has been a culmination. And now, you know, I mean, even in the fact that my playing has gotten so much better and I'm clear, my heads together, and so now taking that me into the next part of this is that made all of this nonsense worth it, I think.

Diane Schroeder [00:20:45]:

As I get towards the end of my 40s, what I feel about this decade in general looking back is it's been the most transformative. It's been the best time of my life physically, emotionally, spiritually. For doing the work, I'm so proud that I did it. And what I've also found is, I think there's this realization that washed over me that was like, alright. I'm on the downhill slide of this thing called life, and I got to make the rest of it count and matter. And I know, you know, through all the work that I was worthy of that. Do you find that that's kind of then your journey so far?

Jessie Nelson [00:21:28]:

Yeah. I mean, again, being at that place where I'm like, okay. Like, you know, if I turned around tomorrow, I mean, I want to go to grad school. I went or, you know, hang on. I wanted a music degree. I got one. Like, I wanted to write for the Village Voice. I did it. I've auditioned for Stomp a couple times. I never got the show, but I wanted to audition for it, so I auditioned three times. Lovely. Fantastic. You know, I've been a working professional musician for 15 years. I don't know. Whatever. So, like or, you know, picking up tech skills and a portfolio and a resume in a totally new field that I didn't have 3 years ago.

Jessie Nelson [00:21:53]:

Now that's not paying off yet, but we know it will. So, like, okay. You know? But saying, okay, we're going to figure, I have no money. I got to know this. I got to know that. We're going to figure it out and we're going to get there. And I don't know. You know, I DJ'd at the Ace Hotel New York for 5 years because I read in L Magazine, like a feature on women DJs. And I went to their pages and I was like, okay. I can work a look, but I can do this better. And I made like a 20-minute set, sent it to Ace Soho Grande, Bowery, and Ace Hotel picked me up, and I learned on that gig. And I had never DJed, but I wanted to curate. Because I listened to all this shit and I said all y'all should know about it. So that was $300 a night. I learned how to work a DJ setup. You know, just kind of doing, doing, doing. And, you know, you saw from my crap, I have a jazz group I take out once in a while, and we just did a show at New Blue in August. I had done it in a really long time because I wasn't ready up here. And doing that gig as me now is incredible. Like, just but, you know, I'm not where I want to be at all because of some of the gatekeeping that goes on in this business. But now I'm like, I'm not scared anymore. I'm halfway to 80. What is it you're going to tell me? And what is it you're going to take from me when you've walked through hell and back and come out the other side?

Diane Schroeder [00:22:56]:

Right. That's the beauty of it. And just the adaptability and being willing to, you know, continue on and knowing yourself and knowing your worth, that's priceless. And to not give up. I mean, you're just a badass. And I love hearing your story. I mean, it just like, it's inspiring. And there's not a lot of female drummers in the world. Correct?

Jessie Nelson [00:23:19]:

Now it's common. Europe and here and wherever, we are absolutely out there. And that's a great thing. I don't get into the competition shit. I had a drummer tell me, well, you know, you got all these girls coming up behind you. And I turned around and I said, again, I'm 41. I'm not busy looking at 20-year-olds.

Diane Schroeder [00:23:36]:

In the fire service, it's 96% male dominated. So, for a long time, I felt this fierce competition with other women. And I feel like part of it was the male dominated part of it, like, oh, you guys only get 1 or 2 seats at the table. So, I just think it's really, I love the idea of collaboration over competition because all boats rise. And the more women we can bring into whatever profession it is to inspire them, to create, to do good things, whatever their hearts desire, that's what's important. And I'm sure you're a role model for a lot of women. Like, a lot of girls like, your grit and tenacity to stay in this business is inspiring.

Jessie Nelson [00:24:21]:

You know, I hate to say this, and I appreciate beyond everything you're saying. I know I'm kind of a nonentity. I know I'm amazing, but I also know I'm kind of a nonentity. I know that, and I hate that, but I know how I'm perceived. So, I keep my head down. I stay in my lane. I hope the people, the women that do follow me on whatever, the problem is there is a huge scarcity issue in the stand business, and that is why women don't support other women.

Jessie Nelson [00:24:42]:

That’s also why musicians in general forget the gender, forget the gender, don't really support each other. They talk a nice talk, but they don't. And I know that because the female drummers in the Broadway scene, there is one that I really like and really respect, and I was subbed for her on and off-Broadway thing, and she was wonderful. The other 5, I could take it or leave it. And I'm always polite and there's no craziness, but I see the vibe-yness and I'm like, boy, they're all in the same boat or we're not. Like, get them all over yourself. Nobody cares. There's a lot of ego. There's a lot of attitudes.

Diane Schroeder [00:25:08]:

Mm-hmm. What advice would you offer to someone who says, I want to be a musician when I grow up, I want to be a drummer. I want to be a rock and roll star. What would you tell people? What would be the advice?

Jessie Nelson [00:25:23]:

I would tell them to do it and to believe in themselves more than the world is ever going to, because if you don't, then you have to quit. If you are in this business for outside validation or self-esteem, you’re in the wrong place because they will not give it to you. And if I didn't know what it is that I brought to the table all over the place, you're right. I probably would've gotten out of it 5, you know, 10 years ago, maybe. I don't think so because I was working and I was in the middle of it, but I just mean that, you know, you have to believe in yourself more than the world ever will. And also, oh, forgot one more thing, and don't listen to the word no. Just don't listen to it. Because something that's happened is when people see me creeping on their heels and people who have been nice me and coffee and drum hang and whatever, then they get a little weird because I'm climbing up their back, and they don't like that so much.

Jessie Nelson [00:26:05]:

And that just tells me, well, your character's shit, you're insecure, and you're more worried about keeping your gig than you are supporting somebody else. And this is all a little dark. I know that, but it's also a 100% real. And I think people need to be really aware of that. This community is not your friends. You have your friends in the business. And I do. I do. I have my drum fam as I like to call it. I got my drum fam. I have my other musicians of different instrument fam. Like, I got my people. But my people, I keep close, I keep tight. I don't either. There are so many people I don't even bother with.

Jessie Nelson [00:26:31]:

As notorious B.I.G. Likes to say, a lot of people are a little too high on their own supply.

Diane Schroeder [00:26:38]:

That is fantastic. So, I think what I'm hearing you say too is there's a lot of trust. Like, you have to figure out who you can trust, but mostly you have to learn to trust yourself.

Jessie Nelson [00:26:50]:

And again, it took me until these whole last 2 years to do that. But again, and at least I got there. You know, something I'm very conscious of, especially at this point in time, I don't want to be one of those older musicians who's bitter and dark and all that crap. I don't want to do that. That's not my style. Let's not do that. But the way for me to not do that is to stay in the work. Stay in the work.

Diane Schroeder [00:27:10]:

Absolutely. So, this is going to be a completely off topic question, but I'm curious, what is your favorite food to make? Because you said you cook all the time.

Jessie Nelson [00:27:19]:

I do. I do. Oh my god. I love making sauce from scratch. That's real. I love making soup from scratch. I like making breakfast stuff a lot. I love brunch in general, but I, you know, but I don't know. I like making breakfast stuff. I don't know. A lot of stir fries, fish, that kind of stuff. Yeah. Yeah. But I enjoy it. It's therapeutic and it's meditative.

Diane Schroeder [00:27:39]:

Well, you're building things. Right? You're creating something. I always find that I need to create something whether it's with my hands or a podcast or writing or just something because it helps me keep my monkey mind from going to too many crazy places, which is always a gift. Okay. When you wrote for the Village Voice, was it a lot like Almost Famous?

Jessie Nelson [00:28:03]:

It was oh my god. Okay. So, I'll tell you I'll back up and tell you how I got that internship, and then I'll tell you what it was like. And shout out to Nate Schwaber, who I am close with to this day. Him and I were working there together 2002. And whoever now writes for the New York Times and just put out a book, he's badass and he's a kickass rock and roll singer as well. Okay. Anyway, but he's my Village Voice fan from 2002.

Jessie Nelson [00:28:21]:

I got that internship because when I was, like, 15, 16, and I was staying with my dad in Elmer's, Queens, and I would read The Voice every week. You know? It was the, you know, while I was there. That was my whole, I'm going to be a music journalist because I don't think I'm going to get to play drums for my life. Okay. And so, I called up the music editor, like, every single day for, like, 2 weeks. And at some point, my dad was like, why don't you just go down there? And I said, okay. So, I slept myself down to 36 Cooper Square on the E-train and hit the buzzer at 11 AM and talked to the incredible Chuck Eddie, who was the music editor at the time and who I was lucky enough to work with and work under. Chuck was an incredible writing mentor and human to me.

Jessie Nelson [00:28:54]:

He, you know, picked up the thing and I said, hey, it's Jessie. We were supposed to talk at 11, but I happened to be here. So, he brought me up and we talked about music for like 30, 40 minutes. And then because email and everything else didn't exist the way it did now, I started reviewing anything I was already listening to and I would send them to him and he'd edit them and send them back pieces of paper, pieces of paper, you know, and we did that for quite a while. He sent me a mixtape and, you know, we talked about listening to different things and those kinds of things. When I was 20, he gave me the internship. And so, I stayed at the NYU dorms in Washington Square Park and had that summer, and I was the only one in that whole crew of interns who was not 21, so I couldn't go to bars.

Jessie Nelson [00:29:32]:

So, instead, I went to Poetry Slabs. And spoken words is another thing that I do. But so, I went and so I was doing the thing, you know, so we were there during the day, and I was writing listings and opening mail and that kind of shit, but it was great. I mean, you know, cool. And the way to make any kind of money, like, they comped your MetroCard, and then at the time, listings paid like $50 a thing. Okay. So, I was writing some of those. Great.

Jessie Nelson [00:29:53]:

And other than that, I was going to spoken word stuff at night. And so, the first time I publicly read spoken word was at the Nuyorican at midnight and, you know, in 2002 when I was 20. Okay. So, yeah. So, that was kind of, so was it like Almost Famous? What I'm thinking about is that what I had was like the in the city downtown music journalist experience. I think that's what I had.

Diane Schroeder [00:30:11]:

I love it. That's so crazy. Because, you know, I mean, I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. I still live there. I've been to in fact, the last time I was in the New York City was last summer. I took my son for his 10th birthday, and we had a ball. What an incredible experience to me. And, you know, I love Almost Famous. It's of my favorite movies of all time just because of everything. Like, there's not a part of that movie that I just don't love, and I quote it frequently.

Diane Schroeder [00:30:38]:

What an incredible career you've had and that you're continuing to have. And I'm just going to throw this out there. I think it's just getting started. And now that you have created space in your life for amazing things to happen, you've weeded the garden, it's ready to bloom. And those seeds take time, and it's been a couple years, and it's about time for them to come to fruition and you can reap the benefits of the harvest, I have no doubt.

Jessie Nelson [00:31:05]:

Dang, you don't know me and you can't see me because the video's off right now, but I'm smiling really big over here and I really appreciate that because I think, you know and I'll just say this publicly. It's not a big joke. It’s not a big secret. I think I get concerned that I'm not going to get where I want to go because of the gatekeeping shit that goes on because not because I don't have the talent or know what's happening. But I really appreciate you saying that. And you know what? Because you said it, I'm going to hold on to that, and I'm going to work from that space that it's going to come. So, thank you for that. That means a ton.

Diane Schroeder [00:31:32]:

I believe that it will. And remember, it's not always about the destination. It's about the journey to the destination. So, just keep focusing on one step in front of the other. And I can't wait when you're all famous. I'd be like, I got to interview her on my podcast. So, I can't wait. Alright. It was so awesome to meet you and to hear your story. Thank you so much for sharing. And I will put all of your contact information in the show notes so that people know where to find you and, you know, follow you along and follow your food journey and then celebrate you when you post things about your amazing career.

Jessie Nelson [00:32:12]:

Okay, Diane. Thank you so much for having me. No joke. I really, really appreciate it. And to all the listeners, like, believe in yourself really hard and don't listen to the word no.

Diane Schroeder [00:32:21]:

I love it. There are so many truth bombs in this conversation, so thank you.

Diane Schroeder [00:32:26]:

Another great conversation. Thank you for giving the valuable gift of your time and listening to The Fire Inside Her podcast. Speaking of value, one of the most common potholes we fall into on the journey to authenticity is not recognizing our value. So, I created a workbook. Book. It's all about value. Head on over to to get your free workbook that will help you remember your value. Until next time, my friend.