Editor’s note: With live music and concert reviews on hold due to COVID-19, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is focusing on how Georgia musicians are spending their time in our new feature, Mic Check.
It's well-established that the career of Jesse James Dupree extends more than a bit beyond his most famous role as the wild-eyed charmer who fronts hard rockers Jackyl.
There’s the namesake bourbon; his full-service Cock of the Walk recording studio in Kennesaw; the 600 acres of land he owns with partner Michael Ballard in Sturgis, South Dakota, where they set up the Pappy Hoel Campground and Resort and Full Throttle Saloon; his consulting work with Harley-Davidson; and his involvement with the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Now add another band and another pet project to the list.
Dupree, a Doraville native, is an avid supporter of the trucking industry. Recently, he rounded up famed banjo player Don Wayne Reno, Jackyl bassist Roman Glick, drummer son Nigel and former Drivin N Cryin keyboardist Joey Huffman for an incarnation of his sometime-side-project, Dixie Inc.
Together, they spun a banjo-backed anthem — “It Didn’t Fall from the Sky (Trucking Uncle Sam)” — about lonely stretches of highway and heroes in the seat of 18-wheelers. The video has racked up more than 75,000 views since the end of April, and Dupree is proud to be an ambassador to the trucking community.
Last week, he talked about how he’s been spending time during self-quarantine and why “It Didn’t Fall from the Sky” is so meaningful to him.
What have you been doing these last couple of months?
This is the first time I’ve been home this long since I was in high school. I’ve embraced it and spent a lot of time in the studio. We have a live Jackyl concert from the Midland Theatre in Kansas City (Missouri) from December that we recorded with nine cameras, so I’m working on the edit and mix with that. I’ve been working in the studio, and I’ve got the Jesse James Bourbon selling fast; people have been finding their ways to liquor stores! I’m spending time with my family, which is something I don’t get to do in long stretches. I’ve been riding a bike at Kennesaw Mountain. It’s very eye-opening to think what we took for granted and humbling to think that America has been brought to at least one knee on this one. People are so politicized and polarized by the politics of it all; it’s sad. With everything, the truth is in the middle. I’m hoping that some good comes out of this.
Tell us about this homage to truck drivers.
I’d been shooting a documentary on the truck driving industry (about the restrictions placed on drivers) and now that we need these guys, we’re letting them run as long and hard as they can because we’ve got to have them. These truck drivers are essential. The song is a celebration of the asphalt cowboy. Everything you can reach out and touch right now probably came from a truck - not to take anything away from the brick and mortar stores. These are the supply chain heroes and getting to make a tribute to our American truck drivers, that’s something that’s been very rewarding to me.
What are you listening to?
I’ve been listening to my own voice because of mixing these Jackyl projects. My son (Nigel) is in a band, Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts. They had the opening slot on the Def Leppard/Motley Crue tour, but who knows what will happen with that. (Though not yet officially canceled, the stadium tour is supposed to kick off June 18.) Luckily, right before the pandemic, (Frank) Hannon from Tesla came through town, and we recorded a song that I need to finish the vocals on, so there’s a lot of creative energy going on in the studio.
What do you miss about life right now?
I’ve gotta say, it comes back to what I’ve been doing all these years — getting on stage. This Jackyl (concert) DVD I’m working on, I’ve got 3,000 people in front of me in the video, and it makes me pause in a humbling way to miss it and respect it. If I get the opportunity to get on the stage again, I’ll savor it. I never imagined a time when I couldn’t get on a stage and play.
Melissa Ruggieri has covered music and entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2010 and created the Atlanta Music Scene blog. She's kept vampire hours for more than two decades and remembers when MTV was awesome.