by Kenny Kerner

A spontaneous shopper is one who sees something and, on a whim, runs in to buy it. Jessie Lee's career in the music business began because, at the age of seventeen, she walked past a music store in Wisconsin, saw an Ibanez acoustic guitar selling for $125 and, on a whim, went in and bought it. No, she had never owned a guitar before. No, she couldn't even play guitar. But she did own one and that was all the incentive she needed.

Ever the self-starter, Jessie got the name of a local guitar instructor and after learning only a handful of chords, began writing original songs.

"I had some experience in music theatre but I always wanted to sing also," Jessie explained, "but I was always scared of singing. So what I did was to lock myself in a room for about three years and sat there strumming my guitar and sang at the top of my lungs. It was self-imposed woodshedding. I eventually wound up dropping out of school. I kept singing and singing and singing until I had enough confidence to start doing some open mic shows."

Name: Jessie Lee Montague
Residence: Catskill, New York
Age: 25
Occupation: Musician
Joined Taxi: 1999
Songs Forwarded: 40
Deals: BoyGirl Music, CBS-TV, 
MTV Undressed
Though Jessie took her practicing seriously, it could not have prepared her for the experiences she had at some of the early live shows: "I had really traumatizing experiences. I did so many crazy things at those open mics. Things that would keep a sane person from ever getting back up on stage. I remember trying to do some three-part harmony with two of my friends and I screwed up profoundly so that they had no idea what I was doing. They both stopped and looked at me. It was so embarassing. But there was something in me that knew I had something to say and some way to say it."

Jessie got better at singing. A lot better. She went on to form a band and continued honing her craft as a songwriter. She currently lives in New York and performs with a group called Jake. But she's no newcomer to the industry. "In 1996, we were signed to a small indie label called Blackbird and we put out a record called Hook. It was a start-up label with no major distribution. The owner had a lot of money and was into the band but the workers he hired were inept and couldn't do their jobs. It went south quickly. We owed them a second record and I refused to give it to them. It took a while to get out of the contract. It made me feel like a fly with my wings cut off. We started demoing new material and released a four song EP with three of the four songs getting picked up. Through TAXI's help, they got forwarded to BoyGirl Music for a film soundtrack and one went to CBS-TV. My third deal through TAXI was when MTV Undressed picked up six of my songs."

Jessie's introduction to TAXI came when her father offered to pay for her first year's membership. "I felt as if I had nothing to lose. I was broke so I decided to try it. It was slow going at the beginning but now I have over 40 songs that were forwarded." Like her first guitar, joining was also spontaneous. "It wasn't my money. It was a gift, so I just signed up."

Realizing that her career goals focused more on getting her songs placed than signing with a label, Jessie was one of the first to sign up and take advantage of TAXI's new Dispatch service that specializes in listings for TV and Film. "I own all of my publishing so all of the money I make goes right back into the band." And just how much has she made? Jessie estimates that, over the past three months, she has received about $6,000 in royalties. "For us to make $6,000 in three months is outstanding for a band."

Jessie Lee doesn't write songs in the traditional sense and so, has stopped asking for the screener critiques. "I can only write if I'm totally uninhibited. Streamofconsciousness. That's why my lyrics are more like poetry. I don't edit much. I'm sure some people see that as a weakness but I have to honor the way I work and stay true to it. I'm doing this to serve my higher power and not to get good reviews on my songwriting. To me, music is a completely spiritual process. When I start listening to other people, I start to analyze things and that ruins the experience for me. I got the clarity for what I wanted from TAXI and during that process, things began to open up for me."

This is a business in which you need to find your own path to success. Jessie found TAXI and together, they continue on a most profitable and successful journey. Jessie receives the credit, the credibility and the royalty checks and TAXI gets to smile a lot and say--I told you so!


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"Getting all these critques in the mail is encouraging and instructive as well. Thanks for your help!"
— Lisa Knouse,
TAXI Member

"The critques I've gotten back are really so encouraging. You listen so closely you spot all my weak spots, but also give me the feeling you really enjoy my music. I thank you."
— Willie McCulloch,
TAXI Member