Jeff Jensen was living in Portland Oregon in 2011 when he lost his marriage and house. Devastated, he packed what was left of his belongings and prepared to move to California,
“I have a really supportive family and they encouraged me to move back to California, where I’m originally from. That was the plan.”
The plan changed at a service station. As he was getting an oil change before departing, he said something didn’t feel right. On a whim, he drove east, instead of south.
"I literally just decided to drive to Memphis, Tennessee and move there, which was like a 2,400 mile drive. When I got 400 miles into the drive, I called everyone and told them 'I'm not coming back to California, I'm moving to Memphis.' And that's exactly what I did."
Jensen said that impulsive decision was the smartest thing he's ever done.
"It was also by far the riskiest decision I've ever made. I didn't have a job, I didn't have gigs. I didn't have any money. I had one person in Memphis that told me I could come crash at his place for a very short amount of time while I get my stuff together."
Jensen is convinced a higher power was involved in what turned out to be a life-altering decision.
"Because as soon as I got to Memphis, I mean literally the next day, all the pieces started to fall into place. To the point it's been able to propel me to where I am today. It's an absolute miracle."
Fellow bluesman Brandon Santini is the biggest piece Jensen is referring to. They met the day after Jensen arrived in Memphis and Santini almost immediately offered Jensen a job as a guitarist in his band. It didn't take long before he became the music director of the Brandon Santini Band, and leader of his own band.
Jensen says his music has evolved since he arrived in Memphis in 2011. Back then, he characterized his music as "just fun." He says today the music has more substance, and is based more on emotion.
"Now the entire purpose of our show isn't fun. It's really just to have a significant energy exchange with an audience. It's to hopefully have people feel the same emotion that we're feeling in our songs, and hopefully inspiring people in some ways."
Jensen lights up when talking about connecting with his audience. He said he wants to bond with his audience, even hoping they go away learning something, even if it's about them. Jensen is a hopeless idealist. He says he’s someone who wants to make the lives of other people better. Even for just one night.
"If you're coming out to the show and you're having a really good day, maybe we can make your day better. If you're not having a good day, maybe you can find yourself in some of our songs. Maybe you can connect somehow in some of the lyrics and the imagery we use in creating our music. And if we can affect anyone's life like that, then in my perspective, we're doing something more important than just playing music. I'm not just showing people just how good I think I am at playing guitar, I'm really trying to connect with someone and have a positive impact on their lives."
His just released "The River City Sessions" CD is a live recording of previous releases and concert staples. Jensen said he recorded a live album because he wanted to celebrate the live concerts the band had been performing across the country.
"Our live show is different than our studio records. When we go into the studio, I really try to produce the song itself and I want that song to have everything it needs to be able to express the emotion it represents. On the live show there's a lot more antics involved. There's a lot more energy exchanged. We stretch out a little bit and we really show ourselves a little more. And I know our fans appreciate that and I wanted to document that.