Outer Banks musician Jeremy Russell, a former boat captain, has been playing paid gigs on the sandbar for more than a dozen years.
“I was about 18 — my first gig was at The Green Dolphin — but I’ve been a full -time musician for four years now,” says Russell, who previously spent his days sharing the beauty of the Outer Banks with guests aboard the Crystal Dawn, a 65-foot two-deck head boat that serves both as a recreational fishing vessel and as an excursion boat.
Being on the water is a great way to make a living, but for Russell, nothing beats standing in front of a crowd with his guitar and a mic.
“I describe my music as a mix of acoustic, reggae, funky, honky tonk,” he says. “I try to fuse together different types of music from different decades to create something that everyone can enjoy.”
As a solo performer, he incorporates a loop station — a music device that enables performers to build layers of music until it sounds like an entire band is on stage with them — “then I beat-box over the top for a more full sound.”
Being able to do what he loves in a place like the Outer Banks, he says, “is living the dream. I don’t have another job; I’m lucky enough to make a living playing music. I feel so honored to be able to do what I love for a living, and believe me, I don’t take it for granted.”
He says the tribe of Outer Banks musicians feels the love from visitors to the area, and Russell says he and the other troubadours appreciate the support they get from local businesses.
Russell promotes his music and the music of his tribe on outerbankslivemusic.com, an online resource he created and maintains at no charge that offers bios of local musicians, links to their personal website or Facebook page and ways to book a musician for a local gig or private function.
“I love that a lot of people are on vacation and excited to be here. That carefree attitude — coupled with awesome venues, great staff at those venues and the locals that come out and listen on a regular basis — make all the practice and muggy nights outside all worth it,” he says.
In addition to guitar, Russell strums the ukulele, and “I’m decent on the bass guitar, and I love playing hand percussion, like a cajón and djembe.”
His musical influences are equally diverse: Zac Brown, Van Morrison, John Mellencamp, Sublime, Billy Joel, Chris Stapleton “and anything Motown.”
“If I could jam with anyone, I would choose Stevie Wonder. He’s so talented and has a great attitude,” says Russell, who also performs in a duo called R&R, with a fellow musician he met at East Carolina University, Ashley Robinson.
“Ashley is still one of my best friends and is currently living on the Outer Banks for the summer playing gigs, too,” he says. “She has nightly shows Wednesday through Sunday, some solo and some with our friend, Q Jones. They go by Q&A.”
He’s pretty content with his life on the Outer Banks — where the ocean is a constant companion and the sunrises and sunsets complete for which can be more glorious — but Russell says if he could tweak it a tad, he’d work on writing and recording more original music.
“In an ideal situation, I would keep playing my gigs here, write and sell songs good enough for radio — and go fishing every day.”