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Oxford Stories: Tupelo Native Chooses Music Over Homeland Security Career

Music is one thing dear to Jesse Leech’s heart.
Music is one thing dear to Jesse Leech’s heart.

Music is universally understood. Some play instruments. Others sing, and some write lyrics.

Tupelo native Jesse Leech, 23, recently graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in homeland security. Although it may seem like his career path would lead to a criminal justice job, his first love is music.

“When I first started college, my plan was to major in music entertainment or music business,” Leech said. “I’d always wanted to go to Belmont in Nashville where I could learn about the industry and have a music career at the same time, but I decided it might be smart to have a degree in something else, so I chose criminal justice.”

Sitting on his couch with a Taylor guitar in hand, Leech’s eyes lighted up as he described his passion for music. “It’s where my heart is,” he said. “I wouldn’t be unsatisfied with a government career, but there’s definitely more money in the music industry, which we all like just a little bit.”

Leech has been playing since the age of 6. His dad, Eddie Leech, continuously exposed him to music. “When I was six, I decided I wanted to learn to play guitar to be more like my dad. When you grow up while your dad’s playing every day, it’s kind of easy to want to pick that up, so he taught me everything he could. I got my first guitar for Christmas. It was a red acoustic guitar. We still have it.”

Eddie Leech said his son is a determined musician. “He sticks with something until he gets it right,” he said. “When he was little, Jesse thought he was Keith Urban. He was a little hard headed and drifted from playing. I was proud to see him come back to it.”

Keith Urban also inspired Leech’s musical interests when he was younger. “When I was nine, I went to one of his concerts,” Leech said. “He signed the pick guard on my electric guitar and wrote, ‘To Jesse: Playing guitar is one of God’s greatest gifts! Rock on my man. Keith’.”

Leech’s mom, Pam Leech, said that Urban’s influence is evident in he son’s music. “The songs he writes are always from his heart,” she said. “He writes of the experiences he has gone through, soulful music.”

Leech began writing music in high school. “I took an instrumental music class where my teacher gave us an assignment to write a song,” Leech said. “It was actually easier than I thought it would be, which is probably why I never wrote before, because I figured it’d be too difficult. Now I have a collection of songs, as well as fragments, so if I ever need fillers, those are there.”

When writing, he focuses on his own personal experiences, as well as other experiences that people can generally relate to. “If I want to access a certain type of song, I can put myself in a past situation or base it off other people’s stories,” he said. “I play a lot of country music, but some of my work could be classified as singer/songwriter too.”

Leech has around 20 guitars. “I don’t really have a favorite,” he said. “It just depends on what I’m doing, because they all sound different when I’m playing.”

Paige Henderson is the author of this article. Read her works on Oxford Stories Longform. For any questions or comments, email us at hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

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