Your Stories: Jonathan Sexton

6:11 PM, May 29, 2013   |    comments
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  • Jonathan Sexton and the Big Love Choir is a successful band with a strong following, but frontman Jonathan Sexton is well known in the music industry for a different reason.

    In a living room/office in an Old North Knoxville home, Jonathan Sexton plays music, but he also helps run one of the most promising startup companies in the country, according to industry insiders.

    "Everyday we get emails about 'thank you' and 'this is great,'" said Sexton.

    But it took a while to get to this point. Rewind to when Jonathan was a kid growing up in Seymour.

    "I found music when I was 15, started playing guitar," he said.

    That's where his passion began, but Jonathan didn't pursue it full time. He went to the University of Tennessee to study education and didn't have a lot of free time.

    "I was in graduate school, I had a newborn, I had sick grandparents and I was 23 years old," said Sexton.

    He ended up teaching kindergarten for four years. "If you are going to change the world, have a really positive impact on the world then you have to start young and so kindergarten just made sense to me," he said.

    But on the side he started to really focus on his music. "Great thing about teaching is you have summers off, so I took my first summer off and I made an album," he said.

    His music took off. "I left teaching because I had an opportunity. Music really started to take off and I got offered a management contract in Nashville, a booking agent and a publishing deal and I just thought 'it's now or never,'" said Sexton.

    He played Sundown in the City and that led to a spot at Bonnaroo where he performed with the Big Love Choir and also pulled off a unique feat to raise money for a good cause.

    "I set the Guinness World Record for hugs. It was a fundraiser for Nashville flood relief. That's when the floods happened," he said.

    And at the end he proposed to his girlfriend. "I'm so glad she said yes," he said.

    So, his personal life and his music career were doing very well, but he and a friend had this idea to help other bands with the business side of things.

    "It's not 'I'm going to go play some songs and I'm going to get all my friends to come and we are going to be rock stars.' It's a business. There's a whole lot of pieces to the puzzle that have to come together for you to actually have a successful career," said Sexton.

    So, they took a music break and found big backers to help them create a software program. Artist Growth launched in January in Nashville.

    "It helps you keep tasks organized. You can keep up with your finances, take pictures of your receipts on the road," said Sexton. "You can really make analytical business decisions about why you are playing in Atlanta and not in Nashville or why you are trying to sell hats instead of t-shirts."

    And big-time artist management company Vector Management has taken notice. They use the software for their bands like Kings of Leon, Kesha and Lynyrd Skynyrd. And Artist Growth has gotten national recognition, too.

    "We won the MTV Music Award for Best Music App. We beat Spotify and Live Nation," said Sexton. "We were featured in Forbes Magazine this week. Fast Company Magazine called us the perfect example of how tech tools can help young businesses."

    He's done all this and now might be the perfect time to get back into music to slow down a bit and get back in touch with Knoxville.

    "You know one of my favorite things to do when I am just driving around Knoxville is to look at the landscape and all the hills especially this time of year with all the leaves, just try to see it like it was before anything else was there," he said.

    Jonathan Sexton, a musician, an entrepreneur, a man always on the lookout for what's next.

    One of Your Stories. There's no place like this one.

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