Grandmont finds new inspiration, meets Conan working at the World Expo

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Jesse Grandmont perfoming on stage at the World Expo in Dubai

Jesse Grandmont has found new inspiration in Dubai.

While many Canadian artists are struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic, the favourite from Victoria Playhouse Petrolia has been working since August at the World Expo in Dubai.

A friend alerted the violinist about the opportunity and Grandmont sent in a resume. He earned a position – along with hundreds of musicians from around the world – playing nightly at the Expo.

It has been an eye-opening experience to be in Dubai, he told The Independent in a video chat recently, noting everything you have seen that was amazing in North America is bigger and better in Dubai.

But it is the experience of playing with eclectic musicians which has given him new musical inspiration.

“Everyone has their own thing here,” says Grandmont. “No one does the same thing as the next person like at all. It’s really, really crazy, actually…Everyone has their own kind of flair and way of performing and music that they play…We’re able to share the way that we do things and the collaborations are really cool.”

Grandmont, who had just finished performing before the interview, recounted how he had been at the gym in the hotel and heard a guy with an accordion playing. They started talking and decided they should jam. Before long, he, the accordion player and two others were making music.

“We went, ‘Hey, we should try this as a group.’ So tonight, we played on the main stage at an Expo and so it’s yeah, it’s kind of crazy.”

Grandmont says the organizers of Expo encourage the collaboration.

The whole atmosphere, including seeing big name acts such as Alicia Keys and the Black Eyed Peas, and international music stars he’s never heard of before, has opened up a new world of international music for him.

“I’m going to want to try some new things I can kind of feel that,” he says.
“I’m already playing with other musicians and learning so much about other types of music that I just never necessarily considered…so it’s definitely having an impact for sure. Like I said, ‘I don’t know what it is, but like, I know for sure (his music) is gonna change.”

Jesse Grandmont, bottom right, joined Comedian Conan O’Brien on his podcast ‘Conan Needs a Fan.’

And being at Expo also lead to an opportunity of a lifetime for the fan of Conan O’Brien. The comedian turned TV talk show host has a podcast called Conan Needs a Fan. Grandmont listens all the time and recently heard a call for new guests. He wrote in, told him he was playing his “guitar violin” at the World Expo in Dubai and soon the producers were on the phone to book him onto the podcast.

Grandmont, who has been performing for most of his life, says it was nerve-wracking.

“I was super nervous to be honest. I recorded the episode at the beginning of December or end of November but it didn’t come out until just last week. And when I listened to it, I really was like, ‘Man, I don’t even really remember having this conversation because it just went by so fast.’

“By the time you know, they wrapped it I was like, ‘oh my god, did we even talk about anything?’

Grandmont was relieved to see O’Brien seemed to enjoy the talk and spent some time thinking about his question of who the comedian – who also is a musician – would want to play with if he had the chance.

“I get asked that constantly and so it was kind of a no brainer for me to ask that. But, I guess because music isn’t his first bag, he hadn’t ever been asked before.”

O’Brien was fascinated by his guitar violin “That’s fantastic…I want to hear something.” He also sung along as Grandmont rocked the podcast with some Guns and Roses.

“You’re a shoulder guitarist,” he said.

“You would be surprised how many people tell me that,” said Grandmont on the podcast which can be found on YouTube.

And while this is an experience of a lifetime, Grandmont admits he’s missed Petrolia, particularly at Christmas.

The violinist has been part of Starbright Christmas for years, a show which needs weeks of practice starting in November.

“Usually around Christmas Eve I’m so sick of Christmas music because we had been doing it since the beginning of November with all the shows,” he says.
“This year, I got to Christmas Eve, and there was this beautiful concert on the mainstage Broadway star, Leah Salonga, who many people know, she did this concert of Christmas songs, and I just went like, ‘oh my god, I didn’t play Christmas music and I didn’t play Starbright.’

“I was definitely texting all my VPP family, including my little sister,” he says.

It won’t be long until Grandmont will be able to see his VPP family in person. The World Expo wraps up at the end of March and he hopes to return to Petrolia to perform this summer.