At Your Service: Bass player Jesse Gentry gets in the groove at Carmel’s
Before he arrives at Carmel’s Kitchen & Bar at 10:30 a.m. for a full shift on his feet, Jesse Gentry has been on a 3-mile run. And then he goes to the gym. When he gets to work, he’s revved up and ready to roll.
“I’m a physically active person and I like doing physical things when I get to work — set up the drink station, brew coffee and tea, mop the floor. It’s kind of a joke at the restaurant, but I do have a passion for mopping,” Gentry says.
He has a deeper passion for music, which is what brought him to Asheville in 2010.
Raised in Maryland, Gentry met Silas Durocher in 9th grade, and they started playing music together. After high school, they went their separate ways — Durocher to Florida and Gentry to college near Ocean City.
Shortly after earning a degree in physics, Gentry followed his girlfriend, Teresa Sleeper, to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where she was managing a surf shop. “I was playing music a lot down there, and my day job was a kayak guide in a marine sanctuary,” he remembers. “It was the best job, and I learned so much about vegetation and marine life.”
But after four years in paradise, he and Sleeper were ready for a change, and they made a big one, trading island life for the mountains. “Silas had moved here and had a band, and he suggested we move here so I could join the band,” says Gentry. “We got here and loved it.”
As bands do, that one dis-banded, but in the silver linings department, the singer’s wife was managing the bar at Carmel’s and suggested he take a day job there. Gentry, who had zero restaurant experience, started in expo, running food from the kitchen to tables. “It was a fun job,” he says. “I’m kind of extroverted, so I thought it would be cool to be a server, so I trained in that and really loved it.”
In 2011, Durocher put together another band, and this one clicked. The Get Right Band is a psychedelic indie rock trio — songwriter Durocher on guitar and vocals, Gentry on bass, and since 2013, Jian-Claude Mears on drums — that has just released its fifth studio album of original songs, iTopia.
The Get Right Band performs locally and tours nationally, and Gentry has been able to balance both careers. “The bar manager did the scheduling, and because she knew the music business and understood that many restaurant workers in Asheville are artists of some type, she was very accommodating,” says Gentry. “When Jonathan Johnson came in as general manager, I was kind of grandfathered in, and he made sure both schedules worked together. I could not have had the success in music without the support I get at Carmel’s.”
At Sleeper’s suggestion, Gentry asked Johnson if he could train as a bartender and found he enjoyed that as well. “With bartending, you make more human-to-human contact,” he explains. “I bartended during the day when people don’t get really inebriated. I had several regulars I considered friends and really enjoyed talking to.”
Though he says he has healed from the severe challenges of human interaction in the hospitality industry during Covid, Gentry switched back to waiting tables and is in a happy place again. “One of the things I love about front of house is interacting with other human beings, doing something for someone else,” he says. “Eating out is a positive experience, and I get to be part of that positivity.”
Gentry also builds a fan base for the Get Right Band. “It’s cool when someone new says, ‘I know you from somewhere,’ and we figure out they’ve been to a show. My regulars know our schedule and come out to see us when we play in town. Both jobs are performative. I love making real connections, at Carmel’s and on stage. “
For more about Carmel’s Kitchen & Bar, visit carmelsofasheville.com.
Written by Kay West
Photo courtesy of Jesse Gentry