Arts News

Utah actor goes from stage to studio

Jesse Pepe, a Utah native and Weber State University Musical Theater graduate, hung up his acting cap to follow his true passion of becoming an R&B/pop artist. Before moving late last year to make a dream come true, the 22-year-old heartthrob and ally of the LGBT population enjoyed a short-lived, yet stand-out professional career in the Utah theater industry.

Jesse first caught the attention of QSaltLake in 2009 for his emotionally riveting performance in Salt Lake Acting Company’s Dark Play or Stories for Boys. Other Utah productions include Saturday’s Voyeur, The Beaux Stratagem, Six Years and Brighton Beach Memoirs. His final Utah stage performance came after postponing the move to California to play the lead in his alma mater’s production of Romeo and Juliet.

“I wanted to get this role really bad, because I knew I would get pushed, and there would be no better way to prepare myself for Los Angeles than doing this role in this show,” Jesse told WSU’s The Signpost in 2011.

And that preparedness may have been the ticket. Within a few short months, Jesse and longtime gay friend and “cohort” Sean Sekino, have released the video to the album’s first single “Hung Up,” a piano-heavy ballad of heartache over a lost love.

“The album is titled ‘Just. Perception’ and represents what I’m trying to accomplish as a small-town artist from Utah trying to make it big,” said Jesse.  “Sean and I are trying to do something that we feel no mainstream artist has been able to do – bridge the gap between musical genres and hopefully shake up the status quo of the industry.”

This industry has so many perceptions of what it means to be an artist and who can do what type of music. I want to be an artist with two different images. One Image is very urban, very black and white. The other is the perception given to me from other people, very clean-cut and wholesome, Jesse said.

Jesse said he hasn’t forgotten his Utah roots or the support he has received over the years. His hope is that the support out of Utah will continue through his journey.

“Utah has played the largest factor in who I am as an artist, and what I want to accomplish. More than anything, I want to show people that a small-town artist can make their dreams come true,” said Jesse.

To show support for, and learn more about, Jesse’s project, visit

To see the video for the single “Hung Up,” visit

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