Carolina Characters

Meet Jaesen Moore, musician, jerky chef and inspiration

Jaesen Michael Moore is a tsunami washing people away in good vibrations using only his voice. He is the dreadlocked one – brown, brawny, and beautiful – with a magnetic personality and a gift for lyricism. And he is bringing down the house at a location near you.

The Boathouse in Myrtle Beach and Island Bar & Grill in Surfside Beach are among the places he’s played with his band, The Izm. He is also a favorite at sporting events and special functions when the people in charge need a national anthem singer. No matter the location, his honey-glazed baritone delivers sweet music to appreciative ears.

He is the child music would birth if a dash of Darius Rucker, a pinch of James Brown, a heaping tablespoon of Foo Fighters, and a nip of Metallica were added to a base of spacey originality and stirred briskly in a kettle. Yet, no such composition cauldron exists; therefore, he is what he is: a deliciously talented dude living life on a natural high while aiming to elevate others, too.

Moore, also known as J-Mike, sings, cooks gourmet meals for his family, intellectualizes, and never compromises his walk in this world.

“I love who I am right now, and that’s it,” he said recently, standing inside his 1976 Winnebago at The Boathouse. “You know, everything that has happened to me has been purposeful.”

His resume rocks. In addition to being the lead singer of The Izm, one of the fiercest local bands around, and a vocal commando of the national anthem, he is also an award-winning taco maker, a beef jerky creator, a doting dad, and a hot husband to a hotter wife.

“I didn’t give birth to myself, so I can’t take credit for any of this,” said Moore, who turns 40 Sept. 30. “We are going this way or that way on this road we did not build.”

Life, as typical for many musicians and other highly creative types, saw him make decisions that gave him experiences about which rock documentaries and Lifetime movies are made.

He’s been to jail. He’s tried about every drug, except heroin and crack cocaine. Now he’s done with that mindless behavior.

Today, he wants to move you. He wants to groove you. Moore wants you to think deeper about your purpose on our planet.

“To be able to inspire through music is like being a superhero,” Moore said. “It is a gift from the divine creator, and I am being allowed to share.”

He is a humble, jovial man who just shows up, shares his gifts and let the sparks fly. His dreadlocks also fly: He whips his hair back and forth and cups the microphone, giving each word kinetic heat that causes frenzied fans to jump to the rhythms rising from The Izm.

He and his band mates – guitarist, Jason “Wooly” Woolley; drummer, Nadia “Naughty 5 Fingerz” Manigo; and bassist, Matthew “Seabiscuit” Sellers – have been together for nearly eight years and they know how to make the crowds crave them.

Moore’s backstory

A native of Alexandria, Va., who grew up mostly in Reston, Va., he is one of seven children raised by a single mom, Joan Ann Whaley.

“She did OK for a Catholic girl out of New York,” he said. “My mother had her last child at 46. She is a powerful woman.”

He inherited her strength and talent.

He found his voice as a youngster watching his mother practice and perform in musical theater. Her singing was a strong wind that spun him around and around. And when those spiraling gusts finally set him free, he came down to the ground with his feet planted in soil fertilized by not only his mom but also The Four Tops, The Temptations, James Brown, The Righteous Brothers, and Simon & Garfunkel.

In 1995, he joined his first band, GroovilisticPorkChopSexTypeBooty, PorkChop for short. Blame the name on youth, but the band played an eclectic mix of what Moore dubbed hip rock, hop funk and roll.

His talents and word-of-mouth about Myrtle Beach as a tourism mecca brought him here in 1997. Love also played a lead role in keeping him here because he met and fell for the former Brooke Rusnica, now his wife.

She and their children, Marcus, 14, and Victoria, 7, relish seeing him front The Izm, a name meaning “the embodiment of all that is and is not.”

Music that ‘transforms you’

A bohemian at his core, he calls The Izm’s sound “Angry Country.” Give it a listen, though, and it is not music of rage, but reason.

Through his spiritual exegesis of tunes, Moore implores listeners to think outside of the box. He wants you to ponder how you got in the box, why you stayed as long as you did and then he wants you to shred the box so you never can get back into it.

Francesca McCollum did just that. Moore’s song “Sense” helped her build the courage she needed to leave an abusive relationship. Part of the song goes, “I’ve broken the mold. So I’ve been told. I’ll never fold to your control.”

Arguably one of The Izm’s biggest fans, she is close friends with each band member and gives Moore credit for writing songs that pierce her heart and caused her to flee fear and fight for what is right in her life.

“Jaesen is a good guy who genuinely cares about people,” said McCollum, a 30-year-old mother of four who is a waitress and cocktail server. The band’s name is tattooed on her back, along with those empowering lyrics from “Sense.”

“The music he makes speaks to me,” she said. “It is a totally different type of vibe that transforms you.”


(Lyrics by Jaesen Michael Moore)

I've come to take you on a journey

To the inside of your mind

So you can see just what it is

You live your life to find

We'll travel through your dreams

As you sleep no one knows

How long it takes to reach the level Where the Spirit grows

I've come to give you sense of sight

I know you hunger for who you are

To dine on meat from thine own self

Would taste the best by far

To experience joy you must love pain

Cuz it hurts so good to be free

To shout 'I AM' it kills inside

But what else should I be

Cuz Heaven is what this Earth should have been

The meaning of life not 'TO BE' Guess again

Fear is a warrior

There's no need to hide

Cuz everything you'd ever want You've kept all trapped inside