You can't be around the live music scene in this area for long without hearing the name of Christian Quesenberry. His story is one filled with pain, addiction, grit, determination, love, and hope - all things that now color the music that he writes and the depth with which he sings it.
Born in California, but now calling Smith Mountain Lake home, Christian's adoptive mom recalls him singing nearly as soon as he knew how to talk. Music was always just a natural part of his everyday existence. As a boy, there were opportunities to sing occasionally in church, and he first dipped his young toe into the theatre world participating in elementary school musicals.
It wasn't until high school though that he really fell in love with music in a way that would eventually begin to guide the trajectory of his life. He joined a youth praise band which brought with it many new opportunities for growth - one of which was expanding his knowledge of the guitar. The Staunton River High School music program introduced him to his first vocal coach and the chance to sing in a concert choir. He leaned heavily back into theatre and performed the lead in several musicals (all while playing school sports on the side).
He experienced so much growth, success, and fulfillment throughout this time, he began to pursue a career as a music teacher. Senior year, Christian was given the post of intern under his coach, Nichole Schmidt. While grateful for the opportunity, he began to feel the weight of the foundational holes in his musical education that would make pursuing a degree incredibly difficult. As much as it broke his heart to do so, after graduation he took a hard left and started down a completely different path.
This path took many twists and turns...from a short stint as a CNA in the nursing industry to exploring painting, food service, and hospitality...none of which were just the right fit. His music was an unfortunate casualty of the constant career-hopping, and the increasing void it left became filled with nights of drinking. These nights eventually led to living out of a van in abandoned parking lots - homeless. The drinking numbed the pain of it all, but it also numbed the creativity and joy that used to radiate out of his soul.
He was fast becoming a person that he hated.
Christian's moment of awakening came when he found himself in somebody else's camper one morning and couldn't recall what had actually happened the night before. He knew then that something had to change - and soon.
Through this time of darkness though, there was a Light: a girl he had connected with through a mutual friend. As the months went on the two became inseparable. Her family welcomed him in as one of their own, and for the first time he experienced what it felt like to truly belong. The profound impact that this love and acceptance had on him...his life, his recovery journey, his launch into a professional musical career...still brings him to tears in the telling.
As you might imagine, one of the hardest parts of moving from addiction to health is the first step. But with the support of his newfound family and friends he took it. A mere two days after his last drink, the fog began to lift from his mind and the music came flooding back in. He credits his guitar as a massive form of both catharsis and therapy. Hours and hours spent playing, singing, feeling, and writing his way through the pain. One of the anthems that got him through that challenging first year of sobriety was "Nose On The Grindstone" by Tyler Childers. Each day Christian would wake up, remember his "why", and determine to live another moment, then another, walking in the direction of his chosen new path - one of recovery. A few of those "whys" now include the Light that he married, Amy, and their young son, Atlas.
While getting back on his feet, he didn't really think that performing would become his full-time job. He just knew that he wasn't going to allow music to get squeezed out of his life ever again. He started playing back-up roles with local musicians, entering Smith Mountain Lake emerging artist contests like "Lyrics on the Lake", and eventually national competitions such as The Voice and American Idol. These experiences gained him helpful recognition and exposure that catapulted him into many headlining opportunities around the area for which he is eternally grateful!
During this time of rebuilding, he also credits Dave Owens, a mentor, brother, father-figure, and dear friend-turned-band-mate with pouring an immeasurable amount of knowledge, experience, love, and confidence into Christian. All of which gave him the last push he needed to jump into the industry with both feet.
His current band, named Christian Q and The Groove, formed rather organically post-pandemic and includes Dave on guitar, Christian's wife, Amy, on bass, and their drummer John whom Christian laughingly recalls literally "slid into his DMs" after a show one day. The four have grown into such a close group that people often comment on both the contagious fun they have together on stage and their tight harmonies, akin to blood-relation blending. This past summer they played an amazing 80 shows!
Christian was especially excited to share about a couple of important milestones he hit just a few months ago: reaching the three years sober mark, and to celebrate, releasing his debut single that commemorates the journey thus far called "A Thousand Miles". You can find it on any streaming platform, including HERE on Spotify.
At heart, he is a soulful R&B artist - one of the few you'll find here at the lake! If you're lucky enough to catch him live, you'll hear him perform a wide variety of genres, however, including his own work. While it can feel very vulnerable to share originals, Christian loves the unique opportunity it provides to connect with his audience - opportunities that will continue to flow in 2023 as he heads to the studio to record his first solo album. It will be comprised solely of his compositions, some of which were written alongside his wife Amy (whom he says brings the flair to their joint work). Keep an eye to the horizon for it's release into the world via Fainting Goat Studios!
Meantime, Christian has kicked off the new year with a Thousand Miles Tour taking him all over Southwestern Virginia - including, no doubt, a venue near you! Stay up to date on all his happenings by following along on Facebook.
This story was originally released in The Current's weekly e-zine. If you'd enjoy more local flavor like this packaged into a cozy read that inspires you toward intentional living delivered straight to your inbox, CLICK HERE to subscribe (it's free!).
This blog post was brought to you by our sponsor Yonn's Chimney Services.