The Checkpoint Charley Story
Updated: Jun 25, 2022
from Jesse Anderegg's perspective.
In The Beginning
I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in July 1972. I have 2 older and 4 younger siblings. We Andereggs were a musical family with each member playing some kind of instrument and everyone singing together at least 4-part harmonies. We performed as a family often for various community and family gatherings - even traveling out-of-state for some shows. This is where I gained a deep love and appreciation for music and richly moving harmonies. I took piano lessons for all of 2 years from ages 8 to 10 before quitting on account of a particularly unpleasant piano teacher, as I recall. I first started playing guitar at age 14 when Mike Spens, a close neighborhood friend, started making his own guitars in his father’s woodshop. Mike and I used to listen to the radio and record songs onto tape in order to learn with the aid of various guitar tablature we found at our local guitar store. Boston, Led Zeppelin, and Guns and Roses were particular favorites to try to learn. I heard from Garr Ovard, a classmate from high-school German class, that the best way to master the guitar was to learn how to play jazz. So, when the star jazz guitar player on the high school jazz band graduated, I met with the jazz band teacher to ask if I could fill the void. Since no one else had showed any interest or promise, the teacher gave me a shot along with a stack of music to learn over the summer of 1989 before my senior year. I worked hard and built up those calluses to get up to speed and be ready. That year in jazz band was magical for me as I watched us go from obscurity to taking 2nd place in the state jazz band finals.
How I Met Kevin Packard
My first memory of Kevin Packard dates back to the fall of 1989 at Alta High School in Sandy, Utah. I was a senior, and Kevin was a junior looking to form a band. Kevin approached me in the halls of school one day and said, “Are you Jesse Anderegg? I hear you’re a [bleep]in’ guitar player!” I think I said something like, “You must have me mixed up with some other Jesse Anderegg,” because I was way too self-conscious to consider myself that good of a player. Ignoring my self-deprecating response, he asked if I’d be willing to consider forming a band with him or at least jamming together to see if we had any chemistry.
Besides playing in the jazz band, I was regularly getting together with Mike Spens and Garr Ovard to play guitar. When Kevin asked me if I wanted to start a band with him, I was skeptical but willing to test the waters. During our first jam, Garr and I somehow plugged our guitars into Kevin’s parent’s living room stereo for an amp, and Kevin played drums. Though the gear was subpar at best, the chemistry in the room was not. I was intrigued by Kevin’s unique style, enthusiasm, talent, and obvious showmanship. Mike, Garr, Kevin, and I soon started meeting regularly for some semblance of band practices - mostly working out various cover tunes that we always wanted to play and noodling with some original ideas. We weren’t serious about our act, however, until we landed the coveted end-of-the-year, all-night, Pepperwood graduation party to be held in June 1990. I approached the party organizers earlier in the school year and finagled the deal much to the band’s surprise and jubilation.
Our High School Band - Oltra Xingdu
Now we had to get serious. We needed a band name, more structure, and more players. Garr was a fan of the British new wave band, Ultravox, and he had recently studied rivers in Brazil, for some reason. He proposed the band name Ultra Xingu, and, after some discussion, we settled on the name Oltra Xingdu.
We also needed a bass player, and since Mike and Garr were superior guitar players, I was relegated to playing bass. Being the end of the ‘80’s, we needed a serious keyboard player, which we found in Bruno Vassel IV, and we also needed a full brass section since our setlist had many Oingo Boingo songs on it. We recruited Leo Farnsworth (trombone), Ryan Goulding (trumpet), Clay Miller (tenor sax), Ken Marvel (trombone), and Ryan Runia (alto sax) from the jazz band. All were players that were accustomed to working hard at learning and nailing their part, and we all worked our tails off getting ready for that show. Considering that we were just high school kids, we were pretty good! The sound guys we hired were blown away, and we were too. We’ll never forget the first time playing through a real sound system with real professionals running the board. It was pure exhilaration, and we knew we were hooked for life!
After a wildly successful Pepperwood graduation party where Oltra Xingdu played 3 straight hours of amazingly tight, mostly 80’s covers and one original tune called “Mountain Song,” we were hungry for more. We played all throughout the summer of 1990 at whatever opportunity we could find.
We were also anxious to record the original songs that we had written. So we scraped together some funds and headed into Tony Korologos’ studio to cut our first ever recordings, Oltra Xingdu’s debut album.
Nearly every member of Oltra Xingdu was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and was culturally expected to serve a 2-year mission sometime between the ages of 19 and 24. This expectation came from family, friends, the community, and even from fellow band members. Since we were not all the same age, this meant that each band member would depart for his mission at different times. This meant that the band wouldn’t be completely back together for about 4 years. Also, serving a mission for 2 years where we learned to forget ourselves and truly care for and love others significantly changed us.
After our missions, many members of Oltra Xingdu were no longer interested in playing in a band and pursuing that kind of lifestyle. Kevin immediately wanted to jump back into music and a band after his mission, but I was no exception to the more-common “mission effect,” as I call it. Since I was older, I had left and returned more than a year before Kevin. I served in Alabama from August 1991 to August 1993, and Kevin served in Indiana from Dec 1992 to Dec 1994. So, I was home from my mission for 16 months before Kevin returned from his. I was no longer interested in playing in a band, and was very serious about my schooling at the University of Utah where I was studying pre-medicine. I also met and was engaged to be married to Christine Larsen during this time, who was also studying pre-medicine. So, I was a significantly different person with different priorities when Kevin returned from his mission.
From my perspective, Kevin is a born showman, and entertainment continuously pulses through his arteries - always has and always will. No life-altering mission experience could ever drive this from him - nay! Quite the contrary! Kevin’s mission fueled his songwriting. Serving and befriending people who had experienced many of life’s successes and pitfalls threw fuel onto Kevin’s creative fires. Kevin returned from his mission with a boat-load of song ideas. He immediately began writing, formulating, and performing his ideas wherever he could, and he kept petitioning and pestering me - the highly-focused-on-school nerd - to come help him.
Our College Band - The Find
Kevin joined forces with former “Xingers” Ryan Goulding and Justin Naylor in mid-1995 to form The Find. They were an acoustic three-piece playing small college venues. I’m ashamed to say that I never went to see them play despite Kevin’s repeated invitations. After more than a year of petitioning me to come play with them, Kevin somehow wrangled me into playing bass for their first full-band gig on the 4th of July, 1996. I remember feeling reluctant as I arrived at the venue and even a bit annoyed with myself that I had agreed to play. Kevin arranged the bass guitar, amp, and chord charts. Halfway through the show, however, something awoke inside me, and I knew it would never sleep again. A few days after the show, I listened to Kevin’s new song ideas, and I knew I needed to help him finish writing them and to help him record them. After 5 years of not even touching a bass guitar, I was in a band again.
We began recording in Justin’s studio furnished with two synchronized 8-track ADAT tape machines along with a plethora of other fun and interesting studio equipment. 3 years later, we released the album “Front Porch Parade” in the summer of 1998. It was a labor of love, but in hindsight, it really needed some professional editing and mixing to rise above demo-quality. Listen to where it ended up below:
Once “Front Porch Parade” was finished and released, The Find hit the live shows hard. We rehearsed rigorously tightening our live act. We played all up and down the Wasatch Front in the Greater Salt Lake City area from Ogden to Provo. We got really good. We signed with a talent agent who drummed up some interesting gigs for us including an opportunity to open for The Counting Crows at Saltair in 1999 to a sold-out crowd. That is still the highlight of our live shows so far. We were tight, energetic, spot on, and we warmed the crowd up nicely. The Crows were very impressed and went out of their way to say so.
However, we sold a total of 14 CDs at that show and got no mention in the local press. It was very dejecting and deflating. Alas, we pressed on and kept playing our usual gigs at local clubs to measly crowds who were there more for the beverages than for the music. Ultimately, this dealt a death-blow to The Find. Band members were starting to grow apart in more ways than one. Kevin and Jesse were being heavily influenced by the power pop of Jellyfish, Crowded House, Fountains of Wayne, Owsley, Jason Faulkner, and The Tories; while Justin and Clay were being more influenced by the current grunge scene. We all were becoming more involved in our respective careers as we finished college and started providing for our families - Kevin was the only band member still single at this time. When the opportunity to start a drum company in LA presented itself, Kevin jumped at the opportunity. He moved to LA in 2000 and became the creative director for the Peace drum company, and The Find was no more. We did happen to record two more demo tracks just before Kevin moved to LA:
California Here I Come
I stayed in Utah to finish my Masters in Physics at the University of Utah and to support my wife, Christine, as she finished medical school in May 2001. As you may know, doctors need to do a residency in order to be board certified to practice medicine. Christine had chosen Emergency Medicine as her specialty, and there were no residency programs in Utah at that time. This meant Christine and I were definitely moving from Utah to some other state. Christine was an exceptional medical student and had her pick of residency programs all across the United States. She received offers from essentially all the programs with which she interviewed. She especially liked a number of residency programs on the east coast. I put on a good face and was very supportive, but I really wanted to go to LA to do music with Kevin.
Before you finish reading this history about us, I hope you will realize that the true heroes of our music are our wives. Christine gave up her first few top choice programs so that we could go to Los Angeles and I could do music with Kevin. Not that it hurt her career or anything - she went to Harbor UCLA, which is one of the top-ranked Emergency Medicine residency programs in the nation - and she received an outstanding ER education. BUT, she went there mostly because of my musical aspirations. This was a really big deal! Christine and I moved to Redondo Beach in June 2001.
Overall, we had a blast living in Southern California. Christine settled in nicely to her residency program and enjoyed the SoCal beaches whenever they’d let her out to see the sunshine. I landed a sweet job at Northrop Grumman making experimental lasers for shooting down missiles and was largely free to roam around LA with Kevin in the evenings and weekends on account of Christine being so busy. Kevin was single, working at a dream job, and roaming all over LA every evening watching and playing live music. This was our pre-children life - or as we refer to it - when we were “single.” Kevin was actually the only single one; but Christine and I were DINKS (double income no kids), which, in retrospect, really felt like being single.
Our Early-Careers Band - Penny Racer
Musically, Kevin and I put The Find in the past and moved forward into a new project with guitarist, Ron Lynne, called Penny Racer. Kevin played stand-up drums with a split kit - an idea I had that allowed the audience to see Kevin from head to toe while playing the drum kit. Kevin used an auxiliary pedal to hit the kick drum and a hi-hat system that always stayed closed, and he mounted other necessary pieces in just the right places that allowed him to sing and dance while maintaining a solid percussion track for each song. It was rather an ingenious setup (if we don’t say so ourselves) that was really fun and effective.
As Penny Racer, we wrote and recorded a 5-song demo that we shopped around as we played as many LA venues as we possibly could. The Cat Club on Sunset boulevard was a regular favorite of ours. Listen to the Penny Racer demos below:
Finally! - Checkpoint Charley
After a little over a year of Penny Racer, Ron decided to part with us to tackle a solo adventure that is on going to this day (www.ronlynne.com). This left Kevin and me free again to start a new project. I had been telling Kevin for some time by this point that he was more the creative-genius type that needed to dictatorially call the shots instead of trying to compromise in some kind of democratic band relationship. I would often refer to Sting and The Police when making this argument. After Penny Racer, Kevin finally decided to give my idea a try, even though he was sheepish about it. This is how Checkpoint Charley was born in 2004.
Kevin is a seemingly never ending fountain of musical ideas. Sometimes his idea may be just a verse or chorus chord progression, a guitar riff, or a poetic stream of lyrics. Most often, his ideas consist of some semblance of a verse, chorus, lyrics, and some concepts for keyboards or guitar riffs. I am the finisher. I help Kevin link all the parts together with smooth and interesting transitions including writing ear-bending bridges to help songs avoid monotony. However, Kevin maintains veto power over any ideas presented. Though Kevin is reluctant to admit it, this arrangement works very well. I am largely just happy to be invited to whatever party Kevin is throwing musically, so I’m not bothered by Kevin’s final decisions; in fact, I trust him implicitly.
“Songs 1 - 12”
Kevin and I, now Checkpoint Charley, wrote all of the songs for our debut album “Songs One Through Twelve” in a few short months in 2004. We recorded all the instruments with the best technology we could find with the best musicians we could arm-twist. We were especially blessed to catch the ear of producer Stuart Brawley, who took our recordings, along with his intern, Joe Corcoran, and made some sense out of them. With Stu’s expertise, “Songs One Through Twelve” became our first high-quality, fully produced and professionally mixed album. Words cannot express the joy we felt to finally hear our music sound the way we always knew it should. We were ecstatic beyond description at the time, and we’re still very proud of this debut record.
Passions and Priorities
Please don’t misunderstand: though we have always been very passionate about our music, we both are far too pragmatic for this story to be laced with typical rock-n-roll lifestyle anecdotes. We both have maintained similar priorities that override any musical adventures. These priorities include our relationships to God and His church, our spouses, our children, and our employers. Some may wonder, “why did it take you so long to release more music after “Songs 1-12?” Well, we have 12 excellent reasons: my wife and 5 children, and Kevin’s wife and 5 children. We are far too faithful and committed to allow our musical aspirations to interfere with our duties as husbands and fathers.
Kevin married his soulmate, Emily, in October 2003, and she has been the best thing that ever happened to him. There is nothing on planet Earth that could convince Kevin to do something that would knowingly displease his Emily - including the making of our most excellent and amazing music. I feel exactly the same about my Christine. Fortunately for us and our music, our spouses are very supportive and encouraging. However, caring and providing for our women and children will always take precedence. Understanding this, one may begin to understand why Kevin and Emily moved from California to Florida in early 2005 - before “Songs 1-12” was even finished being mixed and released - so that Kevin could further his career in the acoustic drum manufacturing industry and better provide for his family (this is the inspiration for the song “Free”). Honestly, I was not happy about this decision, and I tried to convince Kevin to stick with his current employer for a year or two more so that we could shop “Songs 1-12” to talent management and promote the record with live performances. Ultimately, I supported Kevin in his decision, and we’ve done everything in our power since to make a long-distance band relationship work. Would the outcome be hugely different for Checkpoint Charley if Kevin and Emily had remained in LA? Maybe. Maybe not. It doesn’t do much good to ponder on these “what-if” questions for too long.
Christine and I became pregnant with our first child while all this was going down. Our plan was to stay and raise our children in the LA area. We loved where we lived, our careers, our employers, and the friends we had made - especially at church. Rather suddenly, Christine and I were finding that it made more sense to move back to Utah before the birth of our daughter who was due in November. Christine’s parents desperately needed help caring for Christine’s ailing father, and, though we didn’t know it before the baby arrived, we really needed their help with the caring and raising of our new baby. So, in July 2005, Christine and I moved back to Utah.
Challenges for Jesse between “Songs 1-12” and “Songs 13-24”
This was a very dark time for me - the fun and carefree “single”/DINK-life was decisively over. Though Christine found an excellent job in Utah, there were very few employment opportunities for me there. As a result, I resorted to commuting weekly between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles from July 2005 to August 2006. This was very straining on Christine, my newborn daughter, and myself. Kevin and I had a brand-new, amazing album that we weren’t able to promote in any effective manner with 2,000 miles between us, and that fact was eating at me constantly. To top it off, Christine and I stupidly decided to build a house - unknowingly just before the great recession - that ended up being a gigantic financial disaster from which we are still recovering.
In the fall of 2007, I noticed a weird looking mole on my skin. Christine thought it looked weird too, so I had it checked out by a dermatologist. Sure enough, it was melanoma skin cancer. I spent the next five years visiting the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah more often than I ever wanted, but this one has a happy ending with me cancer-free! Woot!
Regardless of our housing or health woes, Christine and I were committed to having children at this stage of our lives and to raising the best kids we possibly could. The good Lord blessed us with 4 amazing kids - 3 girls and 1 boy - between 2005 and 2013. Anyone who has kids knows how all consuming raising children can be. The fact that Kevin and I found any time at all to songwrite over FaceTime or to get together for the random coffee house performance is a miracle. Alas, these are the conditions under which most of “Songs 13 - 24” was written.
(grab a box of tissues...)
As the ultimate example of adding insult to injury, God saw fit in His infinite but confounding wisdom to give Christine and I the ultimate test in July 2014: He called back into his presence our 4th child and 13 month-old-daughter via a drowning accident. Few parents have to experience the pain associated with the loss of a child nowadays. For those who are called to endure such a trial, no words known to mankind can express just how terrible it feels. Kevin and Emily were immensely supportive during this difficult time. Though nearly all of “Songs 13 - 24” had been written by this time and we were actively looking for ways to record, mix, and produce it, the entire project was halted for an extended grieving period. It took almost 2 years until we felt we were capable of functioning like normal human beings again.
In March of 2016, Christine and I welcomed our last child into our family. Just like our other children, our “caboose” has brought much joy into our lives - as well as additional challenges. Some people mistakenly think that having a new baby heals the pain from losing a previous one. Well, we can tell you that, for us, it did not. We still dearly miss our precious Abi, and we feel that a section of our souls has been permanently amputated - and we’ll most likely feel that way for the rest of our mortal lives. However, much comfort and assurance has been granted to us in knowing that our lost loved ones will be restored to us in the great Resurrection through the merits of Jesus Christ and His infinite Atonement. Sorry to get a bit preachy here, but this is critical to understanding how Kevin and I found the strength and inspiration to continue making music.
Challenges for Kevin between “Songs 1-12” and “Songs 13-24”
Kevin will be able to explain better than I what obstacles to our music vexed him between our first and second records, but allow me to offer my perspective:
Kevin has always worked like a dog to make a name for himself. This most assuredly is true in music, but it is even more true for his day job/career. For as talented as Kevin is in writing, singing, recording, and producing music, he is equally talented at designing and making drums. He started Argent drums in Salt Lake City, Utah in March 2000, went to Peace Drum Co. in Los Angeles, California in September 2000, worked for Ddrum in Tampa, Florida starting early 2005, landed at Ludwig in Elkhart, Indiana in March 2008, and started at Pearl Drum Corp in Nashville, Tennessee in December 2014 where he is currently. His commitment to making high-quality drums at an excellent price is just as strong as his commitment to making high-quality power pop music. Even more, his commitment to providing for his wife and 5 children is unmatched by anyone. It’s obvious that I look up to him musically, but I also look up to him as an example of what a real man should be.
There are some who might say that Kevin and I never “made it” in music because we diverted the necessary energy to our families and other careers. This very well may be true, and we don’t regret our decisions and priorities for one second! One of our church presidents, David O. McKay, said, “No other success in life can compensate for failure in the home.” Kevin and I might have gained much larger success in our musical careers had we been willing to ignore President McKay’s counsel, but at what cost? Both Kevin and I are perfectly confident that we have avoided a lot of pain and maximized our happiness in life so far by making our duties as husbands and fathers our highest priorities. Still, making good music IS a priority for us and follows closely behind these more important ones.
Injection of New Life
Ever since “Songs 1-12,” Kevin and I knew we had so much more music inside us. Honestly, it’s a shame someone couldn’t have found us in 2005 and provided the funds necessary to sustain a serious music career - at lease enable us to cover the costs of providing for our families - so that we could have produced music all throughout the last 13 years. Finding ourselves deep in the “custodial phase” of life with lots of screaming children and messy diapers to take care of, getting the music inside us out into the world was very slow going. Both Kevin and I are just now exiting the custodial phase, and, about two years ago, we felt the time was right to make a serious push on our new music.
Kevin moving to Nashville for Pearl and getting involved in the Loud Jamz community (https://www.facebook.com/TomHurstPresentsLoudJamz) was exactly the shot-in-the-arm Kevin needed to get motivated. He met many talented musicians who ended up playing for our new material. He got the opportunity to perform on stage again, and show people what kind of showman he is. With the positive encouragement Kevin received from Loud Jamz, he realized that we needed to get the music inside of us out into the world. With all the new contacts Kevin had in Nashville, he started to assemble a team of talented musicians to help in the effort. He also found a number of talented mixers/co-producers who were willing and able.
Mixing Engineer and Co-Producer - Jay Tooke
Kevin first met Mr. Jay Tooke at summer NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) in July 2016, and they played together at the Nashville Drummer’s Jam salute to Phil Collins a few months later. It was soon obvious to them both that they were musical brothers. Jay listened to our demo work and wanted to be involved, so he did some preliminary mixes for us to show us his mad skills. We loved what we heard and decided to make him our guy. The first “Jay-mixes” of our new music - what eventually became “Songs 13 - 24” - were created in July 2017. We knew we were finally going to get this album done, and we were pumped!
Time and money. It’s cliche, but oh so true. If you want to make an amazing album, you need to dedicate a significant amount of time to it. You also need to have a significant pile of cash to pay for all the necessary expenses. Kevin and I really didn’t have the time to make our new music, but somehow we squeezed it into our schedules - mostly giving up sleep! We also really didn’t have the money either. So, after researching many different crowd funding options, we decided to go with IndieGoGo, who was one of the only options that allowed us to keep any donations received regardless of whether or not we reached our goal. We were 100% committed to making our new record - one way or another - so any contribution amount would help.
Crowd funding is stressful. In order to make your campaign successful, you have to reach out to every person you know and beg them for money. It’s not a comfortable experience at all, and we found it to be rather difficult. However, we were completely blown away at the response we received from our family, friends, and acquaintances! Without their support, our new music would never have seen the light of day. We are forever grateful to all who contributed! With a significant pile of cash received in December of 2017, we were able to kick music production into hyperdrive.
Executive Producer - Henry Alfano
Probably the best outcome from our IndieGoGo campaign was the finding of Mr. Henry Alfano. Kevin originally met Henry through his working at Ludwig, and when Kevin reached out to him as part of our IndieGoGo campaign, Henry responded generously. He also observed our efforts from his California home, and decided that he wanted to help us above and beyond our IndieGoGo campaign. After some wonderful conversations, he agreed to be our Executive Producer and business consultant. This was a dream come true for Kevin and me! Henry made our Great Jedi Mind Trick EP and the music video for The Ballad of Han & Leia a reality. Henry continues to be a big support to us, and we’re eternally grateful for him!
Now that our “Great Jedi Mind Trick” EP and “Songs 13 - 24” LP have been produced and released, Kevin and I are heavily involved in promoting our new music online and in any other way possible. Playing live shows would be an obvious and preferred method, but with me still living in Utah and Kevin in Tennessee, live performances will be few and far between due to the associated costs necessary to make such events occur. Fans of Checkpoint Charley will have to be content with just listening to our awesome music for the time being. The online streaming services - especially Spotify - have become very influential in the music industry with many higher-level folks not even being willing to consider a new act until they have reached some threshold on number of plays and followers. So, hopefully, our fans will grow and listen to us on Spotify to help us reach those thresholds. Kevin will be performing smaller shows without me in the Nashville area from time to time, and those events will be posted on our website under the “TOUR” page. If we can get our streaming number up, we may be able to afford a full-band tour someday! Wouldn’t that be cool?!?
Kevin and I have already discussed making more new music. Kevin has a journal chock-full of ideas, and I am always at the ready to help him finish those ideas. If you would like to help Checkpoint Charley achieve the next level, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com. Thank you!