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An Exclusive with Jesse James

On life, reflection, success and his new network, Outlaw TV

Jesse James is seen as an iconic biker rebel, covered in tattoos and surrounded by skulls. His image, however, goes beyond what the eye can see.

Jesse was an early adopter of reality TV.

He’s the guy who made people swoon over choppers; the auto-mechanic turned TV personality and New York Times best seller.

A doting dad and lover of storytelling.

However, Jesse has a core that might surprise you. He’s passionate, works hard, and doesn’t beat around the bush. In fact, Jesse is proud to announce his latest endeavor: launching Outlaw TV.

Jesse, joined by Scottsdale entrepreneur Ed Leclere, is beyond stoked to debut his new streaming platform. The two have teamed up with Emmy Award-winning producer David McKillop (from “Duck Dynasty” and “Ice Road Truckers”) to make Outlaw TV a dynamic success.

We caught up with Jesse on bringing his inner outlaw to life.

What’s the inspiration behind Outlaw TV?

I’ve done some of the highest rated shows in the history of Discovery Network, History Channel and FOX. People have seen me on TV, but they often don't realize the planning and production process; I’ve always craved a platform of my own to exercise my full potential.

I dig the production side; I want to tell stories and show people stuff they've never seen in a way they've never seen it.

I feel like I started the whole reality TV show craze 25 years ago, and now “reality” has morphed into often fake and scripted. Therefore, I don't have a place on an existing network to do what I want to do, in the fullest capacity. I pride myself on never staging anything.

I’ve had many show ideas in my back pocket for a decade. Through Outlaw TV, I can move forward with the ideas.

How will Outlaw TV be different from what you’ve done or what already exists?

Networks think that after every commercial, they have to recap what you just watched. It chews into time and production.

Our philosophy is to let people see a story unfold naturally. It’s a style we at Outlaw are keen on because we’ve never been allowed to do it. We don’t want to dumb down the viewing experience.

We’re not controlled by advertisers; we're controlled by viewers. People pay for the on-demand streaming service so we can show them whatever we want. Members will feel part of something special, and I think that's what’s currently missing among social and TV.

The doors are now open. I don’t have to control what I say or what I do.

Tell us about your content.

With “American Craftsmen,” for example, we’re going out in the field and showing skilled craftsmen- people that work with their hands. With cliché reality, producers need to vet participants to ensure they’re good TV. With us, it’s the opposite: people that work with their hands often have no interest in being on TV; in fact, I talk them into it. You can’t fake a skill.

Another story we’re telling is at the Huntsville Prison. Inside the Prison, there’s a Walls Unit- a full metalworking facility- where they do metal work for Texas school districts. The Walls Unit also houses death row inmates, so we’re hoping to get inside and show what they do. And then we're going to spotlight underwater welders- kind of like scuba. Different and interesting stuff. We need to get back to walking the line again. Everyone's too hypersensitive.

Will you be incorporating your pistol business?

We are working on a gun show, but I’m being tight-lipped because the concept is completely outside of what’s been done.

Speaking of guns, you’ve been making pistols for quite some time. We hear your claim to gun fame came after posting a pistol photo on social media... True?

Yeah, my buddy, the Prince of Kuwait, bought it for $25,000.

The pistols we create have three-year waitlists. They're made from Damascus steel, a precious metal with a solid gold front sight. It takes me a year to make the material for one gun. The process is long and brutal. They’re collectibles; unreal, accurate, awesome, and engraved.

Still doing bikes, too?

Yeah, we still do a few bikes a year; I have four all copper bikes going for customers now. And our car shop is also busy.

So, bikes, guns, cars... Why not start a TV network?

Right, we're not busy enough. And I have two New York Times best-selling books, but I really want the hat trick: three best sellers. I’m currently writing a book that's more like a shop manual; a solid self-help business book not geared towards finance guys.

Being in the media spotlight, what are things you want people to know about you as a person?

People know my mess ups. That's for sure.

What do I want people to know about me? I love to write and think I’m pretty good at it. I also think I’m a pretty good TV producer.

Under your tough demeanor, are you a softy?

You’ll have to ask my wife that.

What would she say?

She would probably say yes and that I cry during “90 Day Fiancé.”

What kind of dad are you?

With Bishop, my baby, I'm a different dad than I was for my older kids. Back then, I didn't know what I was doing; I was just starting my business. I wasn't a bad dad, and wasn't a non-present dad, but I didn't realize how much I missed. Now, with Bishop, I understand a better balance. But that comes with age, experience, and perspective. I’m 55 now.

At 55, you have a new baby, new TV network, etc...  Do you feel a sense of reinvention in your 50s?

When you're 23, you have your whole life ahead of you. When you're 55, you're like, oh, it's reverse math, like I have 15 years left. I better get everything done while I can.

What were you like in high school?

I hated it. Metal Shop saved me. My teacher, Mr. Rosa, gave me immense attention. I would take everybody's welding test for them for $10.

I had one English teacher, Miss McLean- a total pill- but it was her who pushed me to write. I stayed in contact with her throughout the years until she passed. She’s like: you have all this angry stuff going on inside you—write it down.

I also loved playing football. I hate being one of those older dudes talking about his football days, but it was such a big part of my life. It helped make up for the absence of my mom—she left me with my dad when I was super young. I was raised by my dad and godfather, Barry from “Storage Wars.”  

The most traumatic part of my childhood- and life- was losing my nana when I was 12. She was the one person that loved and protected me.

How do you define success?

You can have a big house, fancy cars, and fame, but success is self-value. Knowing that you can do something and do it in a way that nobody in the world can do.

"With Outlaw TV, I don’t have to control what I say or what I do."

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