MCC/Curb Records recording artist Jackson Michelson initially caught the attention of fans on this of the Atlantic and announced his arrival during the inaugural Dixie Fields festival in Chelmsford last year. The Oregon native who now calls Nashville home, became an instant favourite with his energetic live performance and relatable lyrics was due to return to the UK multiple times during this year but alas, as we all know that the year 2020 has not quite gone to plan. Looking ahead to next year, we are hoping for a different story which Jackson had plenty to share when Jamie recently caught up with him over Zoom. You know, it’s been a weird year for everybody. In one way it’s been really frustrating, that your complete momentum and everything with music is kind of taken away from you but at the same time, we’re all in this together. I put out a song that is about family and living one day, each day to the fullest which I’m getting to live that out in the most tangible way possible so I’m really thankful for that. On his latest release “One Day” how did the song come about initially and become decided to be released this year? It was really funny, I had a single out called “Stay Over” that was streaming really well, the response and all the testing was great. I went out on a radio tour, visiting a ton a stations where you play a few songs acoustic and I had my drummer with me playing on like his suitcase setup, you know, a broken down cool kit. I had just written “One Day” and on our first stop in Chicago, I had a good friend who worked at that radio station who I had said, Man! I’ve just written this song, I haven’t recorded it yet, but I want to just see what you think. We were in this big performance studio and we were only playing for him, it wasn’t been recorded and I was just playing it for fun, so I played it for the first time. He was straight away saying there is something to this song, he was tearing up and being I don’t even have kids, but this is making me emotional! This was probably the most honest song that I’ve ever written and I went with that, we got in the studio to cut it out as soon as we possibly could which was a couple of months later. It was a perfect transition because “Stay Over” was slowing down and it was like Boom, here we go! We cut it in the studio, it came together so great and put it out there. It has been one of those that before the country did shut down, I got to play it a couple of times where people would come up to me afterwards in the merchandise lines and start telling me their “One Day” story about their kids then I thought that this song is bigger than me! This is my story, but this is now our story and those are the songs I always wanted to write.
The track was originally released in March, but subsequently a new version featuring Collin Raye was released. How exactly did Jackson manage to get one of his musical heroes involved with the song? It happened so organically. He lived in my home town for a while when I was really young and my mums’ best friend, her husband used to play drums for him. He toured the west coast and there was a time before I signed a record deal and moved to Nashville that I was one of the bigger regional touring artists on the west coast, so when artists like Collin came out that way, I would be their opening act. I had opened probably twenty shows for Collin and had his phone number then when I was talking with my record label and management about doing a version with a feature, I said what I would love is if Collin Raye would do this because he is my hero! They asked what are the chances? So, I said well, I’m just going to text him! I sent him a message and sent him the song, which he responded with just the most amazing; they say people don’t want to meet their heroes because they will let you down. That is so not the case when it comes to him, he has been the most welcoming, humble, encouraging and supportive mentor to me, especially over this last year, it’s been awesome. He just sounds so honest and real on the song, I’m really honoured to have him on it.
Jackson first appeared in the UK last summer where to many fans he was discovered for the first time, so how did his debut at Dixie Fields become a reality? My manager, Todd is on the BCMA board, we’ve been working together for about ten years and he said there was this opportunity. I think Georgie had asked about me and Todd said he would check and see which ended up being a perfect fit for me. That was my first time coming over, not only playing a concert in the UK but my first time being there. I had been to eastern Europe, but I had never been to the UK and straight away was thinking how have I not been here before? It was so cool and the response from the fans was so welcoming, was really well received and it was great to meet so many good people.
Having been due to perform at this year’s festival, which unfortunately was unable to take place, UK fans can look forward to welcoming him back for the second instalment of Dixie Fields in 2021 which Jackson is very much looking forward to: I have such great memories! I talk about it all the time when people ask me where my favourite place is to play. I’m so thrilled to come back to Dixie Fields, it’s going to be a great time this next year hoping that everything opens up for the summertime. It’s going to be a big old festival that is going to be great! Dixie Fields was not the only UK opportunity that the ongoing pandemic prevented this year as he came all so close to getting to perform in London at the UK’s flagship country music event: I was forty minutes into a flight from Boston to Heathrow! I had just connected to the Wi-Fi, my manager was with me and both of our phones started blowing up. I probably got forty or fifty, maybe even more messages that just said don’t get on the plane! That’s obviously the last thing you hear when you get on an aeroplane! They were all saying you will have to be in the States within twenty four hours or you will have to quarantine for like a month so I was on a flight to play C2C, I landed, we had a great English breakfast at Heathrow and got back on a flight, then have been off the road ever since.
Without the ability to play shows in 2020, how has Jackson managed to keep himself busy through this very different year? I’ve been writing so many songs. Nashville in the past five years has gone to a writing model where we are almost writing with a producer where someone is building a track. It’s almost always and artist writer, a lyricist and a producer building a track or maybe the artist and the producer are writing together. I write with my producer a lot. This year has forced us to write a lot on Zoom which at first was thinking I don’t want to write on Zoom but it’s really been a cool thing and I think we are going to get some of the best music coming out in the next twelve to eighteen months because there has been such a focus on the lyrics! If the song sounds good around a campfire with just me and a guitar, it’s going to sound amazing in the studio and I feel like it’s not that we had lost some of that in the past five years, but we have gone back to a truer form. What makes country music great is the lyrics, it the stories, it’s the heart behind it and for me I’ve just been writing like crazy. If people ask me what I’ve been doing through 2020, it’s writing songs and raising kids!
How has the creative process and drawing inspiration for new songs felt in terms of productivity through this year? I’ve always said that your songwriting muscle is a muscle! It really is and the more you work out, the stronger it gets. You get in these grooves, I’ve been in a groove this year which is really exciting and I can’t wait for the music that’s coming next year. One of my favourite songs that I’ve written this year came from the notes section in my phone. I have probably two to three hundred titles or ideas and I had this title “Tip Jar” which now I’m going into the studio to record the vocals on it tonight, but I had the title for three years, just never wrote it until this year. I was going on a Zoom write and the guy I was writing with was thirty minutes late, so I thought I’m just going to start writing “Tip Jar” because I thought it was a cool title and now I’ve wrote a break-up song called “Tip Jar” which is super fun and will be coming out in 2021!
What exactly can we expect in terms of new music and releases that will be on the way in 2021? Consistency is what I’m looking for and what my fans are looking for. I’ve written so many songs and we’ve really narrowed in on my personal favourites and what has been connecting on social media or through the live stream stuff. Out of a couple of hundred songs, we have narrowed down to a handful that are going to be on a consistent release schedule and I’m excited about that. Each one will have a focus but it will be consistent so there won’t be the gaps like there have been this year, but I may have something as a surprise that is coming out on New Year’s Eve.
Reflecting on the year that has been, songs like “One Day” really bring about a sense of purpose and perspective which made the song a very fitting release: It was the perfect song to put out this year. It’s all of our stories this year, living each day intentionally. There have been so many days where I have wanted to be back on the road or how I was supposed to be in the UK twice this year and how I want to be back to see my friends, play for these amazing people but I can’t. So where am I today? I guess I can live like it’s one day and that’s all I can do.
Then finally to talk about one day in particular, what does Christmas and the holiday season have in store in the Michelson household? We’re actually going to be travelling back to Oregon, to the west coast for two weeks. Flying during a pandemic with three kids, well that will be an experience! My family has a beautiful farm out there on a hillside that’s just going to be great to get to see people. We’ve been pretty quarantined away from family all year so it’s going to be great to be with our family, have good conversation in person and that’s pretty much the rest of the year for us apart from the surprise project coming out on New Years Eve which will be really exciting. I’ll sing a lot of Christmas songs and enjoy all the sweets at the time, then be like everyone else on January 1st thinking I need to lose ten pounds! Jackson Michelson returns to the UK in July 2021, where he will be appearing at Dixie Fields Festival in Chelmsford which you can find more information about HERE. His current release “One Day” which features Collin Raye is out now and available HERE. Keep up to date with Jackson on TwitterInstagramFacebook and his Website
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks