Country Next: Jackson Dean
We take pride in introducing fans to country music’s brightest new stars through our Country Next series. Here, we chat with Jackson Dean.
Jackson Dean; Photo by David McClister
Jackson Dean is a country star on the rise, and he’s got all of the talent to have a long-lasting career. With hard-to-miss gritty and soulful vocals and a sound that can only be described as “musical fusion,” Dean is moving people in ways he never could have imagined.
A 21-year-old free-spirited country rocker from Odenton, Maryland, Dean once lived in a one-room shack in his grandfather’s backyard. Initially encouraged by his dad to play music, he took his father’s advice and found himself selling out bars around his hometown. After working on his craft in California, Dean made his way to Nashville and released his self-titled debut EP. The five-track project proved successful, landing him a featured song on Paramount Network’s Yellowstone and Netflix’s The Ice Road soundtrack.
Now, Dean is out with his first full-length album entitled, Greenbroke. The collection, released on March 11 via Big Machine Records, features all five tracks from Dean’s EP plus five new songs. Dean co-wrote all 10 songs on Greenbroke, produced by Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer Luke Dick.
Read on to find out more about Jackson Dean in this exclusive Q&A below…
How did you begin a career in country music?
I got started back home. My dad was heavily into country and blues music, so I have always loved music. Whenever I would drive to work in the morning, I would try to sing along to the radio. I always wanted to control it. So, I had already had a passion for it. But, it really started when our house burned to the ground. When we were re-building it, I would sit up there and play guitar. I didn’t have much else to do. So, my dad heard me one night, and he said, ‘Why don’t you learn a couple of songs, and I’ll take you to an open mic night?’ For a while, I didn’t want to do it. Then, I finally agreed to do it, and that was it. I was pretty hooked after that.
Did your dad play music as well?
He didn’t play anything, but he could harmonize a little bit with me. He used to do that, but he doesn’t play anything. He loves music. I think he saw something [in me] then. But, it took me a while to figure it out. I think he knew. He saw me, and he was like, ‘Ooh! There you go, boy!’
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What were your first shows like?
So, I never really played too much in Nashville. I played a few times at Douglas Corner Café and on Broadway, but that wasn’t entirely what I was doing. I was still back home. So, my first shows were all bar gigs. I spent my teen years growing up in bars. You know, where you’ll be playing four-hour gigs. I’d be playing songs I wrote and other songs, just anything to fill that time. Then, I put a band together, and we started playing regional shows. I’ve played a lot of different kinds of shows.
There are a lot of things I could say. I think it pulled me in even more. That Miranda run, especially, was pretty awesome. It was a pretty tight ship. It was a totally different thing. I have been on a couple of runs with people. What I have taken away from it all is that I love doing this even more now. It never is quite enough. It just makes me love it so much more.
Congratulations on your new album! What’s the significance behind the album title, Greenbroke?
I wanted the title to be my story. The title track is my most vulnerable song lyrically, and musically it is what I love. It goes through calm, rage, and everything in between. I wanted to hammer home that feeling that never goes away. I chose Greenbroke because that’s how some horses are, you can never break that wild. If I let the world break me, everything I am would cease to exist.
Do you have a personal favorite track on the album?
I love them all, but my favorite track has to be “Greenbroke” because that is my story.
What’s the inspiration behind the album’s lead-off track, “Don’t Come Lookin’”?
That was something that I used to say to my mom before I left the house. If I would run off into the woods for a couple of days or go and get into a truck and go somewhere or, you know, depart, I would say, ‘Momma, if I don’t come back, don’t come looking for me.’ And, you can imagine, she just loved that. I was writing with Luke Dick one day. He produced the record. He also co-wrote a couple of tunes. I just threw that out as a song title one day, and he loved it. We just got on with it and wrote the dang thing. And when mom heard it for the first time, she got a chuckle. She loves that song.
Tell me about the music video for the song.
Truth be told, when we filmed that day, it was cold as hell. I think it was about seven degrees outside when we shot that video. It was right at sun up, and we were in New Mexico. It was cold as hell. I was breathing hard into the speakers because I was shaking like a leaf on camera. But I don’t know. It was just this nowhere location, and I loved it. We all looked at that spot and were like, ‘We should do something here.’ It was kind of a unanimous decision. It was a helluva time, and I had never done anything like that. I’ve made videos before, but none like that. It was an awesome time.
What was your reaction when you found out that your song would be appearing on Yellowstone?
Oh my gosh! I remember our booking agent in Los Angeles called, and I was at my spot down here in Nashville at the time. I remember her calling, and I remember freaking out! I was like, ‘Holy s***! Here we go!’ So, it was pretty exciting for me. I had never had anything quite like that happen before. It was pretty awesome to see.
Can you tell me the inspiration behind “Trailer Park”?
“Trailer Park” is about my heart. It’s everything that my heart is. The view from the outside in – all the scars, tattoos, and rust. Always on the move. Ain’t got no other way to be.
What do you want fans to take away from your album?
I want people to take away that I’m here to play music. I’m here to live. And I’m here to stay…this record is very guitar-heavy and very vast. It’s got this big sound with a lot of guitars. It’s straight musical fusion. And I couldn’t be more excited about it. This [album] has pretty much been my whole life in the making up to this point. Now it is all coming out. I hope people like it.
Are there any songs that didn’t fit the project?
Oh man, I wanted to cut some more. But I thought ten would also be a good round number. Also, there’s always the next record. But, it was hard. I wanted to make a record that could show many different sides of me because there are a lot of different sides to me. Every song on that record I’ve either felt or done or seen. So, I wanted something reflective of that. There are a lot of different feels on this record. Even just in the first five, there are a lot of different feels and a lot of different places to go. But, I wanted to make it that I’m not just one thing. I can go to a lot of different places. I can play with guitars. I can play with banjos and all of that stuff. I want to make a lot of different kinds of music. But, it all has to be cohesive to me.
What’s next for you?
We’re walking straight into music festivals. So, we’ve got Tortuga [Music Festival], Hwy 30 Music Fest, Faster Horses [Country Music Festival], All of the Country Thunders. So we’ve got a lot of festivals down. We’re going to get out and play some shows and make some music fusions and take them to the people.
Anything else you want to tell your fans?
Just come along for the ride, and let go enough to be able to see it. I know the songs are out there, and when I get to hollering, it can be a little bit surprising, maybe, I guess, but this is what I choose to do with my life. I want to make people feel things, and I want to play music while I’m doing it. So, come out and see it. I’d love to see you out there.
Fans can keep up with Jackson Dean on Instagram.
Melinda Lorge is a Nashville-based freelance writer who specializes in covering country music. Along with Country Now, her work has appeared in publications, including Rare Country, Rolling Stone Country, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, Wide Open Country and more. After joining Rare Country in early 2016, Lorge was presented with the opportunity to lead coverage on late-night television programs, including “The Voice” and “American Idol,” which helped her to sharpen her writing skills even more. Lorge earned her degree at Middle Tennessee State University, following the completion of five internships within the country music industry. She has an undeniable love for music and entertainment. When she isn’t living and breathing country music, she can be found enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.