Folks may know Carly Jo Jackson from her run in last year's America's Got Talent competition and from having judge Howard Stern refer to her as "charismatic." The Orlando native, barely in her twenties, has been performing around South Florida and is well-known to the coffeehouse and collegiate crowd.
Now enjoying the exposure of having made a deep run in the competition where she ended as a finalist, Carly Jo's musical future is bright, matched by her enthusiasm and genuine good nature. We had a chance to catch up with the young chanteuse before she kicks off the inaugural For the Love Fest hosted by C&I Studios an Exposed PR this weekend.
New Times: If we were talking a year ago, where would you be musically?
Carly Jo Jackson: A year ago, I would have just returned from the 30A Songwriters Festival and found out that I was going to New Jersey for the next round of America's Got Talent in front of the judges. But AGT doesn't allow you to announce that, so if we were talking, I would have been all mysterious and full of excitement about the coming year and all the surprises it would offer.
Let's talk about the short time in which you've been performing, specifically from when you started performing to recording "Wildflower;" what were your goals and intentions then?
I have been performing since I was 13 and wrote "Wildflower" when I was 18, so it hasn't been a short time really. I have been working hard at this for 8 years now. "Wildflower" was written and recorded when I first started college and was struggling with the conflict of pursuing my dream of a career performing my music versus doing what was expected of me: going to college. While I would love to do both, I have taken a break from college to focus 100% on music.
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I have known since I can remember that this is what I wanted to do. The great response to "Wildflower," and the opportunity to record it with Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional), just gave me the confidence I needed to keep up the pursuit!
You had a good and impressive run on America's Got Talent, walk us through the process, from auditioning to starting the season and competing weekly.
A lot of the AGT process is confidential, so I can't give you all the details. But what you saw on TV in two short episodes last summer actually started with my first audition in Miami in October 2013. "Judgment Week," which was my last week on the show, was intense. It was ten to 12 hour days of rehearsals, shooting b-roll and lots of waiting around for something to happen.
I was in New York City for a whole week but barely got to see the town! They grouped the female singers together and we became good friends. It wasn't really like a competition between us; we were very supportive of each other. I got to work with some top people in the entertainment business preparing for my audition so the experience I gained was incredible. It was long and grueling and had my emotions soaring but I would do it again in a heartbeat!
What was your most memorable moment on the show and how do you feel about Stern calling you "charismatic?"
The fact that the most intimidating judge on the show, on any reality show, liked me meant the world to me! Charismatic is a good thing... I'll take it!
The most memorable moment was after I performed in front of the judges and an audience of over 5,000 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. I was still on the adrenalin high of the performance and being voted through to the next round, and I walked outside to look for my family. I was immediately swarmed by a huge mob of new fans waiting outside to take selfies with me and get my autograph. To have that kind of feedback from a performance was more encouraging than even the words of the judges and has inspired me more than anything else to keep following my dreams.
Any tips for potential performers looking to audition for the show?
Auditioning for the show wasn't in my plans. It was a spur of the moment thing when I won a skip the line pass from Reverbnation and decided to go for it. I just went for the experience of it all and never dreamed I would go as far as I did. The time in front of the judges and AGT audience has helped me grow as a performer so it was definitely worth it. My biggest tip is that if you go in with the attitude that you are going to learn from the experience, you leave as a winner, regardless of the outcome.
As far as the actual audition, my advice is to just give it your all. You get one chance at each step of the way, and they need to see everything you have to offer in a very short time. The hardest part is to do your best musically, or with whatever talent you are performing, while letting your personality show, but that is so important. This is ultimately a TV show and they need to see that you have what it takes to engage a TV audience.
What about life post AGT, what have been the advantages/disadvantages to the exposure? How have your goals and intentions changed since?
Being on national TV has brought new opportunities to my door. There are definitely bigger and better gigs that have come to me that wouldn't have if I wasn't on the show. People are still watching the YouTube videos of my auditions and making their way to my fan sites, so it has also helped me to continue to grow my fan base. The whole experience has been good, both from the experience I gained and new fans and opportunities it brought my way.
What are your current recording/touring schedules like, what can be expected in the near future?
My goal this year is to get more of my music out there, both recording and touring-wise. I started the year in the studio and hope to be releasing a new single and music video in the coming month. There are other things I am working on but can't release any details yet, but it should have me touring more in the coming year.
Also, I did a couple of duets with another artist, Billy Lord, last year. The songs are country rock, not my normal genre, but I definitely feel my music has some country influences, so it was a good fit for me. I will be supporting him on some of his tour dates for the release of his album and our songs early this year.
What can your fans expect at For the Love?
Most of my recorded originals are pretty chill, but I try to make my live shows more upbeat, so I think people who haven't seen me live before will be surprised by the energy of my shows. It will be just me and my drummer Chris Rod, but he is insane on the percussion, so look for a crazy kick off to the festival!
Where do you think you'll be a year from now?
A year from now, I will still be out there performing, but my goal is to do more touring with bigger stages and larger audiences. I love songwriting and sharing my soul through my music and recording new songs, but I am a performer as much as a songwriter, and the stage is where I need to be!
For the Love, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, February 7, at C&I Studios, Next Door, and the Garden, 541 NW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $35 for general admission and $200 for VIP, which includes open bar, preferred seating, and parking. The festival is all ages. Visit c-istudios.com and exposedprandevents.com.
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