Jesse Jackson Releases First Album, Rides Motorcycles, Plays Frisbee, and Is Forever Stuck Making Music

Jesse Jackson is hardly an anonymous face in the crowd. He's tall, so that makes him noticeable, and with his long blond hair and high cheekbones, even before words or song exit his mouth, you know there's something he has that you need to listen to. 

Jackson has been a staple in the Miami music scene for about a decade, but while others spend time in the recording studio, to hear this musician's work, you'll have to catch him live. Well, until last week, that is, when he released his eponymous debut, a stew of folk, alt-country, and sincerity. Produced by Carlos Alvarez with Green Vinyl Group, Jackson said of working with the Grammy Award winner, "He gave me a lot of room to move." 

The songs are relaxed, swirling with delicate emotion and imagery. Most were written a while ago. As to why it took him so long to release an album, he simply remarks, "I've done a lot of work, and now it's time to share it with people." Fair enough. 

Though an experienced performer, Jackson was taken aback by his experience at the album-release party at Vagabond. "I didn't notice anything except for how nervous I was," he admits.  "I noticed one other thing. It was a fantastic turnout. The room was packed as far as I could tell. Everybody told me it stayed packed all night. I couldn't really see from the lights, and I was trying not to think about all the people I could see." 
He was aided by a strong backing band, which included drummer Sam Levine, bassist Brian Tate, Rainer Davies of Raffa and Rainer on guitar, and backup singers Gainesville talent Edan Archer and trained opera singer Taylor Powell. A follow-up show at the LegalArt space days later with nomadic arts project the end/SPRING BREAK may lead to a few other gigs for art's sake. 

As one might suspect, Jackson's not a native. He's moved from one beautiful place to the next. Born in Tuscany, he left what he describes as "paradise" at age 8 to live in "stunning" Cody, Wyoming. His father, artist Harry Jackson, was well-known first as a Marine Corps combat artist, an abstract expressionist, and finally for creating sculptures of the West, including one of John Wayne that ended up on the cover of Time magazine. 

The younger Jackson followed in the elder's creative footsteps but chose music, ending up at Boston's Berklee School of Music. The warmth drew him south, though, and friends and the ocean kept him here. "There is quite a bit of momentum in Miami," he says, adding with a bit of hesitant enthusiasm, "It's a good time to do that, to be from Miami." 

Jackson has also appeared in films by Animal Tropical's Jorge Rubiera as an actor, both in Birdwatchers as a conquistador and black-and-white film Meniscus. "I don't enjoy it; it's just that everybody tells me I look good on film," he says honestly of his time as an actor, adding wisely, "I'm not going to turn down an opportunity that comes up." As far as what he does like, "I play Frisbee." Not ultimate Frisbee, just "regular Frisbee." Also, he notes, he plays piano, writes music, and rides around on his 1975 Honda CB 400. Of the motorcycle, he says, it's not just like a babe magnet but also "it's easier, it's cheaper, more dangerous." 

What's up next is some touring around Florida, Wyoming, and New York; he calls these "a couple of sting operations." Of his lot in life, Jackson is all about the music. "I'm bound to this; I'm stuck with this for the rest of my life. I don't think I'm going to do anything else with my life."

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