For decades the name Jackson has been synonymous with pop music, with each generation bringing a new breed of Jackson-inspired pop to millions of fans. A member of R&B act 3T, alongside two of his brothers, Tito Joe (TJ) Jackson, has also struck out on his own as a solo artist with two EP’s, Obsession and Damaged. We recently spoke to TJ about his music, his family legacy, and to see what challenges he faces as a solo artist by being a member of one of the biggest families in pop.
Thanks for your time TJ, how is life treating you at the moment?
TJ Jackson: “All is well for me and my family personally. We are blessed and trying to become better people each and every day.”
You’ve just put out your new single “Secret,” is this a good taster of what we can expect from your next EP/album?
“I think so. I’m really focused on trying to do what feels right to me. There is often so much pressure to make music in the style of what is “hot” at the moment but I’ve made it a point for me to do music that has no limits or boundaries to what I want to create. It’s been quite freeing and rewarding for me. And “Secret” is exactly that. It’s me doing what feels right for me as an artist at the moment.”
The info that came with the single said that you know where you want to go artistically next? Tell us more…
“I do! I want to carry the 90s and early 2000s R&B core I grew up on into the present time. So my producer David Thulin and I feel like we’ve found this place where we are staying with my core but able to move it forward and make it more modern.”
With your family connections, how much more determined does it make you want to be original given that most people will naturally expect you to follow the family path musically?
“I used to struggle with external pressures seeping through and dictating what my sound should be. And that was primarily based on my last name. But since I’ve started my solo journey I’ve really made it a point to just do me and to just create what feels right. And as I’ve said it’s been incredibly freeing and rewarding.”
As you’ve become more established, are people more accepting of you as an artist in your own right rather than because of your family connections?
“Yes for sure. It’s interesting being an artist in 2021 because there are so many avenues for listeners to discover art which has helped artists be more creative. Back when I first started you had to have a radio or video channel (such as MTV’s) support. There were no other real options to share your music so there was stronger pressure to conform to what was being widely accepted. And that has changed dramatically which has helped everyone be more their authentic selves. Artists can now be completely themselves and get discovered at their own pace and in different ways (Tik Tok, Instagram, Blogs, Playlists, etc.) That’s been really comforting for even me. To know that my fans are going to find the real me is a beautiful thing.”
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from your father Tito or the Jackson family as a whole?
“To be thankful and to be humble. I recognize growing up as Jackson I’ve been fortunate and able to experience things most have not. With that said my father made sure my brothers and I never thought we were better or more important than our peers based on that fact. And I truly believe that comes as a shock to so many people when they meet me. But really I’m just one guy in this world of billions. And I’m thankful for my family’s role in my embracing of that.”
Growing up, do you remember the artists/albums that changed your life?
“I do. My Uncle Michael was a huge influence for me. Thriller, Bad, Dangerous and History albums all impacted me as a person and as a musician. Prince for sure. His late 80s and 90s albums were hugely impactful for me.”
Other than solo music, do you have any other musical plans/projects lined up for 2021?
“There is nothing in the works for me besides my solo project. For my upcoming album MMM I want to do a short movie for it. The songs were written and produced in a way to tell one story. So the plan for the second half of the year is to start filming videos for a good portion of the album and for it to tell an impactful story.”
Looking to the long-term future, what are your ambitions as an artist?
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about being on stage and performing for my amazing fans. I truly feel blessed to have the fans I have. They inspire me, uplift me and just give me so much energy. So my number one goal is to put together a show that will be memorable for them and to give them a night to remember.”
The Jackson name will always mean so much to many millions of fans, what does TJ Jackson want to add to that legacy?
“I want to continue and help build what the legacy stands for. And to me, that is great music that uplifts and brings happiness to the world. I’m proud of being a Jackson and to be able to add to the legacy is something I take seriously.”
On a less serious note, considering the iconic nature of the Jackson music, when did you learn to moonwalk or have you dressed up as a “Thriller” zombie like the rest of us have at some point?
“[Laughs]… Okay, so I used to do the moonwalk as a kid and was pretty good at it. But, once I hit those teenage years and I cared more about my peers’ opinions I stopped dancing! Which I do regret but it is what it is. As for dressing up as a zombie. I can’t say I have. I did for a project my brother was creating but for fun… I don’t think I ever had. Watching my Uncle having to endure hours in a chair for makeup and costumes looked too tiring. [Laughs].”
What are your plans for the rest of 2021 now that life is returning to normal?
“I actually plan on taking my family on a road trip across half of the USA. My kids are usually busy with sports and other activities so I figured this may be the only time we can do something like this. So the plan is to take a 5-week road trip and see some amazing sites such as The Grand Canyon, Black Wallstreet, Mount Zion and many more… And for anyone who is interested in watching our road trip we have a family channel on YouTube called The Family Rules where we will vlog it and showcase it to our following there.”
Thanks for your time and good luck for 2021. Over to you to wrap things up…
“Thank you. I enjoyed it. Stay blessed and much love.”