Photographer and Musician Jackson James

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You may have seen Jackson setting the scene at weddings and local venues with his music. Focus caught up with Jackson as part of our Arts and Culture feature, which highlights some of our region’s best creatives …

You’ve been a prominent face on the local music scene for many years now. How do you feel the scene has progressed, and how has your style developed over this time?

Live music and the level of talent in Port is ridiculous, from the music programmes in our schools, the tutors and the amount of live music venues to play now; it has never been better. The internet and quantity of quality lessons available online is, without a doubt, a key component in the success of many young musicians. My own experience with rapid learning is encouraging, and it helped me become more versatile as a musician, being able to sit in and play almost any genre.

Over the years, my own style has naturally developed as a result of learning, listening and playing with great like-minded musicians.

Some would say quitting your career in architecture to follow your dreams in music is crazy. What was it that inspired you to make such a life changing decision?

This was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever made; however, it was also the best decision I ever made! People told me I was crazy; why would you give up a great career and security to play your guitar? You love architecture! Yes, I am lucky to love my backup plan, but I love playing music more. Like any job, I’ve studied and learnt the skills needed, but I’ve also done the same with music; it was just a leap of faith I had to take, and some encouragement from people who believed I could do it. To make a living doing what you love – that’s the dream.

The guitar pictured above isn’t just any old guitar; how did you learn the skills to create this beautiful instrument?

This all started one day when I saw a unique colour on an early ‘50s guitar. I did a bit of research; however, I found the only one available, I didn’t like. So, I decided I would build my own. I’ve been playing guitars for a long time and do most of the setup and maintenance work on them myself. After pulling them apart enough times, I was confident I could put one together.

I spent the next three months scouring eBay for original Fender USA parts, as I’d decided to build a 1952 Telecaster. All was smooth sailing, I had the body painted, picked the neck; however, it was almost impossible to find the original screws to hold it together. After all the waiting and time spent anticipating how it would play, I couldn’t be happier – it’s perfect, and something I’ll keep forever.

Have you been working on any new projects?

I’m in the process of building my own home recording studio and getting together some equipment needed to record quality material. I really wanted a space that feels great when you walk in – peaceful and inspiring. I’m really looking forward to seeing this project completed and the music that will come from it.

This year I’ve also teamed up with long time friend and well know local musician Bernard Smith. Bernard shares a similar passion for the genres I love and has a like-minded feel; this makes creating music together as easy as breathing. Live music in Port has never been better, and we often discuss what we can do better and how to give people something different. Jazz is a genre we both love, but traditional jazz is not for everyone – especially the younger generations. For a long time DJs have owned the music scene, with hopping house beats and simple chord progressions – this is now what we’re used to. We’re thinking, perhaps we could recreate this live using real instruments – Hip Hop electronic beats with a Jazz groove!

Who or what influences you when it comes to writing lyrics and composing?

Everyone is different when it comes to creating and honestly, it usually comes and goes quicker than the tide. One thing I have learnt over the years is what doesn’t work and for me, stress instantly dulls my creativity. This is partly why I had to push aside other work, so I can remain in a creative state. I grew up listening to great guitar players such as Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, SRV, BB King, John Mayer and many similar, and even today they are still huge influences.

Recently I’ve taken a liking to country music, inspired by artists like Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban and the TV show Nashville; the stories in the songs are captivating and honest, and that’s what I aim for in my music. Writing lyrics has always been from personal experiences; using imagery and some clever techniques, I try to paint a vivid picture and encourage the listener to get lost in the music.

What are your plans for the next twelve months?

Building a lasting career in the creative industries has always been a timely process. So for the next twelve months, I aim to keep pushing myself, musically and creatively, incorporating video and recording artistry to continue growing and rapidly moving forward. Pre-production for my EP is underway, and I’m looking at releasing it later this year 2016. You never stop learning and evolving, and it’s exciting knowing I’m finally working towards a passion with nothing holding me back.

Direct us to where we can go to listen to your music and follow your journey…

You can find me playing live, solo, or with other great local musicians at many live music venues around Port – I’m regularly seen at venues such as The Beach House, Town Green Inn and Salty’s Bar + Grill.

Alternatively, you can reach me via my website, or follow me on social media, where all shows and content are available.

Thanks Jackson. @jackson_james__

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