Kara Jackson Interview
by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine
Lamitschka: Music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?
Kara Jackson: I would say my music is a blend of folk, country, jazz, and soul. It’s very focused on my voice but as a writer I want my songs to reach people and for the words to hold a presence of their own, My music is definitely an entanglement of many things but I think it makes sense to me because I’m a very eclectic person in terms of taste. I was raised on all these kinds of music so my own music ends up being kind of a testament to the range of music I hold dear to me.
Lamitschka: How was the last year for you? What were your highlights?
Kara Jackson: The last year has been pretty interesting. I’ve mostly been focused on trying to finish school. It’s my last semester and I’m really glad to be ending this chapter in my life, but also definitely intimidated by the changes to come. I also released music this year for the first time in a few years which has been exciting! I definitely oscillate between being really excited to dive into the future and explore interests beyond school, but the pressures of adulthood and having a career are daunting. Some of the highlights of my year have been opening for one of my favorite artists in the world Neko Case. We played a couple shows in Woodstock that were probably some of my favorite shows I’ve ever played. Also more recently, I got to travel to London and play at the U.S Embassy along with the British Library. Those were really special moments too.
Lamitschka: Tell us about your latest single “no fun/party”?
Kara Jackson: This song is actually two songs in one. I wrote “no fun” when I was really in a moment where I felt like I repelled every person I encountered, especially romantically. I was trying to express the feeling of wanting love, something that is so idealized in our culture, but finding that no one else had the same vision of love as me. “party” is coming more from a place of affirmation. I kind of think of it as a cushion that “no fun” lands on. It’s definitely something my past self needed to hear, a reminder that the only way you have to belong in the world is the way that works for you. You don’t have to bend to the pressure of what “partying” looks like.
Lamitschka: Do you write the song yourself? If not, who did you work with on the song?
Kara Jackson: I wrote the lyrics and the melody myself, but my friends Sen Morimoto, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, and Kaina Castillo helped me produce it. The piano throughout the song is one of my favorite elements of the song, and that was definitely Sen’s touch. This song wouldn’t be anything without these three and their contributions to it. They really helped me realize it to its fullest potential.
Lamitschka: What is the difference between your last EP and your new music?
Kara Jackson: I think my new music is much more intentional. I’m definitely trying to demonstrate my skills as a writer with my new material, which is much more lyrically forward in my opinion. My EP wss also just a different moment in time. I was much younger and was just trying to put some songs out there. My new work is much more realized, much fuller in terms of musicality but also just in terms of my personhood. I’m a little more sure of myself and about asserting my personhood.
Lamitschka: You did a song with Lala Lala. How did that happen to come about?
Kara Jackson: Lillie is one of my dearest friends. We made “straight and narrow” when we were stuck in the house in 2021. The song was born out of an idea we had about creating our own planet and wanting to make an album about the planet we made, which I think is still something we want to do. I think the song is just a snapshot of the place we imagined.
Lamitschka: Who inspires you musically and how deep do your musical roots run?
Kara Jackson: I knew I wanted to sing because of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn. But when it comes to writing music and playing it, people like Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Odetta, and Jim Croce were really integral to me. I listen to a lot of music and have my whole life, so while I can name my idols I feel like my music is really a testament to all the music I’ve absorbed. I was raised on jazz and my parents were always playing something on the speakers in the house. Knowing music and building a lineage of artists in which I envision myself a part of was something that was also emphasized to me growing up. Watching the greats like Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Beyonce taught me the importance of studying music, of being a student and to see the work you do as being much larger than yourself. I definitely learned the flare from popstars. There’s a little glamor married to the grit.
Lamitschka: What do you think about today’s music scene versus its post and where do you see it going in the future?
Kara Jackson: I think music is in an interesting place right now. While there’s so much music being made that excites me, especially from my peers, I feel like it’s the hardest it’s ever been to reach the good stuff. There’s always been a distinction between music for the sake of music and music as an “industry,” the latter being more of a pursuit to make as much money as possible. But I feel like we’re living in a moment where this distinction has never been deeper. There is so much good music but the craft of music has lost precedent over the marketability of it. There’s no incentive for making good music in the world of streaming, which applauds consumption over craft. A person could release a song with no technical ability at all, but as long as it makes money it’s valid. In my opinion this has really watered down the craft of music, the pursuit of making an album and putting intention behind it. Beyonce talked about this years ago, but there are no albums anymore. It feels like everything is adjacent to a playlist, made for easy consumption and I don’t think that’s always a bad thing, but I don’t think art should always be easy to consume. I believe good music makes you work for it.
Lamitschka: As an artist, you have so many tasks such as recording, touring, interviews. What do you like best, what’s your favorite activity?
Kara Jackson: I think my favorite part is the actual music making part. Maybe not even recording, but the moment of getting all the puzzle piece of the song to fit. There’s always a moment for me where it feels like everything has been glued together and a song is finally done being written. I think that’s my favorite part. It’s so cool watching a song grow from a weird rumbling in your head to something so full.
Lamitschka: What inspired you to become a songwriter?
Kara Jackson: Writing songs has always been one of the easiest ways for me to express myself. I just love music and it’s so moving and fun. I always saying songwriting is the most supernatural thing. I just love the magic of it, how writing a song is sometimes this out-of-body experience you can’t explain to everyone. I grew up watching so many live clips of people like Joni performing and there’s never been a moment in my life where I didn’t want to be doing just that.
Lamitschka: Is there any place you haven’t played that you would like to?
Kara Jackson: I really want to play music in France. I would also love to play somewhere in Africa, like Nigeria or South Africa.
Lamitschka: When you’re on tour, do you have time to play tourist?
Kara Jackson: Sometimes! In London, we had some downtime. I definitely got to shop and walk around. I also got a couple tattoos, which is one of my favorite things to do in another country because it feels like the most enduring souvenir.
Lamitschka: What message would you like to send your European fans?
Kara Jackson: I want to thank everyone who listens to me and who takes a chance on my work. For people just discovering me, I thank you for being curious and for stepping into my world for a moment. I really hope to be back to Europe soon and to play there often!
Photo (c) Lawrence Agyei