Having appeared on Season 9 of America's Got Talent and won the 2015 Belk Southern Musician Showcase, Carly Jo Jackson is already well on the way to establishing herself as a household name. Now, with the release of her new EP Color Show, she's gearing up for the busiest few months of her career and kindly took time out of her schedule to chat with us about social media, song-writing and dream shows.
PW: Please introduce yourself.
Carly Jo: My name is Carly Jo Jackson, I'm a bubbly Florida native who sings, writes songs and plays guitar and uke! I also tell some good jokes!
PW: How would sum yourself and your music up in three words?
CJ: Colorful, wild, trouble.
PW: Which bands and artists have influenced you growing up and have those influences changed much over the years?
CJ: I grew up in the 90's with a blend of the classic grunge rock and pop stars, so my favorites to look up to ended up being this crazy mix of some epic performers... Spice Girls, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jewel, Green Day, Aaron Carter. Something cool is that the ones of these still performing have also changed greatly over the years, continuing to bring new inspiring angles to their music. Today I remain inspired by an eclectic mix of music and artists. One of my favorite inspirations today is Tove Lo; she is such a wild child.
PW: Can you recall the first album you bought or concert you attended and what impact did they have on you.?
CJ: One of the very first CD's I remember going to buy with my own money was Green Day's American Idiot. It had such an impact on me and was my hairbrush-microphone jam for all my younger years. I knew every word on the album and I don’t think I took it out of my stereo ever. My first concert was, no lie, a Spice Girls concert! Those chicks were just SO cool to my sisters and me. We would set up a pretend performance and each choose a Spice Girl to “be”. The impact these musicians and performances had on me inspired me to want to do the same.
PW: Is there any band or artist you might say you're at all similar to?
CJ: A lot of people say I remind them of Colbie Calliat with a little bluesy soul mixed in, and I could not be more flattered because I absolutely LOVE her! I saw her live at the House of Blues in Orlando, FL. The way she performed and sang was so captivating and smooth, plus she had a sick hand on the guitar. On my next birthday at 16 I asked for a guitar and thus began my gigging adventure!
PW: Tell me about your new EP Color Show. How did you come up with the title?
CJ: Color Show is honest, bright, fun, and hopeful. All of these songs were written at a time when I was literally thinking and feeling in colors rather than words. You can feel it in each song, as they all come with a vibe that almost sounds like a mood, or a color. At least that is what I want the listener to get from this EP. I thought of the collection as a cluster of colors, leading me to name it Color Show – which is also part of a lyric in the song “Out of the Blue”.
PW: Do you have a favorite song on the collection, if so which is it and why?
CJ: I think my favorite song in the collection changes every day. It’s so funny how my preference changes with my mood. But today I’ve been singing "Oh Yeah", and that song was such an adventure to write, so until my mind flip flops to another song that'll be my favorite!
PW: How easy or hard do you find the song-writing process? Can it depend on the subject matter?
CJ: Song-writing is such a funny creature, it is alleviating and inspiring and at the same time frustrating and crazy. You are 100% correct: subject matter is everything because depending on the subject, you will either be generously writing away with a light hand and heart or digging deep down struggling to get words out to heal the pain. Intense right? But songs are emotions to me. Some emotions are familiar and are like our friends, however others can be confusing and upsetting. It all depends on what you're writing about and then how you feel about it.
PW: In your opinion, what is the greatest song ever written and why?
CJ: I think the greatest song ever written is Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". I'm such a lyrics junkie, and the fact that Freddy Mercury wrote this song to come to grips with his dark fate is incredible. He took such a haunting subject and transformed it into an uplifting, almost theatrical performance. That is powerful songwriting right there.
PW: Which has been your favorite performance to date and why?
CJ: My absolute favorite performance to date hands down was the night my drummer and I rocked an acoustic duo set at the House of Blues in Orlando, FL. We filled the house with family and friends who all got to jam with us. It was a little dream come true since it was Colbie Caillat on that same stage who inspired me to get my first guitar. Being on stage pouring your heart out to a group of loving people who support you and know what you're feeling is magical. The memories of that show are something I will keep close to my heart. I also have to mention my first televised audition for Season 9, America’s Got Talent as a pretty epic moment. It was just me and my guitar on the stage and it was only one short song, but having the entire New Jersey Performing Arts Center packed with 5,000 strangers and the intimidating celebrity judges stand up and cheer for you, it just gives me chills today to remember it.
PW: If you could play any venue in the world, which would it be and why?
CJ: I would keel over and die to play at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado! The theater is literally embedded into a breathtaking canyon. Some of my favorite artists like Dave Matthews, Foo Fighters, Slightly Stoopid, and more have all played there and I wouldn't mind scratching it off the bucket list.
PW: Which four bands or artists, who can be living or dead, would you most like to share a stage with?
CJ: Easy, Alanis Morissette, Tove Lo, Dave Matthews, Sublime. Ah, a girl can dream can't she!?
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and to what extent has it helped boost your career?
CJ: Social media can be an artist’s best friend or enemy. If used correctly it can be a perfect platform to catapult you and your art into the vision of the public. You can reach so many more people in a very short time thanks to the world wide web. However, you get what you give with all those instaface-tweetspace sites and managing multiple social sites and a webpage can be impossibly time consuming. But it’s worth it since it's the fastest, cheapest, and most simple way to get yourself out there.
PW: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
CJ: The rest of my year will hopefully consist of happiness and good times! I did make a new year’s resolution to release 2 EP's and to travel more for shows, so I will be ending the year with more time in the studio, working on my second EP with a goal to release by the end of this year. Color Show was so much fun to make so I can't wait to see what this next one has in store. I have been traveling this year, too, with trips to Nashville to song write and a trip to South Carolina where I was sponsored by the store Belk to perform at Charleston Fashion Week and have an exciting opportunity I will be announcing soon that will take me to California to perform for the first time this fall.
PW: Are there any other plans or projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?
CJ: In addition to the new EP and the travel, I have been working on some unique collaborations that will be released very soon! I’m honored to have worked with some amazing DJ's, artists, and producers this year and the products of these collaborations will be very interesting. You must wait and see my friends!
PW: Finally then, what's your ultimate ambition as an artist? Whose career would you most like to emulate?
CJ: Sometimes you feel like you want to do so much that the big picture doesn't come out so clear when you try to put it all together. I want to be able to speak to the world through my music. Music has the power to bring people together, and that's my ambition. I want to be a catalyst to help people come together in happiness, dancing and celebrating - I want to be that person who writes and sings the songs they dance to. I am here for the long haul, so those I would like to emulate are those who have carried their music through their lifetime, touching lives and growing musically along the way. Another performer I saw live as I was just starting to play guitar was Bonnie Raitt – I hope I am still rocking stages and inspiring young artists, just like her, many years from now.