NORWICH – Years of dedication and hard work have gotten Norwich High School junior, and rising country music star, Kaitlyn Jackson, to where she is today.
2015 is shaping up to be a busy year for the young musician. Jackson just released her second full length CD last month and she is in the process of putting together a band for touring during the summer of 2015.
Along with her passion for dance, her dedication to the performing arts, and her rigid adherence to academics, Jackson does not have a lot of down time. “I’m a junior in High School, and I’m definitely busy,” said Jackson. “I’m a full time dancer and I am also playing Mary Poppins in my high school production. Everything definitely keeps me on my toes.”
“I don’t really sleep very much,” said Jackson with a laugh, “That’s kind of how I handle everything.”
But the current state of Jackson's career is due to a lifelong dedication to her art. “I’ve been singing ever since I could talk,” said Jackson.
Jackson related that her first show was when she was only five years old. “It was a talent show and I sang with my dad,” said Jackson. “And I just knew from then that was what I wanted to do.”
Through the years, Jackson just kept singing and being in as many competitions as she could, and taking as many opportunities as possible.
When she was 11, she competed in a local competition that garnered the attention of a music producer. After the competition, he approached her and said that he was interested in working with the young girl. Jackson contracted with him, and ended up writing her first song in Binghamton.
Jackson loved the whole song writing and recording experience so much that the following year – when she was 12 – she went down to Nashville to work with Kent Wells – who was Dolly Parton's producer. Between two trips to Nashville that year, Jackson ended up recording her first complete CD with eight songs – including the one that she had previously recorded in Binghamton.
When Jackson was 13, The New York State Country Music Hall of Fame gave her their Horizon Award, which, according to Jackson, is basically an award for an upcoming artist – acknowledging that she was someone to keep an eye on. “It was really awesome seeing all my hard work already being recognized at such a young age,” said Jackson.
When she was 14, she went to Walt Disney World for spring break. It was here that she first entered herself in the American Idol Experience. “This is basically like the show American Idol, but all mushed into one day,” said Jackson. Of the 300 people that auditioned that day, Jackson won.
Winning the American Idol experience gave Jackson a fast pass to audition for the real show on television. “I got to use that ticket when I auditioned for the show when I was 15 – it got me to the front of the line,” said Jackson. “So I was actually the very first person to audition in Boston. It was crazy but it was so exciting.”
Jackson was 15 at that time – the youngest a person could be to compete in the competition. “Coming from a small town, I'm not used to having people around me that share the same desire as I do,” Jackson said.
The episode of American Idol aired just before Jackson's 16th birthday on the season premiere.
The summer of 2014 found Jackson back in Nashville working on her second CD. Jackson relates that with some amazing co-writers, she ended up writing 11 songs and recording eight – again with Kent Wells. Jackson was able to do this and record a music video all in the course of two weeks. “It was so crazy. Everything was so fast paced, but it was just amazing to have that experience again,” said Jackson.
Jackson's second CD was released to the public on Jan. 27, 2015.
Jackson tipped her hat to the local community as well with her new release. She had a prerelease for the new album on Jan. 25 for her community members. “They’ve been so supportive of me throughout my whole career and I just wanted to show them how much I appreciate their support,” said Jackson. “I wanted to give them the music early because I knew that they had been waiting for it.”
Jackson's recent CD release is a self-titled work that displays the range of her musical talent. “I was trying to think of a name for this CD but all of the songs are so diverse. Everything is completely different and it's so much more mature than my first CD,” said Jackson. “Each song kind of represents a piece of me and I just didn’t think that there was any one title that really encompassed everything. So I figured that just 'Kaitlyn Jackson' worked because it was all from me.”
While Jackson describes the genre of her craft as pop country, her new CD reveals that her talent is not limited to such a simple definition. “Everything on the CD is just so different,” said Jackson. “I have a real feel-good song called 'It’s a Good Day to Fly.' It’s really carefree. And then I have a really rocking song. And then I have an almost reggae vibe song. And then I have one that has some accordion in it that has a Mumford and Sons feel.”
“The CD was kind of just seeing what I could do with my music—all the different angles I could take,” Jackson added.
Currently, Jackson is in the process of putting together a band of some other local talent. Jackson's father is in the ensemble and they have recently added another rhythm guitarist – a girl of 17 years old. “I’m really excited to get things going with them,” said Jackson. “Over this February break from school, I am going to be doing a lot with my band – getting things worked out and set up for this summer. We’re going to be doing a lot of shows over the summer at different fairs and venues.”
When asked about her plans after high school, Jackson thoughtfully hesitates for a brief moment before answering with authority and confidence. “Obviously the goal would be to pursue music, or maybe more specifically acting because that incorporates music and dance and everything all together as one,” said Jackson. “But I’m way too type A to do the whole starving artist thing – you know, go to Nashville and play on the streets.”
Jackson has looked into broadcast journalism. She has looked into performance management. “I’m not really sure yet, at this point, but I don’t really want to give up on anything,” said Jackson. “I’ve pushed myself so hard academically and musically, I really want to try to find the middle ground between the two of them.”
As Jackson ventures forward with her passion for music and her affinity for performance, her dedication and hard work are sure to accompany her every step of the way.