of the Boy Who Already Won.
Written by Shawn Thompson
“I like to write vulnerable, honest songs. I like to write personal stuff to get it off my chest.” - Trevor Jackson
Photographed by Jon M. Dailey III
From the moment we began the interview, it was very clear Trevor Jackson was a one-of-a-kind artist. He carries with him an interesting balance of regality when speaking about his past credits in the entertainment industry and humility when talking about his luminous future. The sparkle and warmth in his eyes seemed just as eager to learn about my experiences as I was to learn about his extensive creative arts background. We made idle chit chat; speaking about our commonalities which included some of our favorite foods along the eastern coast, our beliefs about the future of humanity and our mutual love for the late singer Prince. After sharing our thoughts about Prince’s 1999 vinyl box set, we focused on Trevor’s life growing up in the business, his personal philosophy on life and his late project The Love Language:
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Singer-songwriter Trevor Jackson is a powerful, natural-born vocalist and versatile artist. His masterful fusion of soothing R&B sounds, acoustic balladry, and authentic storytelling is the stuff of heartwarming love stories.
His official debut album, The Love Language, is his most mature, poignant project to date. The artful 14-track LP embodies his insights on love (“Luv Don’t Change,” “Viral”), thrills of desire (“Get To You,” “Bouts To Be”), and the uncertainty and disconnection of lust (“Pictures By My Pool,” “Be Yourself”). Across the album, his intoxicating sound slithers from a sparse, soul-strumming tempo to a trap-tinged bounce and a funky bass-laden bop that lingers long after the song ends. The album is co-produced by Jackson, his brother Iyn Jay, Harvey Mason Jr., Hendrix, Ayo & Keyz, and the Aristocrats. In addition, the album is being mixed and mastered by legendary engineer Jaycen Joshua ( Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown) with songwriter credits including Jackson, Mike Jay, Breland, Daniel Church, and Eric Mobley.
To further conceptualize the album, Jackson offers a handful of moving, self-directed vignettes that visually imagine The Five Love Languages conceived by Dr. Gary Chapman: Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Physical Touch, Quality Time, and Words of Affirmation. The cover art was painted by Mariella Angela.
Born in Indiana, Jackson began honing his musical talents as a young kid, scoring a role as Young Simba in Disney’s Tony Award-winning Broadway National tour of The Lion King. He continued to rise as a musical star, signing to Atlantic Records in 2015 to release his major-label debut EP, #NewThang, and mixtape In My Feelings, which garnered millions of streams across music platforms. But it’s on his sonically colorful Rough Drafts series, Pt. 1 (2018) and Pt. 2 (2019), under his Born Art imprint, that Jackson sharpened his sound. He also won the 2019 Soul Train Certified Award, an honor that celebrates R&B's best independent artists, beating out such names as Ciara, Kelly Rowland, and Daniel Caesar for his critically-acclaimed project, Rough Drafts Pt. 2. Songs like “Right Now,” “Puddles,” and “Tell You The Truth” surfaced as immediate fan-favorites.
Leading up to his most recent output, Jackson also released a cover of Joni Mitchell’s holiday classic, “River,” and has become an in-demand collaborator with artists such as Jacob Latimore, Cierra Ramirez, and ADÉ.
Shawn: Tell us about the first time you realized you were meant to be in the entertainment industry?
Trevor: “When I was 3, I became a tap dancer. I remember being obsessed with Gregory Hines and Michael Jackson. They influenced me to put my all into my craft, just like they did. The way they entertained others and made people happy, I wanted that. I want to invoke humanity in my art, whether it’s music or acting. I want people to feel me and feel themselves while they are feeling me. It’s all about the feeling.”
Shawn: What parts of your upbringing influenced your career choice in acting and music?
Trevor: “I’m all about emotional intelligence. People like Michael Jackson and Gregory Hines definitely were aware of how to use that and put it in their art. We don’t have enough of that these days. You can always look at any emotion, especially pain, as something more than pain and use it to create something beautiful. I’ve written some of my best material after being depressed. Hopefully the things I’ve endured and the feelings I’ve overcome can help others do the same.”
"I want to invoke humanity in my art, whether it’s music or acting. I want people to feel me and feel themselves while they are feeling me. It’s all about the feeling.”
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Shawn: Which comes first for you? Acting or music?
Trevor: “If I had to pick, it would definitely be music. Acting to me is like taking something from the outside and bringing it into yourself to be able to project to an audience. Music is the opposite; taking what’s inside of you and bringing it outward. A much more intimate experience. Music is from an internal place. I try to be transparent in everything that I do. Music definitely gives me an outlet to do that.”
Shawn: Not too many people these days get the pleasure of coming up with both an Apollo and Broadway credit to their name at such a young age. Tell us about that experience and how it has shaped you currently as an artist.
Trevor: “Broadway made my work ethic amazing. It was hard work. Real work. Lion King was eight shows a week. I did Broadway for three years which, when I look back, was about 895 shows. Apollo taught me how to work under pressure. I had to fight nervousness at eight years old. I remember studying everyone on set. From the performers to the people behind the scenes. I was always on to the next challenge. Thinking about it now, it set me up for success. It’s so amazing how the journey of career and success mimics life.”
Shawn: Being such a heartthrob to millions of fans has its pros and its cons im sure! Can you tell us about your coolest experience with a Trevor Jackson fan? What about your weirdest experience?
Trevor: “I’ve had a girl pass out in front of me before. That surprised me a lot. The weirdest experience though was when I was performing a while back with about 16,000 girls there. They were so hype to see me that the whole crowd came up onto the stage. They started pulling at me and pretty much tore my clothes off. I was crying and scared. The guards had to come grab me up. I still appreciate the love though.”
Shawn: If you could describe your style of fashion in one word, what would it be?
Trevor: “Comfy. If it was up to me, I’d be in sweatpants and a white tee. I strongly believe in coming as you are and being who you are. I think my fashion sense of being comfortable in what I wear shows that.”
Shawn: If your life was an album cover what would the name of it be and why?
Trevor: “It would probably be: The Unraveling of the Boy Who Already Won. Get it?! I already won but how that happens is still unfolding. Life is so fun in that way. I always see the enhancement in life. Instead of worrying about what could have been I tell myself that it would be different if it was supposed to be.”
Shawn: Tell us about the first song you wrote? Do you remember what inspired it?
Trevor: “My very first song was a rap. I was six or seven. It went something like --- “my name is Trevor, I like Chris Webber.” It was so bad but i’m forever proud of it. I went on to writing songs from there. When I create songs, I go all in and like to be involved in everything--- from the vocal production, to the mixing. I love it all. I find it to be more authentic when I do it so you can get the truest version of my music. It also helps when other people understand your vision when you do decide to work with a team. Shoutout to Jaycen Joshua. He helped me produce Rough Drafts 1 and 2. He’ll also be a part of my newest project The Love Language coming out March 26, 2021 which is being released via EMPIRE/Born Arts.”
Shawn: At what point did you realize “Wow! I’m really making my mark in the industry?”
Trevor: “Man when Sterling K. Brown congratulated me I was like, I need to be thanking you! He’s such a phenomenal actor. He took a look at some of my stuff and thought it was good which was cool. It really hit me when I wrote Colours on the Ground --- not because it was meant to be my most popular work but because of the message. I’m all about expressing myself and putting real messages in my music.”
Shawn: You are quite the philanthropist. You have volunteered and donated to many different organizations. Can you tell us a little about that as well as what you are currently involved in?
Trevor: “The Ronald McDonald House does amazing work! They really take care of families that have an ill child and make sure they can all stay together while they are going through life changing medical situations. I also worked on “No Guns Allowed” which was an anti-violence anthem with Snoop Dogg. He had an anthem for the movement and he had several people be a part. Right now I have been working with Concord Neighborhood Center back home in Indianapolis. It’s similar to the Boys and Girls Club which I have worked with as well. They do great work with young people but also they take care of the older people in that area.”
"I strongly believe in coming as you are and being who you are"
Shawn: Whom are your artistic influences and how have they inspired you as an all around entertainer?
Trevor: “Prince is definitely my number one artistic influence. His beliefs and vision were everything to me. He taught me that I can do anything I believe in. He had a relentlessness about him that’s rare. My favorite songs of his are “The Beautiful Ones” and “I Would Die 4 U.” His style was also one where he cared less about others and more about how he felt in whatever he wore. He was confident and did things the way he wanted to. I couldn’t imagine not being able to make music the way I want to make it.”
Shawn: If you could meet any artist (dead or alive) who would it be?
Trevor: “That’s a hard one because there are so many people I want to meet. Donny Hathaway, Bojangles, Drake. I’d still pick Gregory Hines though. He was a triple threat. Tap dancer, musician, actor --- an all around performer.”
Shawn: Congratulations on the newest season of Grown-ish. How closely does your character (Aaron Jackson) line up with who you are as a person?
Trevor: “Thank you, thank you --- Aaron is a lot like me actually. His beliefs, his ambition, what he wants to do resonate with me. Aaron is just a young man trying to become an older, more mature man. Kind of like me, he is navigating life on his terms. Always learning and always growing.”
Shawn: Wow! With all that you’re doing, it’s definitely important to incorporate some self-care.
Outside of working, what do you do to take care of your mental health?
Trevor: “I do yoga and go surfing. Surfing helps me to relax. I also write in my journal which
kind of helps me keep things in order. Writing and creating music helps me too. When you love
your job, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Shawn: Your new project "The Love Language" seems to take us on a roller-coaster of emotions when it comes to love, could you give us some insight on your concept for the album?
Trevor: “ The concept is like the five love languages
which was originally thought of by Dr. Gary Chapman. Acts of service, Receiving Gifts, Physical
Touch, Quality Time, and Words of Affirmation. With the album, I put my spin on it and use the
visuals to help my audience imagine these concepts. I believe love is universal so what better
way to showcase that than by putting out a project that’s about love because we need more of it.
Now more than ever.”
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