*Chances are if you’re a music enthusiast, you are a fan of guitarist Paul Jackson Jr.
That’s because he has played with the greats, produced and released his own music, and appeared on a host of high-profile projects throughout his remarkable career.
Whether you turn on the radio, watch videos, listen to his CDs or that of any other significant musician, you’re sure to hear that Paul Jackson Jr. sound.
He has recorded with everyone from Whitney Houston, to Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Celine, Daft Punk, and everyone in between. According to AllMusic.com, Jackson is one of the most recorded musicians in the history of music.
Jackson has been that ‘go-to’ guy in the music industry for decades. His smooth and effective guitar strumming has made him indispensable and highly sought-after. He has that ‘thing’ that makes music all the more memorable.
During a recent interview, Jackson was upbeat while talking about his latest project. It’s clear that the man with the quick wit and easy laugh can’t wait for his fans to hear his newest offering.
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Up next for the guitarist/producer, arranger, and composer is the single, “City of Refuge” (scroll down to listen), birthed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CD is called ‘More Stories’ and is – expected to drop early next year.
He promises there is something for everyone and that fans will find his new CD, is worth a listen.
A showbiz vet, Jackson’s television appearances include television shows and specials as musical director and lead guitarist for the Kennedy Honors, The White House (President Obama) The GRAMMY after-party, Don’t Forget The Lyrics, NBC’s Jay Leno Show, and Fox’s American Idol.
A married, father of two grown children, Jackson has been making music magic for 44 years. He started out in high school at the age of 18, alongside Patrice Rushen.
I recently caught up with the venerable, 61-year-old musician to discuss his latest project and his impressive career.
DD: Do you remember your first professional music gig?
PJJ: My first professional gig was subbing for my guitar teacher. I was 16. I did one song well and the other one not so well. Two years later, I was called to play on Lenny Williams’ record, ‘Spark of Love.’
DD: Did you always want to play the guitar?
PJJ: I actually wanted to play the drums. My mother took me to a store and told me to pick out something. I wanted the drums but they were $316. She told me to pick out something else. There was a $20 guitar, so I chose the guitar.
DD: What does music do for you?
PJJ: It allows me to speak in a language that everybody understands. I get to express my feelings. It brings me happiness and keeps me striving for excellence and striving for knowledge. There is always something to learn.
DD: You’ve been doing this for a long time. How do you get your creative juices going after all this time?
PJJ: It’s because there is always something to learn. I will go looking for new music.
DD: Do you still have a lot to say with your music?
PJJ: Yeah, there is plenty to say.
DD: How has your own music changed over the years?
PJJ: It changed because the industry and technology have changed. It used to take a room full of musicians and equipment. Now you can have a music studio on your laptop computer. When I was a kid, you had record stores. No more record stores and very little radio and so now everything is streamed or downloaded. What remains the same is you have to be skilled and come up with something that people like and you have to keep striving to get better.
DD: Talk about your latest single – “City of Refuge.”
PJJ: One of the first ones I finished. I haven’t finished the album yet. I chose it. The title comes from the Old Testament. During that time, if you committed a terrible crime, they had these cities of refuge. You couldn’t be prosecuted for your crime. It was as if you had never committed a crime at all.
In the New Testament –the Bible says because of Jesus Christ we are justified by faith. Which means just as if I never sinned. So parenthetically speaking being in Christ is being in the city of refuge because the things we have done – He forgives us and throws them in the sea and it’s just like we never did anything wrong. That’s why I called it ‘City of Refuge.’
DD: Tell me about the project. What were you trying to say with it?
PJJ: The album is called ‘More Stories’. It will be released in January or February. My last CD was ‘Stories From Stompin’ Willie’ This is a kind of continuation. It was a name given to me by the late, great George Duke. A lot of the record was dedicated to him. I thought this was a good way to continue. You tell a story behind a song kind of gives people an inside view and lets them know what you were thinking about when you did this.
DD: How many songs on ‘More Stories’ and what do you want fans to feel?
PJJ: There are nine songs. I want them to ride the wave of emotions. Sometimes people have bad days and need to mellow out. Sometimes they need to get angry. My hope is that there is something to inspire them where they are or where they’d like to be.
DD: How long did it take to make? Any obstacles?
PJJ: The biggest obstacle has been COVID. I had to work by myself. Now, with the vaccine, we can get together a little better. The CD isn’t totally finished. By the time it’s finished, it will have taken four months.
DD: What goes into presenting a new CD? Walk us through it.
PJJ: Funding, finances. I saved my money. I start by writing songs and having different concepts. I come up with a lot of ideas. When I have enough ideas, I start to call other musicians, engineers, and singers. I do the songs, mix them, and put them in an order.
DD: Who are/were your influencers? Who did you listen to growing up?
PJJ: Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Earl Klugh, Ray Parker Jr., Lee Ritenour, and Al McKay from Earth, Wind & Fire.
DD: What did you do during the pandemic to stay creative?
PJJ: Did a lot of teaching online, songwriting, worked on projects for other people. Worked on things from home. Finished my studio two weeks before COVID. COVID didn’t’ stop me from going anywhere.
DD: How are you keeping yourself busy?
PJJ: I’m touring on weekends. I have a band called Jazz Funk Soul. I play with Jeff Lorber and Everett Harp, plus I’m a full-time professor at USC. I give private instruction guitar and keyboard. My boss is Patrice Rushen. I’ve been doing that for six years. It allows me to take the knowledge I gained and keep it going.
DD: You feel comfortable touring right now?
PJJ: I feel comfortable. Look, I wore the mask on the plane even before COVID. I’ve been doing that for years.
DD: What are you most proud of?
PJJ: I’m blessed to have been able to do a lot of things. Too many to talk about. I recorded with Ella Fitzgerald. I toured with Whitney, played on Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and played and composed on a Daft Punk project. I’ve worked with a lot of great people. I got a chance to work with all my guitar heroes.
DD: Who are you listening to right now?
PJJ: I’m listening to a lot of new pop and old jazz. I love listening to Boogie Chillen by John Lee Hooker.
DD: Why should someone buy this CD?
PJJ: The main reason is that I know you will enjoy the music.
Darlene Donloe is a seasoned entertainment and travel journalist whose work has appeared in People, Ebony, Essence, LA Stage Times, The Wave newspapers, LA Watts Times, Black Meetings and Tourism, This Stage, Los Angeles Sentinel, EMMY, The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Grammy, BlackVoices.com and more. Contact her via email@example.com