An Interview With Producer, Guitarist and Songwriter Jimmy Jackson
Producer, guitarist and songwriter Jimmy Jackson grew up in Florida where his dad taught him to play guitar at the age of 6. At 17 he moved to southern California where he met and was mentored by the late great Gene Davis, lead guitarist for Eddie Cochran and Roger Miller.
Jimmy went on to play with artists such as Brownie McGee, Steve Marriott, Lacy J. Dalton, Bob Mosely and Jerry Miller from Moby Grape and many others. He has written songs with number one Nashville songwriters Dean Dillon, Earl Clark & Grammy winning L.A. composer/drummer Ricky Lawson (Yellow Jackets, Eric Clapton, Baby Face) and the incredible R&B singer Ellis Hall (Tower Of Power).
Recently Jimmy has been involved with a new band called "Ranch Dressing" and also plays with 4 time Grammy nominee Jo-El Sonnier, the undisputed King Of Cajun. When Jimmy is not on the road, he produces projects in his home studio.
Steinberger’s Don Mitchell recently caught up with this incredibly talented and busy musician and asked him a few questions:
STEINBERGER: Tell me about your earliest recollection of music. Did you come from a musical family?
JIMMY: My dad played guitar and when I was 5 years old I discovered his in the back of a coat closet in this old house we lived in. It was just leaning up against the wall and I slowly picked one string at a time low to high and then back again. It was a revelation… the whole experience magical! Without being too dramatic about it, it really spoke to me. I remember it like it was yesterday.
STEINBERGER: So your dad is responsible for your inspiration to play guitar then?
JIMMY: Yes. I learned my first chords and songs from my dad (Wildwood Flower's) and I also saw him relate to his guitar like an old friend. I think that was the most important musical lesson I learned from him. And then when I was 8 he took me to see Chet Atkins and later Carlos Montoya. Those 2 shows pretty much changed my life forever.
STEINBERGER: You have worked with a wide variety of musicians over your career, from Lindsey Buckingham to JoEl Sonnier to The Trailer Park Troubadours. What has it been like to work with such a diverse group of musicians?
JIMMY: There is the common element in the music of the artists you just mentioned. Have you ever heard the Spanish word “Duende"?
JIMMY: Duende is the "emotional" force that connects you to the listener. It's not cerebral. It's a heart thing not a head thing. It’s where you close your eye's, reach down inside and play something from your heart… and you connect. That's why music is so important in these times we live in now. If you're walking around numb and shut off from your feelings, it's just not healthy. Great artists through their music will force the issue. They will crack you open like a damn pinatta and make you feel. And that my friend is a good thing! The very best players in the world approach their music on that level. From BB King to Rostropovich, Duane Allman to Louis Armstrong. "Duende"… otherwise it's just factory work.
STEINBERGER: You have become known as a session ace as well as a top-notch producer. How has studio work helped develop you as a player and musician?
JIMMY: In studio work you are forced to learn how to listen. And more often than not the "less is more" rule applies. You figure out that you have to know what a song is about and be sensitive to what the artist’s vision for that song is.
STEINBERGER: You worked closely with Ned Steinberger in the development of the new ZT-3 Custom. What was it like to work with a living legend like Ned Steinberger?
JIMMY: Ned is a true "artist" in every sense of the word and his many design's and innovations are like great songs or paintings. I am blessed by his friendship but I am also a huge fan of his work. I will stop here because I don't want to embarrass Ned or myself. (Too late?)
STEINBERGER: What was your initial impression of the instrument?
JIMMY: I remember sitting in my studio and looking at the ZT-3 prototype when I first got it and it was like how some cars look fast when they're just sitting still. This thing looked like it was performing just sitting there! It was beautiful and substantial at the same time. That night I could barely sleep so I got up before 5 am and went into my studio and recorded my first song on it "Machine's Of Loving Grace" out of pure inspiration. I now had an instrument that would let me go wherever my heart wanted to go. "Duende! (CLICK HERE NOW to hear Machines Of Loving Grace...MP3)
STEINBERGER: It does offer a lot of options.
JIMMY: I sometimes jokingly refer to it as the Swiss Army Knife of guitars. It has a multitude of options with the 5-position tremolo and rich tonal palette. And the cool thing is that it's not some digital trick but a fine piece of machinery that makes that happen. I don't even think about it anymore I just go "there" with it.
STEINBERGER: You have become quite involved with Michael Nesmith of Monkees fame lately. Tell me about Ranch Dressing.
JIMMY: Speaking of true artists and innovators, I am again blessed by my association with Michael Nesmith and to be involved in his online "in world" site www.VideoRanch.com. I met "Nez" through a mutual friend Laura Ellen Hopper of KPIG Radio. A few months after introducing me to Nez and Video Ranch she passed away and I have her to thank for the wonderful music I get to make by way of that introduction.
I put together the house band for VR3D called "Ranch Dressing" (www.myspace.com/RanchDressing3d) and we play a 3-set show on a weekly basis for a worldwide audience. It's Live and in Real Time and the audio is broadcast at 48k so it's like being at a great concert with studio quality sound. The bonus for me is that I not only have friends from all over the world now who come in to listen but I also have this serious kick ass band as a result of a years worth of shows under the discerning and helpful eye of Michael Nesmith. We also have great artist come through on a regular basis like John Jorgenson Quintet, James McMurtry, Eliza Gylkenson, Jerry Douglass, Patty Larkin and Jackie Green. This September we will be running several stages covering artists from the Americana Music Convention and The Monterey Jazz Festival. And, I am hosting a new Friday show from 6 to 8 PT called "Fresh Faces" featuring new and up and coming artists.
STEINBERGER: With all that you have done, what is it that inspires you musically today?
JIMMY: A lot of things but I really like it when genres meld together, hip-hop with rock and a melodic singer. Blues meets Electronica or Bluestronica is what we play in Ranch Dressing. I like it when the past the present and the future all come into the room at the same time and shake hands.
STEINBERGER: Will we see you in Nashville this summer?
JIMMY: Yes, look for me at the Summer NAMM show in Nashville where I will be doing more demos of the Steinberger ZT-3.
Visit Jimmy Jackson on-line at myspace.com/jimmyjacksonmusic.
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