AFP It's been a rough couple of weeks for the Jackson family, what with all of…
- Posted on Jul 21st 2011 1:00PM by Emily Tan
"It's basically whatever my spirit feels at the time," he tells Spinner. "But I think about the world and peace and love and celebrating and things of that nature so I touch on a little bit of everything. It's a wide range of emotions."
Spinner recently spoke with Jackson about his decision to finally start a solo career, his favorite childhood memories and how he's been since Michael's death.
Why did you decide to record this album now?
It's something I always wanted to do, and it's something I've started at different times but then stopped. At the time when my brothers and sisters were doing solo music, I was already married. I got married right out of high school. I'm divorced now, but I had three sons at the time [my siblings] were doing their solo careers. And in the late '70s, I was tired of being on the road and wanted to spend time with my sons. I worked with my sons, who have their own group called 3T, and stayed home as a father. I coached Little League baseball for 13 years and hung out and did the whole soccer dad thing and basketball. I was being a father. I thought I could always do a record later.
In a sense, your sons followed in your Jackson 5 footsteps when they formed 3T. Were you open to sharing your wisdom about working with family and the music industry?
Absolutely. We still share now. And not only do I give them advice, but they also give me advice. Back in the day when they were youngsters, I gave them tons of advice, not only musical but also just being the gentlemen that they are today and how to handle the business. I think it made it a lot easier for them [to] stay on course and use the business for spreading good songs, good music, good messages as a way of their livelihood. As long as they can keep that attitude toward it and understand the show-business part of it, they'll be able to do handle the downside of the business.
You talk about being a soccer dad after the Jackson 5. How did living this "normal life" influence 'So Far So Good'?
After the Victory Tour [The Jacksons' huge farewell tour] and traveling so much and knowing what it was like to do anything musical, I took six or seven years and didn't do anything. I didn't touch the guitar or do anything musical because I just wanted to get into myself as a human and, for once in my life, not be told where to go, what to do or what to say or how to sing or whatever. I started missing the music so I started playing with some local friends, just some blues stuff in the local areas, just for the fun of it. Then I said, "You know what? Maybe now is my time."
I've been doing it now on my own for 10 years, so this is just another step in being an artist and making name for yourself. I'm excited about it, and I truly enjoy what I do. It's different being on stage alone without having the five other brothers to share the pressure with. It's a challenge for me, but every bit of it is fun.
Will there be any blues on 'So Far So Good'?
There's no blues stuff on my album. It's more pop and R&B, but the blues stuff was just something I was doing because I enjoy the blues so much. At the time, I wasn't making any blues recordings for release. I do have recordings in my library of songs and I may release some blues stuff at the right time, but I just thought I should make an album of who I am. I don't know how much of my fan base is really into the blues. I did try to do some songs that have a blues element to satisfy the tastes of those who many have been expecting blues, but it's not a blues album.
When you went to record this album, what was it like doing it solo compared to when you were in the studio with the Jackson 5?
Well, although you haven't heard from me or the others, we're constantly in and out of the studio, so you never actually get away from it. You totally just stay in the studio and create songs and writing or helping another friend with a song. It wasn't missed at all in that fashion, but it was a little easier because the ideas were mine. I didn't have to share them with five other brothers. It just worked a lot quicker that way. And working with my sons, it's like cake and ice cream because we understand each other so well and have been working together for so long. I take advice from them because they have a younger ear than I do, but it works out.
Do you get the same feeling being onstage now as you did when you first performed with the Jackson 5?
Absolutely, and every crowd is different. You still get those one-song butterflies when you first hit the stage. I think it's part of the game. No matter how long you do this, you will always take it seriously and get butterflies. It's not like we're landing the space shuttle or something, but you want to do the best you can. And people expect you to be good.
With you and your family's success, do you feel a sense of pressure with this record?
It's absolutely something that people would grade because my family is known for coming out with good music. I wouldn't want to come out with anything that would tarnish the legacy of our music. I'm pretty sure I would have those who would say something negative even if I came out with the best album possible for any artist, and then there would be those who would adore it because they feel it's good music and enjoy it. But as far as pressure, that's the pressure I have just because of my family's history with music. What I'm [also] pressured about is being a solo artist, and I've been doing it now for a while. But doing it on a wide basis like going on TV shows, as a solo artist is something a little different. I've never done that. It's not a lot of pressure but you do think about it.
What was it like growing up in the Jackson family?
Growing up in Gary, Ind., my mom would be washing dishes,and we'd be harmonizing with her. And when we'd go on vacations to East Chicago to visit our grandparents, we're singing all the way there and back and harmony. Just as brothers, sometimes while we're walking to the park to play basketball, we'll discuss a song we heard on the radio and start singing the hook to it. So there was a lot of singing and music going on, like walking down the street and playing the guitar and those types of things. We still do it today. If we were going to an event together and a song comes on in the limousine, we just start singing the song. Being brothers, we've been doing it all our lives together.
What's your fondest musical memory growing up?
As a child, I have a few. One of them is coming to Motown and auditioning for Berry Gordy and singing at Diana Ross's birthday party with all the celebrities from Marvin Gaye to the Supremes to Diana Ross to Smokey [Robinson] to the Four Tops, Temptations. We were singing all their songs, and we were an amateur group who just got signed yesterday and Berry invited us to the party to perform. So we did our little 45-minute show and sang their songs to them and they just loved it. We were in the studio before we knew it, and hearing that first record was another fun memory. Watching 'I Want You Back' go to No. 1 was a sign of accomplishment for the brothers, so I was very proud of that.
And as I got older, the Jackson brothers getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was another fond memory. I'm still proud of the accomplishments of the brothers' Victory Tour, which holds the record for the most attendance in stadium concerts.
You talk a lot about your brothers, but there's also your little sister Janet, who's been successful in music. Did you ever imagine she'd be come the star that she is now?
Janet has a lot of personality. She's a hard worker, and that's why when she was a little girl I have her the nickname, Dunky [a play on donkey]. Michael and I used to call her that because she worked so hard. She came onstage with us when she was a little bitty baby when we were doing a Las Vegas act, the brothers and I. I knew from that moment she loved it and that she would prosper in the business.
You mentioned that this record encompasses a lot of different emotions. So are any of the songs inspired by your family or dedicated to Michael?
Well, just the whole title of the album, 'So Far So Good,' says it all because it lets me know that what it says in the song, that we have choices. You either have to pick up with life and go on with your life or sink. And when you just move on, you realize that so far everything is really good. The title relates to all of that -- whether it's for music or for love or getting over a horrible situation such as Michael. I got to continue the life he would want me to live and the music he would want me to present to keep the legacy alive. That's the way I look at it, and I just feel this is something he would want me to do.
[Michael] got to hear the song, 'So Far So Good,' and gave me great credit on it. He really liked it and encouraged me to keep going with it.
How are you and the family doing now?
We're still very shocked about the situation, and he's still dearly missed. And every day, you ask the question, "Why?" But we're a strong family, and our mom is doing OK. We're there for her. Michael's kids are doing fine. We're going to bond and stay together and stay huddled and stay the family we are.