Whenever we hear “psychedelic,” we’re transported back to the ‘60s and early ‘70s. However, it’s a genre of music that artists like Cole Jackson are not only keeping alive but evolving. We talked to the LA-based artist about his present “Ghosts,” some ‘Aliens,’ and more in this back and forth exchange.
Kendra: What made you want to pursue a life in music?
Cole Jackson: I’ve always loved music, and have been singing since I was really little… I’ve always had that rockstar dream, but I wasn’t going to pursue music as a career until I moved out at 18. I used to spend most of my free time as a child building things in my garage, and I love cars so I went to college to be an auto mechanic because I had thought that I just liked to work with my hands, but after a few weeks into my first semester my motivation for school was crashing down hard and my passion for music was growing fast and strong, and once I recorded my first song… I realized I never liked working with my hands, I just liked being creative, then I had a big “Ohhhh… THIS is what I’m supposed to be doing” feeling, and not a week after I made that song I dropped out of college and started working on my first EP.
Kendra: Whenever we hear “psychedelic” our minds head towards the ‘60s and even the ‘70s. It’s like New Wave and the ‘80s, and grunge in the ‘90s. However, your goal is to bring that genre to the here and now. How have you gone about making psychedelic music that represents the 21st century?
Cole Jackson: To make a modern psychedelic sound I decided to keep a modern alternative drum beat with a little bit of trap in there, not just to add to the modern sound but because I found modern drum and trap beats just sound kind of “trippy” so it makes sense to me to use that style of drums… for the actual musical aspect I use a few different instruments to create a unique sound such as electric and acoustic guitar, electric ukulele, electric and acoustic bass and a little bit of keyboard. I try to use my instruments in my own unorthodox ways and try to create sounds that are different and weird and I think that’s what makes the music “psychedelic” to me.
On top of making the music psychedelic sounding, I try to write lyrics that dig deep and inspire the listener to think differently, which I think adds to that “psychedelic” style I’m going for and I think the way its executed in a fast-paced lyrical singing, almost rap sometimes helps keep that style modern.
Kendra: You’ve dropped two EPs between 2019 and now. How do you feel you’ve musically grown since ‘Neon Lights’ to ‘Alien?’
Cole Jackson: ‘Neon Lights’ is the first few songs I had ever made. I was focused on the writing aspect more than anything else and I was still finding my creative process. I didn’t know anything about producing, I just wanted to make rock songs…so I used a free audio editing software called “Audacity” to record and mix everything and though I still love those songs for what they are, the lack of production quality was noticeable.
I then got a bit of feedback off that EP and the common theme was that the drums and bass had some issues. So to get better at production, I got ableton live 10 and started to make some alternative rock instrumentals and started to make some hip hop beats for a friend. After getting a bit better at producing and dealing with writer’s block at the time I decided to make the Drum and Bass/EDM EP, ‘Alien.’
I grew a lot as a producer between the two EPs and after ‘Alien’ I felt a lot more confident in my creative process and was also able to help some people make their first songs along the way.
Even though I’ve wanted to make modern psychedelic music since the start, neither of those EPs are psychedelic at all… but the experience helped me build the skills I needed to start creating the music I wanted to make.
Kendra: With your latest single, “Ghost,” I got a little of an industrial vibe. Were you influenced at all by the Nine Inch Nails era of music?
Cole Jackson: Funny enough I never really listened to many bands from the Nine Inch Nails era, although I see some similarities in “Ghost.” My biggest influences are modern artists/bands like Arctic Monkeys, grandson, Twenty One Pilots, Two Feet and older artists/bands like Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles.
Kendra: Los Angeles, like New York City and Austin, is known for its music scenes. Unfortunately, that took a turn this year with the pandemic shutting down beloved venues across the board. How do you feel the industry, in terms of live music, will come back from this?
Cole Jackson: Musicians are hungry right now, we are dying to play live again, so when everything opens back up I’m predicting/hoping that there will be an abundance of opportunities for live shows and hopefully venues will have more business than ever, but with everything so unpredictable right now I’d say it’s hard to tell what may happen and what other opportunities coulda be waiting at the end of the pandemic.
Kendra: With all that has transpired this year, how do you feel 2020 has shaped your creativity and drive moving forward?
Cole Jackson: Honestly 2020 has been pretty beneficial for myself personally, for sure it had its challenges and the pandemic is unfortunate, but as a new artist, quarantine took off some of the pressure I was feeling and allowed me to slow down and just focus on improving myself and my content so when everything does start back up again I’ll feel a lot more ready than I would have if I didn’t have that time to isolate and get my ducks in a row.
Kendra: Usually, this is where I ask people what they have planned in the coming months but with the world in a strange place right now, plans aren’t as concrete as they typically are. You can go ahead and let us know what you have tentatively planned but can you also share a song that never fails to get you through when the world around you feels like a mess?
Cole Jackson: My plans right now are to create my first full-length album expanding upon the “psychedelic” style that I was going for with “Ghost” and hopefully have that released sometime in March, then as soon as venues open up the plan is to tour with those songs and start writing again… and one song that always gets me through troubling times is “Oh No!!!” by Grandson.