Written by | Ray Cornelius
When asked to describe her sound, vocalist extraordinaire, Keisha Jackson simply put it as “True Gritty Soul.” And anyone that has seen her perform the Aretha Franklin classic, Dr. Feelgood, knows exactly where she is coming from.
She is as soulful as they come. Which is quite refreshing – considering today’s music is as much of a knock off as the merchandise on any corner of New York’s famed Canal Street.
But Keisha Jackson is the real deal and has the R&B lineage to prove it!
I had the pleasure of talking with her about her career and why she was skeptical about her mother, legendary Blues vocalist Millie Jackson, being featured on an episode of this season’s TV One’s Unsung.
RC: You have been a true mainstay in the underground soul music scene in Atlanta. Why do you think Atlanta has been such a hotbed for independent artists?
KJ: I don’t really know. I mean, Atlanta’s not the only place. I would say it is more so the timing of things, at least it was for me. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Atlanta was very popular. Studios were popping up and industry moguls like LaFace Records were based here, which is pretty much where I got my start. Plus I was connected to others in the city that were getting their start as well like, Outkast, Goodie Mob, Sleepy Brown, and Joi.
RC: You have sung background on The Monique show and the recent Soul Train Music Awards. You also perform regularly around Atlanta and have worked with some heavy weights like Erykah Badu, Faith Evans, and Angie Stone. Where does that drive come from?
KJ: The drive comes from my mother. My mother is work-a-holic and that’s pretty much all I know. It’s just the hustle! I feel like if I’m not doing anything then something is wrong. Some of it is motivated by checks. (LOL) A lot of it is motivated by ambition.
RC: You are the daughter of R&B music royalty. Your mother is the great, Millie Jackson…which by the way is one of my mama’s favorite female singers…What was a typical day like in the Jackson household?
KJ: I don’t know if any day was typical. I really don’t have anything else to gauge it by. But I will say this, everybody has somebody in their family that lays down the law and makes sure that the family is running correctly. That just so happened to be my mother, who is also an entertainer. So, for me it wasn’t, ‘Oh my mother is Millie Jackson’, she is just mom.
RC: The popular TV One show, Unsung, is featuring your mother this season. What was that experience like?
KJ: It was a great experience! I felt like they were very respectful to her and wasn’t diggin to find some dirt. (LOL) I tend to be very paranoid and leery of what questions are asked during interviews. So many of the Unsung stories are tragic, I wanted to make sure they weren’t looking for something tragic. I believe because of my mother’s public persona, people assume a great deal. The reality is her back story is pretty calm in comparison to some of the other stories profiled this season. But it’s still exciting nonetheless. There’s definitely some information about her on the show that you can’t find online. So I suggest fans tune in!
RC: You have your own agency One Voice Entertainment. Tell us about it.
KJ: Well, basically, I started it back in 2000. I get a lot of request from people needing a vocalist and a lot of times they ask for me. Well, I can’t be in two places at one time. So I have a crew of singers that I connect with clients. Every client provides me a check list and I try to match a singer with the right one. And I know my singers! I know who has a passport. I know who has a 9-to-5 and gigs on the side. I know who’s married and does this as a hobby. I narrow it down and that’s when I tell my singers, “Hey, I have a gig for you.”
RC: You were recently featured on the cover of a UK soul music magazine called, Manifesto Soul. How cool was that?
KJ: I thought that was very dope. There is a UK writer named Dan Dodd, who is like a soul music rolodex! (LOL) He has so much knowledge about R&B and Soul music. I did the interview with him last spring when I was on the road with Angie Stone. He passed it along to another writer and there you have it! Dodd came up under David Nathan, who is another phenomenal writer and has written some things about my mother.
RC: Let’s talk about your new album…
KJ: Well, Anthony David has co-written a song called Handyman. And another close friend, Shannon Sanders out of Nashville also has a song. I am very excited about this one. It also looks like me and moms are going to do a duet as well.
RC: So, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan are all coming to Atlanta within the next three months. Any plans to see any of them perform?
KJ: I absolutely will not miss Aretha Franklin! I don’t care where I am in the world. I will not miss her. She is my favorite.
Good Lord, Chaka Khan! I have seen her perform in Italy a few years back. It was great!
Diana Ross! I want to see her so badly that my chest hurts when I think about it. (LOL) I may have to sneak into the venue and say, “I’m with the band.”
RC: Define the Keisha Jackson sound?
KJ: In a few words, I would say “true gritty soul” like my mother. I don’t like the term throwback. And vintage is so overused. But that’s my solo voice. My background voice is different.
Don’t forget to catch, Keisha Jackson on TV One’s Unsung Monday, February 6th at 10pm!