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Virginia Musician Takes Country Road From Fortune 500 To Nashville

Tony Jackson
Tony Jackson performing in VPM's studios earlier this year. (Photo: Kate Prunkl)

Tony Jackson is a Marine turned bank executive who decided to leave the security of his corporate job in Richmond to work full time as a country music singer.  As part of our series Virginia’s Country Music Roots, Peter Solomon reports.

Transcript:

In 2015, Tony Jackson was an executive at Bank of America and a self-described “weekend warrior” when it came to country music.  His YouTube performance of George Jones’ “The Grand Tour” landed him a spot on the recently revived Old Dominion Barn Dance

[Music: “Grand Tour” by Tony Jackson, 2015 Old Dominion Barn Dance] 

He got a standing ovation and the audience shouted for an encore. Organizer Donna Meade Dean-Stevens was so impressed that she offered to co-manage his performing career. 

[Music: “Nashville Cats” by Tony Jackson] 

He started to pursue his dreams of singing country music professionally but he still kept his corporate job.  

 

Jackson: I distinctly remember doing a video teleconference in Nashville in the morning and leave close my laptop going right there in the studio. 

[Music: “It’s Only Make Believe” by Tony Jackson] 

Eventually, Jackson did leave Bank of America to sing full time. On his 2017 debut album, the eclectic song list includes tunes by Conway Twitty, George Jones and John Sebastian, plus some originals as well. Whether he’s singing someone else’s music or his own material, Jackson appreciates songs that express thoughts simply. 

Jackson: I appreciate being able to say what you want to say and not necessarily try to be a wordsmith or wow people with lyricism. We're not trying to be Shakespeare out here.

That no-nonsense approach to lyric writing is evident on songs like “Old Porch Swing” which he performed at our FM studios: 

[Music: “Old Porch Swing” by Tony Jackson] 

Jackson says he gets a lot of comparisons to other black country singers like Charlie Pride and Darius Rucker.  

Jackson: That's, that's great company to be in, but it hasn't come up. It doesn't come up at shows. It's not really a thing as it turns out.

 

Tony Jackson was born in Portsmouth and because of his father’s Navy career lived all over the world. He says he didn’t grow up listening to a lot of country music 

Jackson: I  was exposed to everything. When I was with my mother, she listened to gospel music only. All day, every day. My dad listens to Motown and a old school R & B stuff. We also listened to a lot of armed forces radio, which isn't genre specific. They played everything.

On one occasion in his childhood, Jackson had a chance to meet country music legend Randy Travis. 

Jackson: When I was 10, I lived in Rota Spain, my dad was stationed there for three years, and he came to base to do a show for the USO and I had the opportunity to meet him. He was very curious about what it was like for a kid living on a U.S. base overseas, and at that time I didn't know who he was. But, we went back later for the show and it was a pretty cool experience.

[Music: “Diggin’ up Bones” by Tony Jackson] 

It wasn’t until Jackson was in the military himself that he really started listening intently to country music. The songs resonated with him because they talked about family and home and heartbreak. Whether working in the military or the corporate world, his fondness for those songs has remained. 

Jackson: At this point in my life country music it just kind of speaks to me. You can sing what you would say, It’s just plainly stated. I love the instrumentation and most of all the people. 

And now, Jackson feels especially fortunate because he’s making a living doing the thing he loves.  

For Virginia Currents I’m Peter Solomon, VPM News 

[Music: “Last Call” by Tony Jackson]