When confronted with the crucible of tragedy, some will melt down and others emerge stronger than ever. The latter was the case for promising young artist Jackie Lee.
Following the heartbreaking death of his mother in June 2016, the 25-year-old vocal powerhouse has undergone a complete transformation – personally and musically – rededicating himself to a whole new attitude and poised for a breakthrough with the romantically-charged single, “Getting Over You.”
“After six years in Nashville, I had yet to look in the mirror and recognize the artist,” he admits of his early music. “I finally feel like I had that moment when I recorded ‘Getting Over You.’”
Featuring an ultra-modern, electronic sound with propulsive drums and wounded vocals so hot they might spontaneously combust, Lee was determined to leave his fingerprints all over the new track, even if that meant breaking way from his earlier sound.
Growing up in a loving home in Maryville, Tennessee – a picturesque town nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains – Lee cut his teeth singing faithful tunes in a church hopping three-piece band, but his unique brand of forward-thinking country was always bubbling under the surface, just waiting to be unleashed.
“Until my dad met my mom in ‘89, he had never listened to any other type of music than country,” Lee explains. “No radio stations, he never bought a record, nothing. But my mom was a straight ‘80s pop girl, and because he loved her he started listening to artists like Michael Jackson, Phil Collins and Michael Bolton, and I feel like that’s where my fusion lands.”
Upon first arriving in Nashville, that fusion was too far outside the box to contemplate. But forced to stare the biggest of all big pictures in the face, Lee decided it was his duty to try – if not for him, then for his mom.
“There is just something about a mom that is unlike anything in this entire world,” he says, steeling his reserve against a still-broken heart. “A lot of perspective came on June 4 this year that I have never experienced before and never wanted to experience. And there are so many things in my career now that I look at and think ‘None of this is worth it if I’m not being myself.’”
With a renewed sense of purpose, “Getting Over You” is a high-definition look at who Lee really is, lyrically and sonically. Co-written with hit makers Brent Anderson and Paul DiGiovanni, it shows Lee’s hard-wired connection to matters of the heart – and also reveals the genesis of his ambitious new sound.
While influenced by classic country singers like Faron Young and Keith Whitley, one of Jackie’s favorite bands as a kid was the platinum selling pop-rock group Boys Like Girls – a band which happens to feature DiGiovanni as its founding guitarist. The unlikely friends met randomly during a Nashville songwriting session, inspiring Lee to ask DiGiovanni to produce his new music, and take it in the direction he helped create with Boys Like Girls – energetic, emotional and above all, fresh.
More songs followed, like the turned on and turned up “All Night,” the proudly personal “Made in Tennessee” and “Leave the Light On,” an older tune full of lusty vocals and swaying melodies that now feels completely re-invigorated.
So much has changed for Lee since his debut in 2014 – new producer, new sound, new songs – but the biggest shift is his new outlook on life. For the first time his vision is crystal clear, the road is open and his destination is within sight. It was a journey that tested his strength to the breaking point, but ultimately led to a question that now drives everything he does – “Do I feel this in my heart?”
“Everything is different,” says Lee. “What I write about is not so safe and conservative, we’re going for it now. And if I feel it here in my chest, I’m gonna write it.
“One of the last things my mom heard was ‘Getting Over You,’” he continues, pausing ever-so briefly to as the memory comes back. “She loved it. She was like, ‘It sounds like you’re doing what you love to do,’ so it’s got her seal of approval.”