Nashville soul/pop artist Jackson Dreyer revealed his new single “Ruin a Name” on August 16th.
Co-produced with Jess Grommet and co-written with Tom Maxwell, “Ruin a Name” delivers a soulful single introducing Dreyer’s new energetic sound.
“Ruin A Name” feels like a new arrival for me - it’s a venture into a sound I haven’t found before, and an energy level I’ve been hoping to reach. As always, the horns are a big part, but this is the first time I’ve really thought of their part as the hook of the song, says Dreyer.
Inspired by the likes of Stevie Wonder, PJ Morton and John Mayer, the Nashville-based artist is continuing to shape his musical signature by offering soulful records you want to remember.
“Ruin a Name” is now available on major streaming platforms.
Introduce yourself - what's your story?
Hi! I’m Jackson Dreyer, and I’m a soul/pop artist based in Nashville. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a “story” worth listening to, but I realize I’m going through life just like the rest of us, and with my songs, I try to capture little stories and fleeting emotions that I have and turn them into something worth listening to.
Could you describe us your childhood a little bit?
I grew up the youngest of three boys in a suburb of Chicago, and our household was full of airsoft guns, a million small pets (lizards, snakes, hamsters, fish), sports equipment, and school supplies; I was also homeschooled by my mother until 7th grade. Most of the time, you could find me in the backyard pretending to be Brett Favre or in my basement pretending to be Carlos Santana. We would spend a lot of time in the summer at our lake house in Wisconsin or at family reunions in Idaho, and those experiences gave me an immense love for the Packers and my extended family - not to mention the northwest.
What did you grow up listening to?
My earliest memory of my father’s music was the Kingston Trio (listen to the Merry Minuet, and prepare for some non-PC, 1950s humor) and Johnny Cash, songs like “Boy Named Sue” and his live album at Folsom Prison album. I was a total classic-rock junkie, and loved anything with cheesy lyrics and an epic guitar solo. The band that has stuck with my artistry the most since those days has to be Chicago due to their legendary horn section.
When did you start singing?
I was a late bloomer as a singer, but I picked up a guitar shortly after I heard Santana. “Oye Como Va” was in my blood, and that’s what I auditioned with for my 6th grade jazz band. By high school, I realized that if I was going to front a band, I had to sing, because my odds of being the second coming of Santana were pretty slim. At this point, I was terrified of singing in front of my parents, but I had this mentality that I could easily sing in front of millions as long as my parents couldn’t hear. When this big annual show at my highschool rolled around my freshman year, I gathered a few friends to perform Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” but the reality was that I would have to sing in front of my parents. In self-preservation, I would go off-mic in rehearsals so my parents couldn’t hear me from upstairs, and had to block them out in my head when the night of the show came. It’s silly to admit, but it took until I had released my first single at 21 to be totally past that mental blockage. It must’ve been a shame thing, but there shouldn’t be any shame in doing what you love.
Do you remember the first song you ever recorded?
We didn’t officially record it, but I had really wanted to sing a song in my high school blues band, Van Buren & Wells, so I wrote one about my prom date called “Can’t Take Much More,” and you’d think it’s a Kenrick Lamar song with how wordy it was. I had not learned the skill of cutting lyrics yet, but you know what? This song still grooves!
How did your voice evolve over the years?
The only choir class I ever took was senior year of high school, and I was a baritone, but I didn’t like how boring the parts were, so I faked being a tenor, and as a result, developed a very strong mixed voice. I didn’t have a vibrato or the ability to belt for an extended period, but I always had a very soft and clear mixed voice and a super high falsetto. As a result, when I got to writing my own songs, I tended to choose keys and melodies that showcase these qualities.
What made you want to move to Nashville?
Prior to a Christian music camp in Nashville the summer after my first year of high school, I couldn’t tell you the difference between San Antonio and Nashville. One of the instructors at the camp was in Lady Antebellum’s road band, and he told me he went to Belmont to study commercial guitar. I wrote the details down in a little green notebook, and it’s been God’s plan ever since! I moved here in 2014 and haven’t second guessed it once.
What did your time at Belmont University teach you as an artist?
Being at Belmont, I was never lazer focused on one thing (guitar, singing, songwriting) because I figured I only had four years to be a sponge in such a fertile learning environment. Because my goal was to take everything in, from extra arranging classes, a cappella, all the way to greek life, I left with a good tool belt and a deep understanding of who I am.
You released your first self-titled project in 2018. As an artist, what did you learn since this release?
This record taught me a lot of things, the first being the experience of making a complete record. There is an intro track and essentially an outro track in the jazz ballad “Heartstrings.” Now, are intro and outro tracks the most cost efficient or single-worthy? Not by a long shot, but they gave the record an arch, and I’m immensely proud to have that experience waiting for anyone who listens the whole way through.
The largest takeaway is that I had been putting too much of my worth into my career, and music is like an old wooden rollercoaster. The release show for the record was a huge high, but the morning after, I had no more singles or shows to look forward too, and I was crying, sitting across the breakfast table from my mom. From that moment on, I’ve chosen to put my worth into my identity as a child of God, and not as “an artist” who “has big things on the way” hoping and praying publishers like my new single. I think this new stability is going to breed a lot of honest and consistent art.
"Ruin a Name" is your latest single. What's the story behind this song?
Hah! Don’t make me talk about this! No, no, it’s cool. I was into this girl whose name was *insert name here*, which is really a beautiful name! Well, I told my best friend about her, but he disapproved of her due to his ex bearing the same name. I said, “don’t let *insert name here* ruin that name for you! A few hours later, I was at Tom Maxwell’s house, and “Ruin A Name” popped right out. My favorite part remains the horn line, and in the work tape, Tom is playing it on his acoustic guitar. Once that was locked in, I knew we had something special.
Who helped you create this song? Could you describe us the songwriting/production process?
When I write a song that I can feel is something I might want to play with my band, I’m already hearing the production. Horns, keys, background vocals are the easiest for me to imagine. Jess Grommet and I had been talking about having him produce two singles, and when he heard “Ruin A Name,” he knew exactly what to do. That intro guitar riff was his doing, and it really set the tone for the record.
What do you like the most about this song?
“Ruin A Name” feels like a new arrival for me - it’s a venture into a sound I haven’t found before, and an energy level I’ve been hoping to reach. As always, the horns are a big part, but this is the first time I’ve really thought of their part as the hook of the song.
What can you tell us about the upcoming video?
The “Ruin A Name” music video co-stars my old friend, Regan Rousseau, and she plays the girl that I am cautiously flirty with. It takes place at my favorite East Nashville bar, Pearl Diver, and the extras are several close friends and some of my regular band. What you see in the video is what plays in my head every time I hear the song: same bar, same story, I just wouldn’t sing my own song to a girl!
What made you want to release "Ruin a Name" as a single?
Since my first record came out last August, I’ve been on a singles kick, working on two songs at a time and releasing them in a way that will give each song its best shot of being heard. “Better Man” always felt like a first single back after my Christmas songs, and with “Ruin A Name” begging for a music video, it was the natural follow up.
As an artist, what do you want to accomplish?
I want to spread my God-given positivity, real stories, and (hopefully) wisdom with my songs, and package those things into easy listening, groovy music that gets me dancing. If I don’t love the song and sound, I don’t put it out. The way I grew up listening was music first, so lyrics took a back seat for years. It can still take me two or three listens to even tell you what a song is about, so my mission as a musician is to have incredibly well arranged and performed music that never ceases to be listenable.
What do you feel when you're performing?
When I’m on a stage or sitting around a campfire with a guitar, it just feels right. I think so clearly when performing, and I swear I sing my best with a microphone at my lips. Nerves don’t get to me because it’s my favorite thing. This is silly, but I don’t get nervous before I devour a bowl of Reese’s Puffs, and similarly, I don’t get nervous singing my songs alongside my best friends.
What's the hardest part about being an artist?
Right now, the hardest part about being an artist is the limited resources. Having patience and dealing with no’s have never been as big of a bummer as when I think about the songs I have, the vision I have for shows and records and tours, but I just don’t have the capital and team to accomplish it...YET. That being said, the limited resources have also been a blessing, because I believe when you’re in a tight spot, you really hunker down and incredible things can happen. One of my favorite videos cost $150, so it’s all positive!
What message would you give to anyone who'd like to pursue their dreams?
If you have a “dream”, and you can tell the motivation is a love for the job/art/cause, go for it. I believe God placed a talent and passion for music and story telling in me, so until I hear otherwise from Him, I’m chasing that down with everything I have. And if you don’t have a “dream,” apply yourself to worthwhile things that sound interesting, and a similar passion may emerge. It’s like writer’s block: unless you keep writing, you won’t find inspiration to keep going!
Also, the guy next to me in this sports bar just said, “never lose hope,” so...never lose hope!
In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?
I talk about God a lot, so don’t expect this one to be any different! Man, if everyone was pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ and knew Him, we would see a night and day difference in the world. Would there be mistakes? Absolutely, but we live in a fallen world, and we are sinners, but we are never stuck in that place. There is always redemption found in Jesus, and He is still moving mountains today as He was back in Bible times (great book by the way).
What biggest life lessons have you learned so far?
I’ll go with the most recent life lesson I’ve learned, because I’m terrible at ranking things. My most recent life lesson is that I can’t pour into others when I’m empty myself. I’ve heard this before, but like all good lessons, you don’t truly learn it until you live it. I spend a lot of time helping and supporting friends and strangers out, but very rarely leave time for myself to recoup and recenter on the things that matter.
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