If you swoon over the haunting sound of well-crafted acoustic pop, JACKSON FINCH are for you. Jan Willem Vink caught up with the US duo.
Lilting, hook-filled acoustic pop. That would probably do to describe the music of Jackson Finch, a new American duo with an album out called 'Experience'. And experience is the thing Kevin Jackson (vocals/guitar) and Brian Finch (vocals/keyboards) are drawing their inspiration from. Writing songs from their personal struggles and the things they've gone through in their lives may result in songs that display elements they did not know were there. Because, as they are writing and performing together, Brian and Kevin have experienced God working through them in very concrete ways.
It all began when four years ago Kevin and Brian met at a Bible study while they were college students in Birmingham, Alabama. Both were playing music and they soon realised they had a common interest. One thing led to another and the two began writing songs together and had some regional success with their independent album titled 'Beyond Complacency'. This album created some interest from several record companies in Nashville, including Warner Alliance, with whom they inked a record deal.
"I think there was an immediate chemistry between the way that Brian approached music and they way that I approach music," comments Kevin as he remembers their initial meeting. "Our musical background is real different and our approach of songwriting is diverse. For some reason the chemistry really worked."
"It's a good balance," agrees Brian. "Kevin comes from a real raw background and I am trained classically, so there are different approaches. Kevin did not have as much formula training on guitar. I will bring up the fact that you can't sew a certain thing in a song because it's theoretically not the right thing. Kevin is more along the lines of, 'Well, it sounds good, why can't we do it?', so I think that is the main way our differences play out. We have both learned to compromise. We meet in the middle."
Jackson Finch have been compared with artists like the Rembrandts, the Indigo Girls and even Simon & Garfunkel. I ask the two where their influences come from. Says Kevin, "Well, our musical background is as diverse as we are. We listen to a lot of singer/songwriters, we love artists like the Indigo Girls and Nanci Griffith. Simon & Garfunkel obviously have influenced a lot of our harmonies and concepts for our vocal parts for those kinds of groups."
Interjects Brian, "I don't think you can listen to our music and say that we try to copy someone else, but it is obvious that certain influences come through, a lot of times just from listening to, and a lot of times we study how people write songs, particularly singer/songwriters like the Indigo Girls and Nanci Griffith and Joni Mitchell, so we can better our craft in songwriting."
Kevin and Brian have written most of the songs together on the album, except for the Nanci Griffith cover "It's A Hard Life". Brian comments, "We really have a great deal of respect for Nanci and we wanted to pay tribute to her by recording this song."
One of the musical highlights while recording 'Experience' was a brief visit by Phil Keaggy. His brief performance left the two musicians simply stunned. Brian: "For all 20 minutes when he was there." Kevin: "Amazing! And we were just on the floor, flopping like fish, listening to him. Phil came in one afternoon and we played the song for him and he listened for a while and then he said, 'Well, let's go cut it' and he walked in and 20 minutes later it was all done!" Actually, Kevin and Brian had never met Phil Keaggy before, but their producers, 'JB' and Mark Chessir, had previously worked with the guitar maestro.
According to Brian and Kevin they draw most of their songs on things they experienced themselves. They feel they can't write about things they don't know something about. Says Brian, "We really believe it's important to be real in our music. So we speak about things we draw on in our personal experiences, and our life experiences and all of those things as believers are seen through a Christian perspective so that influence overrides everything that we do."
Kevin adds, "I think a lot of time what we do is that we'll end up with a song that at least we don't know how it all came together. People ask us all the time, where we get our ideas from. Our only answer is, 'God has to guide us in that because we are just real ordinary guys and we do what we do and I think God uses us to say things that he wants to say through us.' So a lot of times we end up with a song and say, 'Wow, that really means something.'" Brian: "It ' couldn't have come from us! We're humbled by that all the time..."
Brian remembers how the song "Diamonds In The Road" was inspired by a casual conversation the two of them had. "We were driving down the road one sunny afternoon. The sun was shining on the street and the asphalt was sparkling and I told Kevin that as a kid I believed those were diamonds in the road. So he kind of stored that thought to bring it up later and started writing the song. When we listened back to the song we realised it meant something far deeper than we had originally intended it to mean. It is definitely something that the Lord does; we are just ordinary guys. We have said this a million times, there are so many singers or better singers than us and better songwriters than us and God could have chosen anyone of them to have a record deal and have a platform, but for some reason he has allowed this to happen to us. We don't take this responsibility lightly and we are thankful and grateful for the opportunity to share."