Country artist Jackie Lee was only six years old when he stepped into a professional recording studio to cut songs with famed country songwriter, musician and producer Carson Chamberlain (Keith Whitley/Easton Corbin). Sixteen years later, Chamberlain is hard at work in the studio producing Jackie’s debut album – his first as a Broken Bow recording artist.
Influenced by classic country singers like Faron Young and Keith Whitley as well as popular music icons like Michael McDonald, Bob Seger — and even Justin Timberlake – Jackie has carved out a distinctive style all his own.
Jackie was a celebrated high school athlete who played baseball, basketball and helped the Alcoa High School football team win two state championship rings. In fact the rising star, whose first love was the drums before taking up guitar and piano, turned down the chance to spend two more years playing center to future Green Bay Packer Randall Cobb to pursue his dreams of a musical career.
Jackie’s music is as accessible as the artist himself, a man with an easy laugh, an engaging manner and an optimistic outlook on life: “I never knew my papaw,” he says, “but my dad talks about him all the time. He used to say, ‘It doesn’t cost a bit more to dream big than to dream little. People on my team tell me, ‘You need to get your expectations right, but I say, ‘I’ll let you guys do that.’ I’m going to reach for the stars.”
Had you not been involved in music at such a young age, what do you think you’d be doing today?
So funny you ask that. One day it really did hit me like a ton of bricks that yeah I had to do music, but before that sports were definitely everything for me. I’m not gonna lie to you and tell you that I was some awesome athlete (laughs), but my coach told me he believed I could go on and play D-1 football. That was definitely in my head. There was a lot of pressure to try to figure out what to do – I get my music side from my dad and my athlete side from my mom. Now (laughs), as I talk to you, there’s NO WAY in the world I would of come close to making it professionally in sports, especially after seeing how a good a guy like Randall Cobb really is. I’m so thankful it worked out the way it did in the end.
I read you played center on the football team?
Well, I actually played tight end. Eventually, the coaches were like ‘hey, you can start but you gotta play center.’ I was like ooook (laughs) – but it’s really cool to look back and see everything we did and I’m really happy to have played with Randall.
You mention the musical influence coming from your dad, was he the one that noticed you had a skill at a young age?
He did, he did. I sort of just always did it, whether it was singing in church or a friend’s band. He said he knew that when I was around 7 years old, he could tell I really had a shot at it. He said that he could hear in my tone and pitch that it was something I could do. I’m so thankful for it. I have a great relationship with my parents. He worked hard to help me with the music – but he was never over the top like the stories you heard about Michael Jackson’s dad.
Are you touring now?
We’re doing some random dates right now – we just played with Thomas Rhett which was a ton of fun. Right now we’re still getting out there and visiting a lot of radio stations.
I saw you sang the National Anthem at Lambeau Field this year, how nervous were you for that?
Dude, it was INSANE. I was really nervous when I debuted on the Grand Ole Opry, and I get nervous every time I go on stage, but it’s more just an anticipation. For the Opry, I was knee-shaking, hands sweaty, you know, the whole thing. At Green Bay, I was ready to put on a helmet and start knocking some heads. I was SO AMPED. It was like a movie, they did the player intros, and all the GB players were at the center of the field, and I was at the 30, when they ran off, it was a little smoky, and Randall just emerges from the team and runs over to give me a big hug – that was an awesome moment.
Who out there right now would you love to tour with, pick their brains a bit?
The two guys that blow me away, and it’s their work ethic – I want to be these guys in 20 years – Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney, and Keith Urban too actually. Those guys just figured out how to stay relevant over time and it’s amazing what they’ve done. Truly talented and they just work their butts off.
You were listed as one of Nashville’s “Most Eligible Singles” – did you catch a lot of heat from your guy friends with that one?
It was funny – I got a text from a friend at Walmart and for some reason that magazine was in the Home & Garden section. He goes, “yeah, that’s where they magazine deserves to be.” (laughs) They give me hell a little bit, a lot of them were really excited though.
Do you listen to any music that may surprise people? Like for me, I’ll admit I listen to One Direction from time to time…
(Laughs) Boys Like Girls. I freaking love them. They were really popular maybe six or so years ago. Kind of like Simple Plan – but they were my favorite of those groups.