“If you look around at the world, the hardest thing to do is to overcome the darkness that is around us — to break through that weight. It’s the role of the artist to push back against that.”
Like any siblings, guitarist Jonathan Jackson and drummer Richard Lee Jackson used to specialize in discord. Their preteen years in Washington state involved a lot of “rolling around on the ground and punching, choking, all kind of things,” recalls the latter. One indelible memory even involves a spat, a hockey stick, and multiple stitches. But thankfully, that didn’t last long. Because once Jonathan (then 11) finally convinced his reluctant older brother (then 14) to jam with him in their parents’ basement, cacophony led way to harmony — and that formed an unwavering foundation for Jonathan Jackson + Enation, their anthemic rock band about to release its fourth album, Radio Cinematic, this fall.
“I’m sure it sounded like crap,” explains Jonathan, of their first time playing together. “But we played for three hours and thought it was the most incredible thing ever.” Their skill set has evolved considerably since then. These days, the Nashville band Jonathan Jackson + Enation — which also includes longtime friend, bassist Daniel Sweatt — has independently released music that’s popped up on TV and charted in the top 10 on iTunes’ rock chart. In 2011, their ever-sprawling grassroots fan base also buoyed them on to win a national AOL competition, which featured the trio on a Times Square billboard.
The brothers first dipped their toes into music “professionally” as members of Scarlet Road, a classic-rock band with their father, country artist Ricky Lee Jackson, and his brother Gary. Jonathan just was 14 and Richard 17 when, decked out in leather, they performed songs such as U2’S “Bullet the Blue Sky” to adult concertgoers at venues like the Whiskey a Go Go. These trials by fire helped tighten up their live shows. “Sometimes the audience just didn’t care, so there was a real fight to get people’s attention and do something they’d remember,” says Jonathan. “I wasn’t out partying — I was studying how bands like U2 do the things they do.”
Acts such as U2, Pearl Jam, and Peter Gabriel not only shaped Enation’s confident sound, but also informed their desire to create music that lingers. With their dad’s blessing, the brothers decided to make music a full-time occupation, and they recruited Daniel, whom they met socially. He made his Enation membership official with — what else? — an epic jam session. “Within a month of meeting each other,” Daniel marvels, “we were playing music together.”
That was 15 years ago. And as a nod to that enduring synergy, Radio Cinematic will be the first Jonathan Jackson + Enation album produced to sound like their invigorating concerts. Why now? Says Richard, simply: “Well, we’ve just never been able to capture that energy before.”
The word “Enation” is technically a botany term referring to an outgrowth on a plant. The band immediately took to its metaphoric meaning, as it applied to both their live and recorded performances. “It means to bring forth, give birth,” notes Richard, “the idea that you can actually have an idea that inspires and encourages.”
To that end, the band has worked to raise money through their music with charities such as the anti-human trafficking organization NOT FOR SALE and The Syria Project, in support of refugees. “We feel like we have something that’s special,” says Daniel. “We owe it to people to try to get this out there, raise awareness for things they might not know.”
That theme of illumination resonates through Radio Cinematic, co-produced by Greg Archilla (Matchbox 20, Collective Soul) and Patrick Dillett (David Byrne, The National) — starting with its first single, the sprawling, swelling “Everything Is Possible.” Jonathan hammers out the most of the band’s melodies and lyrics himself, before roping in his bandmates to bring those songs to life. His chorus for this cut — “I wake up every day and feel brand new / Love / Everything is possible with you” — is at once vague and subversive in elocution. “Love has a fight in it. It’s not passive. It’s fierce,” he says of the track’s reliability. “There’s this proverb: Love is stronger than death. ‘Everything Is Possible’ takes that idea of rebellion and applies it to love.”
It will be followed by “Cinematic.” The track unfolds intimately — a tug of war between simmering piano and soaring falsettos. More specific in its assertions of love, it revisits “new beginnings by colliding a love story with our musical journey as a band,” says Jonathan. That is perhaps Radio Cinematic’s most intriguing magic trick: its uncanny ability to look forward by first looking back.
“The philosopher G.K. Chesterton once wrote about entering your second childhood,” says Jonathan. (He’s a big reader whose musical output is frequently inspired by the several books he’s reading at any given time.) “There comes a point when you’re an adult, where you’re given an invitation to rediscover the beauty and wonder of life, of what exists all around you. With Radio Cinematic we’re also exploring the paradox between sight and sound and how they’re connected.”
From Jonathan Jackson + Enation’s inception, its members innocently asked big questions about life, and contemplated how their music would fit into it. When playing clubs such as The Roxy as a kid, Jonathan says, “The drug for me was music — this endless mystery to learning more and experiencing more.” Now, even as celebrated musicians, a youthful optimism and curiosity continues to simmer in them. “If you look around at the world, the hardest thing to do is to overcome the darkness that is around us — to break through that weight,” Jonathan says. “It’s the role of the artist to push back against that.”
Jonathan Jackson + Enation formed through friendship and playing gigs together over the course of a couple years. Jonathan, as the songwriter, guitar player, piano player and lead vocalist, has been influenced by a number of artists; most prevalently, Bono and the Edge from U2, Bob Dylan, Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins, and Leonard Cohen. An odd blend, some might say. But the restlessness and searching in each of his mentors, give insight into Jonathan’s own hunger for purpose and higher calling. Jonathan brings a rare combination as a frontman––the ability to convey an array of emotions vocally that could make Bono proud, while at the same time play guitar riffs that reach for the heights of The Edge. Lyricists the likes of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Leonard Cohen round out the influences that give singer/songwriter Jackson, and consequently the band who boasts his name, the cocktail that seamlessly blends sonic anthems with insightful, lyrically driven emotional anthems.
Drummer Richard Lee’s influences began when he was young with the love-drenched, insanely reverb laden snare back beats of Chicago. As he grew older, his musical tastes developed into a love for the heart-pounding war-like pulsing of Larry Mullen, Jr. of U2, the anthemic inspirations of Stewart Smith from the British band, Delirious?, as well as the formidable passion of Marcus Dahlstrøm from the Swedish-Metal band Blindside. The combination gives Jonathan Jackson + Enation a fresh energy and anthemic backbeat that holds the songs together.
In the earliest formation, bassist Daniel Sweatt played rhythm guitar, but after a couple years he moved to play bass. Daniel’s instincts as a guitar player were a benefit for the band; he brings a musical quality to his bass playing that is as much based on melody as it is low end punches.
The founding members of the band, the brothers Jackson and Daniel Sweatt, inhabit Jonathan Jackson + Enation as a tour-de-force three piece. They continue to create music that has given them the reviews and reputation as being one of the premier indie bands in America.
A B O U T T H E B A N D :
‘The first thing people ask us if they’ve never heard us before is who do you sound like? Well, we like to say that it’s as if U2, Radiohead, and Bob Dylan all got together for breakfast, decided to adopt a baby boy, called it Jonathan Jackson + Enation, and then left it to fend for itself,’ drummer Richard Lee Jackson says.
Jonathan Jackson, lead singer, songwriter, guitars and piano player for the band, speaks up. ‘Bands like Coldplay, U2, and Pearl Jam are great examples of artists who are dedicated to their craft but who also see their music as a vehicle for emotional and social change. In short, they are bands who have inspired us to go beneath the surface, to create songs that are not just for entertainment — but for emotional and spiritual connection, enlightenment, and social change.’
‘It’s all about having integrity as an artist,’ says bassist Daniel Sweatt. ‘There are a lot of bands out there who are okay dwelling on the surface of things — which is totally fine for them, and there’s some good music out there doing that. But surface is not us. We’re looking to go deeper, to have music that’s beneath the surface.’
Jonathan Jackson + Enation are an anthemic American rock band with a Euro/Rock flare which CDBaby calls ‘One of indie’s premier rock bands’. Since their first album release in 2004 their music has been featured on MTV.com, ‘One Tree Hill’, ‘General Hospital’, and other soundtracks.
Jonathan Jackson is also a five-time Emmy Award winning actor who can currently be seen on the ABC primetime drama ‘Nashville’. Jonathan plays Avery Barkley, an up and coming singer-songwriter trying to make it in Music City.
Jonathan Jackson + Enation came onto the music scene late 2004, the year they released their first album, “Identity Theft”. The band immediately had their music featured on MTV.com and the film ‘Stephen King’s Riding The Bullet’. Since that time they have sold over 200,000 songs, and have been featured on ‘One Tree Hill’, ‘General Hospital’, A&E’s ‘Dog The Bounty Hunter’ and a host of other soundtracks. Their song ‘Feel This (feat. Enation)’ went Top 10 on the iTunes Rock Charts (#8). Their EP, ‘The Madness Of Love’ held 5 of the Top 10 songs on the National CDBaby Rock Charts––and their single ‘Glorious’ was the #1 song for 4 + weeks across all genres on CDBaby, the largest distributor of independent music in the world. They were nominated to the prestigious New Music Seminar’s Top 100 ‘Artists on the Verge’ list which noted, “These are the artists in America most ready to break…” The band also won the Grand Prize four times on the MTV sponsored international song competition, OurStage, a website that boasts over 4 million registered fans.
Jonathan Jackson + Enation won a national competition sponsored by AOL.com from the new social media splash page web company About.Me. Over 50,000 entries were voted on by the national public to choose the Top 20 pages. Next, a panel from About.Me/AOL chose the top 10, and then finally awarded their top three pages as the grand prize winners.
The band won the grand prize––including being featured on a NY Times Square billboard for a month in downtown Manhattan, an invitation to attend About.Me’s special event in New York City and free national exposure as one of the three ‘faces’ of the About.Me campaign throughout the year.
Jonathan Jackson + Enation also partner with the charities The Syria Project, an organization helping to bring aid to Syrian refugees caught in the middle of their bloody Civil War, and the anti-human trafficking organization NOT FOR SALE, which helps bring awareness to combat the growing global atrocity of modern-day slavery.
CDBaby, the largest distributor of independent music online in the world, took notice that the band is “Fast becoming known as one of the best epic rock bands around,” and recently also declared that they are ‘one indie’s premier rock bands.’
THE MUSICAL ROOTS
The roots of Jonathan Jackson + Enation’s musical influences stem from each band member’s own history and preferences; Jonathan and Richard gravitated early to the anthemic, emotional, and spiritual qualities heard in the likes of U2, Peter Gabriel, and Radiohead. Both the Jackson brothers and Daniel Sweatt formed much of their musical skeleton from the largely alternative rock landscape of the early-to-late 90’s as well, from such bands as Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam.
Jonathan Jackson + Enation create music that is beneath the surface. With a beautifully complex and emotional catalogue of music that has earned them the reputation as one of the premier independent rock bands in America, they continue to stake new ground in a world that holds endless possibilities for them.
“Fast becoming recognized as ONE OF THE BEST EPIC ROCK BANDS AROUND, the group combines expensive jams with honest, soulful lyricism.” ~ CD BABY / Notable Artist, Newsletter
“These are the artists in America most ready to break… The New Music Seminar recognizes these 100 Artists On the Verge as the strongest among the hundreds of thousands of artists in the field.”
~ New Music Seminar / Top 100 “Artists On The Verge”
“Emotional Rock, enveloped by a sensible and captivating voice… could be a mix between Radiohead and U2. Contagious and fascinating, able to touch anyone… becoming one of the most elegant formations of American Rock, with European-style…”
“Much of (the album) is driven by echo-laden guitars… splashes of piano… and an arena-rock backbeat that holds it all together. The heartthrob’s rock star skills borrow from the book of Bono, with vocals that range from breathy whispers to an overdriven falsetto that hits with all the impact of a raw nerve. The group’s lyrics suggest a tantalizing spirituality, hinting at a deeper faith that’s never made explicit. Much like U2, there’s a scriptural tone to many of (the) lyrics—but it never gets heavy enough to turn off secular fans.”
“Contains masterfully written songs. Frontman Jonathan has an exceptional quality in his soft vocals… whispering Fatherly advice like a lullaby. Beautiful piano accompaniment…”
~ RADIOINDY / Enation won a GrIndie Award for their album “Soul & Story: Volume One”, an indie artist awards coinciding with the Grammy’s
“(They)… have burst on the scene… The vocals sound like a cross between David Gray and Augustana which is a perfect soothing blend… The songs are rich in symbolism… I highly recommend this album to anyone who enjoys Augustana… or Snow Patrol.”
“…their footprint as an independent band has a national, if not international, imprint… The band has been compared to the likes of Radiohead, Coldplay, Snow Patrol, and U2. Much like the bands they are compared to, (their) audiences seem to be left breathless by the passion and power of their live concert experience.”
“(They) work magic… that lets all the raw-nerve intensity of frontman Jonathan Jackson’s songwriting bleed out… he’ll make you a believer.” ~ SOAPCASTS.com
“Earnest, U2-inspired rock…”
~ THE COLUMBIAN NEWSPAPER
“Compared to the likes of Radiohead and U2…”
~ CBS affiliate station / KATU BROADCAST
“(Jonathan Jackson and Enation) is quickly becoming known as one of the best independent bands on the music scene today.”
“A rock band with a bright future… (Listen to the) strong vocals and thoughtful lyrics… and you’ll understand why it’s always at the top of the charts.”
~ OurStage.com / Enation is a four-time Grand Prize Winner on this MTV Sponsored International Indie Song Competition
“Jonathan creates a glimmer of positivity that bursts through the darkest days and elegantly screams, ‘You’re not alone. You can do anything to which you set your mind. You will not only survive your struggles, you’re going to emerge a better person.’
Legions of fans have latched onto and propelled Jonathan and Enation to the forefront of the independent rock world.”