African-American artist Tony Jackson speaks on changing landscape of country music

Local News

The CMA’s — for those who didn’t watch — featured some of the biggest names in country music: Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Little Big Town and others. But it also featured the likes of Kane Brown and Lil Nas X — African-American artists who’ve made an impact over the past year.

Richmond native Tony Jackson, a black artist who has made it to the pinnacle of country music, says a new generation is making its impact on the traditional sound of country.

Jackson was discovered on YouTube covering ‘Grand Tour,’ a 1974 classic from George Jones. It’s unquestionably American country music.

But so are songs on Jackson’s new album, produced by country music stalwart Donna Dean Stevens.

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Jackson is also a regular at The Grand Ol’ Opry.

“This’ll be my fourth time coming up and that is the absolute top, my friend says, of country music,” Jackson said. “And it’s true!”

Now, compare Jackson’s sound to the booming bass and defiance of the summer’s biggest hit, “Old Town Road.”

Industry types call the genre, ‘Hick-Hop.’

“Hick-Hop is rap/country music all going on in the same thing,” Jackson explained.

But that’s not Jackon’s preferred style.

“My flavor of country is more traditional,” he said.

“We have to do what we need to do.” — Tony Jackson

Jackson was inspired to sing country as a Navy brat in Spain, listening to Armed Forces Radio.

“It just happens that overseas, most of that is country,” he said. “I think it’s because of the recurring themes of home and family and the things you miss when you’re overseas.”

Meeting Randy Travis on a USO Tour sealed the deal for the 10-year-old.

“So I was all about Randy Travis from that point,” Jackson said. “It’s never been far removed.” 

Singing traditional songs feels good to Jackson, who has children.

“Country music speaks to me the most at this point in my life,” he said.

And he says that takes nothing away from ‘new jacks’ like Kane Brown and Lil Nas X.

“I don’t think Country music’s losing something essential,” he said. “I think overall it’s a good thing. Times are changing, you know? We have to do what we need to do.”

Below are the official tour and performance dates for Jackson:

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