Music is really a curious thing. It can pump you up for your night on the town, it can be your soundtrack for your long Summer road trip, it can give you and your friends that undying anthem that every time you hear it transports you back in time.
And a really good song, is living and breathing.
Hear me out…have you ever heard a new song come on the radio and immediately fell in love with it and before you know it you find yourself blasting it every time it comes on – but it isn’t until someone points it out or maybe you revisit the song years later do you realize what the song is really about. And it hits you differently.
What you thought was a fun and carefree song actually carries a deep, dark burdensome secret buried in each catchy lyric. The once mind-numbing bop of a song suddenly transforms and somehow becomes personal and leaves you feeling vulnerable.
That’s the beauty of music.
The two picks this week deal with some important messy real-life issues that if you don’t listen closely enough – can be hidden behind rhythmic beats and melodious harmonies.
1. The throwback
“Jackson” by: Southern Call
I met Southern Call back in September at a small show at City Winery in Nashville. While they were performing my friends and I shared looks – they were good… like REALLY good. After the show we made our way over to them to introduce ourselves.
The second time I met them was at a friend’s backyard birthday party (fun fact: the friend is the photographer of Huckleberry Creative Co who took the single artwork for this track). Our friends started to talk up Southern Call’s upcoming single release as they shot their music video for it and they played it for us to hear. At the first note I was blown away.
Americana duo Southern Call, comprised of engaged couple Cierra Louise and Sean Trainor, breathe new life into the Cash & Carter classic, “Jackson”.
We all know the iconic country duo of Johnny Cash and June Carter. The 2005 biopic, Walk the Line brought to the forefront what the stage light didn’t reveal, a tumultuous marriage that hung on by a thread most of their union. I would believe completely unintentional, but a song that possibly epitomizes how broken they really were is forever immortalized in their duet “Jackson” (watch their version here).
Although often credited for the track, Cash and Carter were not its original singers or songwriters. Originally written by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerome Leiber in 1963 and was later made popular through two different releases in 1967; Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood over in the pop world and then as an undeniable country hit by the infamous Johnny Cash and June Carter, reaching number two on the Billboard Country Singles chart.
The original Johnny and June cut was upbeat, and however popular it was, completely overshadowed the desperate nature of the song. This is why I absolutely fell in love with Southern Call’s version – it’s true to its intended meaning and is spellbinding all while doing so.
“Sean and I normally record all original music but one night we were watching the movie Walk the Line and they started playing “Jackson”. We’ve both always been huge fans of Johnny Cash and June Carter, but when we were watching that movie, “Jackson” just seemed to hit a little different. On first listen, this song could be taken as a happy love song, but when you really listen to the lyrics, this song is about betrayal, heartache and trying to make a relationship work. After listening on repeat for days after watching the movie, we were inspired to create our own spin on such a classic song.”
Cierra is right, the song is heartbreaking just take the second verse for example:
“Well, go on down to Jackson; go ahead and wreck your health.
Go play your hand you big-talkin’ man, make a big fool of yourself,
Yeah, go to Jackson; go comb your hair!
Honey, I’m gonna snowball Jackson
See if I care”
It’s almost like we are flies on the wall listening to a couple’s fight that is filled with daggered threats – “the fire went out” and he’s fed up. He hits her with the news that he’s leaving and going to go find someone new, he’s going to “mess around”. She hits back with the classic – ‘you’re not gonna hurt me, you’re only hurting yourself’. These are all fighting words, meant to hurt the other person. She feels betrayed and he is done.
Southern Call’s individual voices perfectly compliment the other in the duo. Cierra’s voice is soft, desperate and strong all at the same time, truly capturing the complex hurt of the woman in the duet. This is perfectly exemplified in the way she sings the line “make a big fool of yourself” and “see if I care”. Sean’s voice is equally fierce and defiant, you’ll hear this especially in the line “I’m goin’ to Jackson, you turn-a loose-a my coat”.
What brings these hardened feelings to life are the incredible haunting strings and acoustic guitar. The intro opens with a slow fade in of a wailing steel guitar invoking the feeling of being on an open road. The rhythm is consistent, slowly adding in layers of percussion, shaker, and subtle electric keys winding down with strings and piano, and finally picking back up with all layers. In between the 4th and final verses are background vocals of ‘oohs’ and ‘mmms’ adding texture and building to the climax of the song.
The production is beautifully cinematic and is undoubtedly made for syncing; great for a drama TV series or scoring the credits roll in a film. (Someone get these people a publishing deal!)
This is one of those songs that when you listen to it on repeat, you’ll notice something you hadn’t noticed before and ultimately making you fall deeper in love with it. Their compilation of this iconic single is beyond beautiful and genius.
Sean and Cierra wrote the arrangement in their home studio. Sean not only sang, but played acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums, strings, piano, keyboard, AND produced and mixed. Cierra sang and added percussion. Mark Deschner was on steel guitar.
Make sure to follow the duo on Spotify and Instagram to stay up to date with their releases. I encourage you to check out their previous releases all make for a great soundtrack as your working, I’m a fan of “House on a Rock”.
2. The relatable one
“Trust Issues” by: Jackie Castro
As I write this, I realized both songs are from people I personally know, but *disclaimer*, I promise I wouldn’t review them unless I truly believed in them.
Jackie Castro is a friend, but I first met her when I worked at the Jonas Group.
I actually was Day-to-Day Manager for Jackie and her brothers when she was in their family band, Castro. The band did quite well; making a television appearance on The Wendy Williams Show, toured with amazing acts such as Andy Grammer and Gavin DeGraw and debuted at #1 on the Singer/Songwriter charts on iTunes and accumulated over 9 million streams on Spotify.
However, in 2018 Jackie made the decision to go solo to find her own artistry. It’s been a year of releasing music and she is killing the game with her new representation at Modern Management. Even as a stand-alone artist she’s got quite the resume.
She’s seen her fair share of radio play and has been consistently added to numerous streaming platforms’ editorial playlists. Garnering over 500k streams with her previous singles, all well deserved.
The Columbian-American alt-pop artist has an amazingly unique voice and songwriting style. Citing Taylor Swift as a major songwriting influence. Her newest single is a look into this raw talent’s personal struggles.
With a title like “Trust Issues” a listener would be geared up to hear a song about an ex, but not everything is as it seems. Castro is actually giving us an incredible close-up and personal insight into her mind detailing the struggle with self-image and fighting the voice in her head that puts her down. Painting a picture of a real-life relatable issue that many fall prey to.
“It took me a long time to realize how important it is to be kind to yourself. I’ve always been confident with the person I present to the world, but the person I was alone with at night when all I had were my thoughts was a different story. All I could see were my flaws. I’ve always been a perfectionist and an over-achiever, and I realized I constantly worked so hard because I was always trying to prove to myself that I was enough (If you’re familiar with the Enneagram, this song was written by three 3’s!).
Feelings aren’t always truth. You can FEEL like you’re not enough, like you’re undeserving of love, but it’s not true. I’ve learned to not always trust the voice in my head. And I’ve realized that the more I show love to myself, the more I become the person I’ve always wanted to be.
Thankful for the people in my life who remind me of the truth when I need to hear it. So I’m here to say it to you – you are enough. <3”
“I got trust issues with the voice in my head
Cause it’s telling me lies I can’t seem to forget
Like you’re not enough and you don’t deserve love
And I wish I could make it shut up
I got trust issues but they’re all in my mind
Me to myself is someone I don’t like
With this damage I do and what I put me through
I’m believing in things that aren’t true
I got trust issues
I got trust issues”
This track has plenty of simple but effective nuances to bring about a solid and memorable song. I really love the juxtaposition she uses in lines such as “pretty face, ugly thoughts” or the way the arrangement feels like a ‘broken record’ with the consistent dinging of keys and ticking of acoustic guitar strings – relaying the feeling of the continuous and never-ending internal fight with her inner voice.
Sounding similar to pop artist, Lauv, the mix is catchy and full of reverb and bass.
I’m also obsessed with the texture added in her voice when she says “issues” at the end of each chorus, check it out… you’ll know what I mean. The echoes of background vocals and harmonies give off a dreamy feel, also inciting a feeling of being stuck in a thought. Even the subtle layered percussion that sounds like a solid rock breaking before the line “And I’ve broke my own heart enough” is brilliant – hats off to the amazing production by Chase Martinez.
I can’t stress enough how much it would be worth your time to take a listen to this song. Make sure to check out Jackie’s previous released singles, she is one you shouldn’t miss out on.
The single was written by Jackie Castro, Chase Martinez, and Emily Falvey.
Watch the official music video here.
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