Country newcomer Jackson Dean has been laying the groundwork for a solid career in country music. The singer/songwriter’s first single, “Don’t Come Lookin’,” has reached #23 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart and it’s heading higher. The success of this single has brought attention to Dean’s first album, Greenbroke, which he released on Big Machine Records in March (2022).
Hailing from Odenton, Maryland, Dean signed with Big Machine Records and released his debut 5-song EP, Jackson Dean, in April 2021. On his EP and on his album, it’s clear that Dean has a deep, powerful voice that adds a soulful, earthy edge to his songs. In addition, his songs are thoughtful and well-written, and he’s collaborated with top Nashville writers such as Jesse Frasure, Casey Beathard and Luke Dick. Impressively, Dean co-wrote every song on his album, Greenbroke.
Notably, Dean’s single “Don’t Come Lookin’” has also had an impact in films and TV shows. The single was featured on the soundtrack for Netflix’s The Ice Road movie, and it was included in an episode of Paramount Network’s popular TV series, Yellowstone (starring Kevin Costner).
Currently, Dean is on tour playing some headlining shows, and opening for top artists such as Brooks & Dunn, Lee Brice, Brad Paisley and Toby Keith. He’s also performing at several festivals including CMA Fest. He has previously opened shows for Miranda Lambert, Brantley Gilbert, Kane Brown, Brothers Osborne and other artists.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Jackson Dean. He tells how he got started in the music business, and tells how he wrote his hit single, “Don’t Come Lookin’.” He also discusses his debut album and his tour.
BC: What’s the story behind “Don’t Come Lookin’”?
Here’s the video of Jackson Dean’s hit, “Don’t Come Lookin’.”
Jackson Dean: The song, “Don’t Come Lookin’” I wrote with (hit songwriter & artist) Luke Dick. It was my first song where I was like, “Okay, I’ve got one now.” We were writing one day over at his place, and we had the vibe, we had the stomp, and the attitude. But he didn’t have any words. I kind of mumbled something under my breath. It was something I used to say to my mom before I left the house for a couple of days or go out in the woods for a little while. She would say, “Stay within earshot or stay alive no matter what occurs.” I’d go, “Momma, if I don’t come back, don’t come looking for me.” I mumbled that under my breath. Luke whipped around and said, ‘What did you just say?’ I said, “If I don’t come back, don’t come looking for me.” He said, “That’s what we’re doing today.” It took us about an hour or so to write it. It was one of those where it came together.
BC: The song has been played on Paramount’s television show, Yellowstone. How did that come about?
Dean: I think it was kind of a unanimous decision across the label and the publishing house and WME (agency) that it was pointed in that direction. I remember my L.A. agent for WME calling me and she was like, “Are you sitting down? I said, “No.” She said, “Well, you might want to because we just got your song in an episode of Yellowstone (starring Kevin Costner).” I about fell down. It was really awesome. I never had nothing like that before. Hell, yeah! Kevin Costner, absolutely, 100%! It’s the biggest show on television right now, and I was very grateful and very happy. They played close to a minute of it, and I feel like they do the music justice. In the dialogue there’s really not much happening so when the song does come on, it like just kicks you in the head.
BC: What do you see as your strength as songwriter?
Dean: Probably delivering the emotion. Most of the time I’m carrying the melody so I just get to bring it to life in that way. I love dancing with my voice. Like today, we had so much fun picking melodies today. That’s what I love to do. I love singing it down and doing that.
Here’s the video of Jackson Dean’s song, “Trailer Park.”
BC: You collaborate as a writer for your new album with Luke Dick, who is also the producer. Why do you click so well together?
Dean: I think it’s really two big blonde dudes that are weird getting along. He likes a lot of the same things that I do, and not just musically. I would probably follow him anywhere because he’s taught me so much. He wants to get edgy, and I want to get edgy. He wants to write things that are beautiful, and I want to write things that are beautiful. The thing that I think really does it is that he can go anywhere and write anything, but it’s still him. That’s the way I am. What he does, I do my way. He’s a great friend, and he’s taught me so much.
BC: Were you pursuing any particular theme for the new album, or did anything emerge as you were going along?
Dean: The expansiveness of it. It’s a big sound, and there’s a lot going on at one time. Some of it is a little in your face, and some of it is a little space-ish, but it all really has a landscape. That record paints an interesting landscape sonically. I want all the visuals to reflect that. That’s why we went to Santa Fe. You turn this way…there’s Arizona, and then you go this way…there’s New Mexico, and over there is Wyoming and that looks like California somewhere. And the solos are big.
BC: One of the songs on there, “Don’t Take Much,” sounds autobiographical. Is it?
Dean: I wrote that about the shack [where I used to live]. It was just four block walls with a stove in the corner and a couch that I had built and my bed in the corner. It was great. It was my dad’s room, my uncle’s room, my cousin’s room, and then it was mine. It was some of the best times of my life, and I would happily do it all over again.
BC: Are you excited to see the fan reaction to the new music?
Here’s the video of Jackson Dean’s song, “Red Light.”
Dean: Yeah man, and we’re all so excited, and we’re all so pumped. This is going to be a big year for us on the road. We’re about to play some pretty awesome places and check some bucket list items off the list. I really am excited to take it to the people really hard. We’re also pumped because it’s the first time that we’re going to have sustained repetition. We’re going to be with the same crew for 20 plus days. This is going to be so easy. We’re all very excited to go and play the record this year.
BC: This year, you’ll be touring with Brooks & Dunn and Lee Brice. Do you hope to hang with them and maybe do some writing?
Dean: I would love to meet Ronnie Dunn. One of the first songs I ever sang on stage was “Cost of Livin’” by Ronnie Dunn. So, it’s going to be a big full circle moment. He’s got one of the best voices in our genre by far. Those are going to be legendary plays. Hell, yeah! Some of those guys might come in and say hello for five minutes and scoot out. Who knows? Usually, by the first day we’re so easy. We just roll out the four-piece band, their tracks, set us up, we’re crazy. The day after that their crew loves us because we’re so easy. I think everything will be good after about a day or two.
BC: It’s going to be interesting to see how people react, now that your music has become even more exposed and opening for big acts. What are your expectations for the tour?
Dean: To sell a shit ton of merch! (laughs) No, man. I really have to look out there and see people really in it. I hope they let themselves come walk in my world for the time that I have on the stage. That’s all any of us can really ask, but I just hope they get to see the world that I see.
Bill Conger is a freelance writer for various publications including Bluegrass Unlimited, ParentLife, Homecoming, and Singing News and is currently writing a biography on The Osborne Brothers with Bobby Osborne. He can be reached at [email protected].