Kildare’s Pam Jackson tells Adam Shaw why her music is a hybrid of ‘American heart and Irish head’
Pam Jackson has got her family to blame for any lack of street cred she might have suffered as a kid. While all her classmates were scrawling Bon Jovi and Def Leppard all over their schoolbooks, hers were adorned with the words ‘John Hogan’.
Looking back she says it can’t have come across as particularly cool but at the time – and even now – she wasn’t the slightest bit bothered. Country music had always been on in her household, it was what she was brought up on, and it was what she loved.
“I’d always been into country music from a very young age because it was all we ever listened to,” she said. “Then I went to see John Hogan and I was absolutely blown away. I got an autograph off him and it was pride and joy – I used to keep it on my desk.”
As well as enjoying country as a force of habit, as she grew older, she realised that the lyrics and background to such songs are what makes it so endearing.
“Of course the sound is important to music, and country benefits from the fact that it has a nice tempo and a good beat. But the lyrics are everything to me. There’s no other style of music which, if it intends to, can bring a tear to your eye almost every time,” she said.
Her investment into country music set her on a natural course to performing, with things kicking into gear in 2009. She entered a competition called It’s My Dream to Sing in Nashville and, although she didn’t win, she performed well enough to prick people’s interest.
A number of people realised that she had plenty of talent, passion and drive and, after a trip to country’s heartland, she recorded her first album, Guardian Angels, in Cork. And while her true love lies with American country music, she more than appreciates the Irish arm of the genre.
“Growing up, most of the stuff I listened to was coming out of the US – I’m a huge Dolly Parton fan,” she said. “You could say it’s where my heart but the Irish influence is still there – it has to be given that that’s where I’m from. And we all see the need to appeal to the Irish market because country – and in particular Irish country – is massive over here.”
This blend of ‘American heart-Irish head’ has led Pam to create her own musical style; something she sees as essential in an ever-more saturated industry. “Of course you’re always going to have influences and there can be a temptation to mimic others but I’d like to think I’ve got my own sound,” she explained.
“I remember one of my songs coming on the radio and someone thought it was Susan McCann but John McNicholl knew straight away that it was me. “He went, ‘no, that’s Pam’ and it’s really nice to have that recognition.”
She’s been gradually making inroads into the Irish country music scene since her break on the talent show and, despite taking a break to spend time with her three-year-old daughter, she has just released a new single. My Dreams Are Having Reruns of You was written in the 1960s but had never been recorded. Pam described it as a “classic Philomena song” and she hopes to have done it justice.
“There’ll be a video in the New Year, so that gives people something else to look forward to, and I hope to have another album out by the end of 2017,” she said.
She also hopes to secure more live performances both in Ireland and the UK after successfully opening for Georgette Jones on her 2011 Irish Tour and having twice graced the stage at Conways 3. “I absolutely love playing live to people. It can be a bit nervy at the start but once I get into it, there’s nothing better,” she said. “It was amazing playing for the Irish crowds over here in the UK. They get so immersed in the music and are always on the floor, right in the thick of it.”
These shows, as well as the ones she has hosted on Hot Country on the Sky TV platform, have provided her with some of the highlights of her musical career. They are perhaps only topped by her visit to Tennessee, which is to be expected, given that US country remains her first love.
“Going to Nashville was an absolute dream come true. I recorded two songs at the Tracking Room Studio and got the chance to tour the Ryman Auditorium,” she explained. “Then there was the trip to Dollywood. I was almost overcome when I sat in the museum surrounded by her memorabilia. “You get to see the coat of many colours she sang about – whether it’s a replica or not – and you really got a sense of her drive and want to succeed.”
Pam hopes that some of these attributes will have rubbed off on her as she seeks to continue her own personal journey into the world of country music.
With her new single out and another album in the pipeline, there could be many more trips round Ireland, Britain and Nashville on the horizon.