GCMA 2020 | Musician of the Year finalist: Jackson Dunn

Jackson Dunn knows a thing or two about performing on the Gold Coast. He started playing guitar when he was ten and went on to form a three-piece grunge band that would regularly perform at famed venue The Playroom. It was an open jam night but as Jackson says “we’d play our little hearts out.”

He was hooked on guitar from day one.

“My mum would play to my brothers and myself to put us to sleep and I was fascinated by it,” Jackson said.

“Before I knew any chords, I would sit the guitar on my lap like a lap steel and hit the strings with chops sticks in a rhythmic pattern until I made a tune.”

Jackson’s been recognised for his amazing musicianship, standing alongside Leesa Gentz, Felicity Lawless, Julz Parker and Lindsay Waddington for the Musician of the Year category this year, sponsored by Gold Coast Music.

But, like many creative workers, Jackson hasn’t always found this artistic path to be an easy one.

“I always struggled as a musician to make a living when I was younger not because the will or talent wasn’t there but because I was uneducated in the business side of the industry,” Jackson said.

“It wasn’t until I did a year long music business TAFE course that I started to treat my career as an actual business. It really helped me to realise the business potential I had as a self-managed touring solo musician. I started seeing all the mistakes I had been making as well as missed opportunities and began to iron them out.”

“If you want to get paid like a professional then you have to act like a professional.”

Jackson says one of the biggest challenges for him as a solo artist is being pigeon-holed. When he first started performing solo, John Butler and Jack Johnson were massive and because he also played guitar he’d be put straight into that genre.

“But once you see one of my performances, you’ll know I’m not,” he said.

Gold Coast is most certainly home for Jackson, and before ‘the Rona’ his life was basically on tour. Jackson would proudly introduce himself as being from the Gold Coast.

“I love being a Gold Coast musician,” he said. “The music scene here is thriving with so many cool venues to play or go listen to music. From live rock sets at Mo’s to intimate acoustic sets at Ground n Sound… My two faves… I can’t really say anything bad about the Goldy. I love it here.”

If you haven’t heard or seen Jackson perform you need to know that his is a “big guitar” sound. He combines lightning speed strumming with a beer bottle for a slide. He’s got thumping foot stomps and mesmerising drum loops and alongside that, riffs that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride.

It’s a skill he’s honed through a strict regime of practice, something he’s taken from a stint as in amateur boxing

“One thing that was drilled into our heads was: Preparation. Preparation. Preparation. And that has stuck with me into my music career,” Jackson explained. “I always make time to rehearse. Even when I’m on the road for months on end. I make time. Hotel room, acoustic rehearsal in camper… I feel like I’m lying to the audience if I don’t give them all that I can. Kinda like ‘hey here’s a half arsed version of what I can do, hope you like it’.

And his advice to newcomers in this space is along those same lines.

“Play every show with the same passion and intensity as if it were your last. I used to try and win crowds over with banter or gimmicks but it’s in the moments where I completely lose myself in the guitar that always gets the loudest reactions.”

And as with plenty of artists who’ve grown up performing on the Gold Coast, Jackson has connections with most of the other finalists for the Musician of the Year category. He’s shared stages with Leesa Gentz and Julz Parker as well as Felicity Lawless.

“The Hussy Hicks actually donated me an old small PS system years ago I used for many years as a home rehearsal set up… cheers girls,” Jackson added.

Jackson’s got a new single coming out later in the year called ‘All the Feels’ and he cannot wait to hit the road again soon.

Follow Jackson’s journey at fb.com/jacksondunnmusic.

Learn more about the other Musician of the Year finalists at this year’s Gold Coast Music awards.

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