Norris EJ Jackson has been singing for so long that he said he can’t really remember when the itch first began. The up-and-coming gospel artist performed in front of his first audience at the age of four when he participated in his church’s youth choir concert.
At just 24-years-old, this Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduate, Glenwood, IL. native, has already shared the stage with artists such as Ivan Neville, Shele Sondhiem, Paula Cole, Jonathan McReynolds, and Charlie Sexton. If that isn’t enough of an accomplishment, the singer/songwriter can turn on the radio and hear his single, “I Don’t Want to Break Your Heart No More” playing on 102.3 Rejoice “The King’s Highway” with Darryll King. He also released his debut EP, Supernaturally Loved, which features 6 of his original songs that he wrote and produced himself.
Jackson said he credits God for his success. When it comes to the skills that are needed to produce quality music, he said he owes a huge thank you to Columbia College Chicago, where he graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Music degree in Contemporary, Urban, and Popular Music.
“Columbia helped me find who I really am and it showed me how to find my own voice,” he said.
When Jackson is working on a new piece, he said the start to finish time varies. He has finished some in an hour and the first track of his debut album, took seven years; the rest fall in between weeks and months.
Keeping God first is what has brought him this far he said. The music industry is tough and he said it’s common to cross paths with agnostics and atheists. During his time at Columbia, he said he loved the freedom that many of his peers showed towards life, music, but it was also a reminder for him to not get lost and lose focus of his beliefs, the ones that have kept him grounded.
“The freedom of expressing yourself there made me dive deeper [into my faith], I needed to let my light shine a little brighter,” he said.
When writing, Jackson describes the process as a wave of emotions. First there’s excitement, then he’s anxious as he rewrites, refines and redos melodies. Afterwards, there’s a sense of peace, but only if he is fully satisfied with his creation, he said.
The gospel artist said he hasn’t turned into the type of entertainer who has difficult needs when working.
“I’m not high maintenance, I don’t need extra stuff to create an atmosphere, just need inspiration,” he said.
He did admit that he carries his phone around everywhere because when he feels inspired, he likes to record a melody with his voice memo tool.
Jackson said that even though he’s confident and sure of his career choice now, there was once a time where he was doubtful because he let people sway him.
“Coming up, people said I couldn’t do this as a career,” he said because he wouldn’t make a living off of his voice. He said he loved math and science so from 8th grade to senior year of high school he thought he would become a doctor one day. It wasn’t until he felt God speak to him, that he realized that singing was his gift and he would continue to pursue it.
His advice for others: “Keep going and don’t stop. There are a lot of times where people start to listen but you feel like no one is really listening, you feel like there is no room for you out there. There will be lots of reasons to stop but you have to keep going,” he said.
Check out his music HERE.
To learn more about EJ and to see where he’ll be performing next, visit his website at EJMakesMusic.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @EJMakesMusic.