Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Interview: Jawan M. Jackson Chats About Christmas, Growing up in Detroit, and Performing Live Again

This Ain't Too Proud star is busy this holiday season

BWW Interview: Jawan M. Jackson Chats About Christmas, Growing up in Detroit, and Performing Live Again

Jawan M. Jackson is a man of many talents. Singer, actor, and songwriter, the Detroit native knows a thing or two about music, specifically Motown, and his roles in Broadway's Motown the Musical and Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations prove it.

I chatted with the singer and Broadway star about his love for the arts, being back on stage after the shutdown, and his new Christmas song available now.

How excited are you to have Broadway back?

I'm so excited that Broadway is back. You know getting my muscles to agree with me and be as excited as I am that Broadway is back.

Are there any shows are you looking excited to see on Broadway or have seen already?

Absolutely. Caroline, or Change is so good and I can't wait to see MJ the Musical. You can't go wrong with Michael Jackson music. Also, the new one: Black No More with Brandon Victor Dixon. I can't wait to see that as well.

You started out as a radio personality for Detroit's top radio station, Hot 107.5. Was that where you discovered your love for music?

No, it actually started with music in the church. I'm a church boy. I grew up in the church and I love to sing. As far as I can remember, singing was the very first thing I did before I could even talk. I got into school and my very first production was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat which sparked my love for theater and at that time my voice had changed from a tenor to have a baritone bass. My love for the arts spiraled and landed me where I am today.

Speaking of music, let's talk about the role Motown played growing up in Detroit.

We always had the Motown Christmas album on. It was a tradition in my family where every time I went to my cousin's house they always played the Motown Christmas album. I grew up listening to this music and listening to this sound, and I think that's probably why I have this old soul now because of the influences that my cousins and family had by playing this music.

You have your holiday song, "White Christmas" with Isaiah Templeton available now. Is this one of the songs you grew up listening to?

I discovered that one later. It's actually a funny story. I used to sing with a doo-wop group called the Tee Tones. We did a PBS special and that was one of the songs we were going to sing on our Christmas set but we never got a chance to do it. I ended up teaming up with another doo-wop group and we did an improv version of it and I knew I had to record it someday. Now it's available on all streaming platforms: iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, every single platform that's available.

What makes "White Christmas" the song you had to sing?

There aren't many artists nowadays that have a bass-baritone voice like mine so this song was a way of me introducing myself as an artist is discovering what I can do with my voice and with what it sounds like on tape. During the pandemic, Isaiah and I talked about doing a Christmas song together so my friends helped produce it and arrange the music, and Isaiah came in and put the icing on the cake. This lit a fire in me to put more music out.

Very exciting. Will you be putting out an album?

First, we'll start off with an EP. I'm having a baby and this will be kind of a love letter to him. It will be inspired by songs that I'm writing to tell him and to encourage him. I've been in the studio and writing. Hopefully, it'll be out by the time he enters the world.

Congratulations on the baby. That's wonderful news.

Thank you so much.

What type of music or genre can we expect from the EP?

I'll be a little bit of everything. I'm a melting pot of things. I don't like one specific genre, but if I had to lean toward one it would be r&b gospel infusion where my roots come from. I'm excited.

I'm excited to hear it. We can also hear your musical talents on Broadway where you performed in Motown the Musical and currently in Ain't Too Proud. What's it like performing and singing in these roles today? What does it mean to you?

It means a lot to represent my city of Detroit on a national stage. I'm honored to be from Detroit and get to kind of be an ambassador for my city in telling the story of The Temptations is also an honor. It's a privilege to be able to tell this story authentically in the way that we present it to people who come and see it.

What is your favorite song to perform from Ain't Too Proud?

"Cloud Nine". That's the one time all The Temptations get on stage and perform together. The energy within us as a group is crazy. That's the most fun I have performing a number and anything that I have left in me the audience gets at that moment before my break.

It must mean a lot being back with everybody after Broadway's shut down due to the pandemic.

It means something different this time. Before the pandemic happened, we didn't have as much loss in our personal lives and in the world. I think coming back brings us closer to telling the story. The story is more important now than ever. The same things are happening now that was happening then. I think it's important for us to shed light, to encourage people to change, and encourage some type of solidarity between everybody. I think it's very important.

How has the audience been this time around? Do you feel their excitement and energy?

Oh, absolutely. The Temptations had in their pockets was a great fan base. It feels like a concert where we're on stage perfuming. The audience is still very responsive to all the numbers. We thought at first that the masks were going to be a prohibitor of them enjoying the experience, but it's no different. We don't feel any different.

I'm happy to hear that. You're also on the board of directors for Rosie's Theater Kids here in New York. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Art education is very important to me especially because I'm a product of our art education having grown up with theater programs and summer programs at my local recreation center and high school and college. When the funding is cut art education is usually one of the first things to go in our school system. Rosie's has been such a great program and organization to help keep the arts alive. Keeping the creative fire burning in these young students and helping them throughout school and then after they graduate out of the program is really great. And now, I started a boys mentoring program. We meet monthly to check-in, especially now that the pandemic has happened and they need somebody to relate to. I'm so excited to be a part of the board member team over there.

That's wonderful. Is there anything else you are working on that you're able to share with us?

Over the pandemic, I shot a short film. That's going to be my very first leading role. It will be out in festivals in 2022 so I'm excited about it.

Related Articles

From This Author - Carissa Chesanek