Today, Kristine Jackson’s music is real, raw, and true. From her gritty smoky vocals and soul moving songwriting, to her unique guitar playing. But it didn’t happen overnight. Kristine started playing the trumpet in elementary school, but from the beginning it was more than just an afterschool hobby. Kristine describes her early years with the trumpet as a way she could deal with memories of earlier sexual child abuse. Dealing with shame and confusion she found music to be an outlet. Without the courage to confront the abuse until she was in her mid-twenties, she used her natural abilities on the trumpet to find peace-of-mind through music and ultimately this gift led her to a full time music career. With encouragement from her family and high-school band leaders she pursued a trumpet performance degree at the University of Akron. Kristine knew that music was going to be a full-time career one way or another.
As she began classical studies on the trumpet she also began a part-time job at a well-known music venue in Westlake, Ohio. Here she spent her weekends working, watching, and eventually sitting-in with numerous Cleveland and touring national acts. It was through this gained experience, and also her later experience as a freelance trumpet player, that Kristine realized classical trumpet performance was not the road she wanted. She had a strong desire to create her own music and she knew that simply playing the trumpet was only going to get her so far in the music world. In 2004 she decided to give singing a try and with a borrowed guitar she began to teach herself basic chords to accompany her voice as she learned songs, both covers and her own. Within a year she was singing four hour shows featuring original work and her own unique arrangements of cover tunes, both as an acoustic act and with a full band. It wasn’t long before the House of Blues asked her to perform opening sets for major touring acts such as B.B King and Buddy Guy.
By 2005 Kristine was performing up to 200 shows a year and it was apparent she was meant to use her voice! Performing as KJBlues, at any given show you could see that the audience had a connection to her voice and song selection. She has a captivating way of taking inspiration from her life and those around her and translating those emotions through song, whether it be an original song or how she interprets a cover.
The release of her first full-length album Candy Store came in 2010 and was a culmination of two life changing events for Kristine. Just prior to its release, Kristine took a major step and went public with the knowledge that she was sexually abused as a child. With God’s grace and her family by her side, she was able to confront the abusers and finally make steps to heal. Among the family that stood with Kristine during this time was her younger cousin, Liz. Liz was fighting a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as Kristine was still writing the tracks for Candy Store. Kristine described her as a pillar of strength and inspiration and shares that her cousin’s ability to talk so freely about her relationship with God and how she found she could vent to Him in anger and frustration and yet still find peace amidst what she was going through gave her the courage and strength to do the same in her own circumstances. Sadly, Liz passed away August 6th of 2009. As a tribute to her beautiful cousin, Kristine finished the album which ultimately included tracks not just about KJ’s past but tracks dedicated to Liz as well. Select tracks from this album are still being played on Sirius XM radio and the song “By Your Side” has been re-recorded to be the title track for KJ’s 2016 full length studio album.
Shortly after the release of Candy Store Kristine took steps to bring a bigger project to life. A project she and her cousin Liz had dreamt about; using music to raise funds for cancer research and patient support. In Liz’s honor, Kristine and her family established an official 501c3 non-profit organization called Kickin’ the Cancer Blues. This organization held concerts at venues such as the House of Blues, using not only Kristine’s talents but other local and national acts as well. These concerts raised over $50,000 for the fight on Hodgkin’s lymphoma through a membership with the LLS (Leukemia Lymphoma Society). Although Kickin’ the Cancer Blues as an official 501c3 had to be retired at the end of 2013, Kristine continues fundraising efforts for Hodgkin’s lymphoma research.
In late 2010 Kristine wrestled with some health issues that limited her physical abilities and forced her to slow-down for a few years. But that didn’t keep her from creating. She still found ways to perform when she could and even released the KJBlues Vol.1 full-length album in 2013. This album too is featured on Sirius XM radio and features original and cover songs performed with two of her great friends.
By mid-2013 Kristine was regaining her health and her music was only getting stronger. In January 2014 she released her first full-length solo album Simply KJ Vol.2. This album was a true reflection of what her solo show was all about. The songs and the stories. It’s simply KJ doing what she does, playing guitar and singing the song. This album featured mainly original work and it wasn’t long before it too was being played on radio stations both in and out of town. Fans were reconnecting with Kristine and looking for more music.
In 2015 KJ set sights on re-branding, she dropped the KJBlues and started using Kristine Jackson / Music By KJ. Kristine says ‘The blues world is where my music was born, but not where it has to stay”. When summer 2015 arrived so did new sounds and music by KJ. With the release of “Change My World”, her first single off the 2016 release “By Your Side”, it was clear that she is more than just a blues singer or songwriter. In fact, as the collection of songs from the up-coming album will portray, her music is as deep as its genre is wide. She would tell you “I didn’t have an album concept to start with. But now in its completion I can see this collection of songs is really a journey of triumphs and tears. Songs from the darkest places in my life to songs capturing victories and happiness. And all of this is possible because there are no borders or labels, it’s just the music that God has led me to create. I’m influenced by so many styles and artists that when it comes time to write and produce my own material its all blended together and ultimately I just follow my instincts.” Not only are the songs powerful, the production itself is a testament to KJ’s growing abilities. She spent over 18 months writing, practicing, working-out charts and parts for every tune from beat one. Starting in her home studio with just a simple 4 track recorder, an acoustic guitar, a microphone, and when time allowed, help from her husband; Cleveland’s own piano man, Mike Petrone. Then countless hours every week, side-by-side with her engineer in the studio, the two of them did the lion’s share of the tracking, including KJ’s contribution on both rhythm and lead guitars, bass guitar, beat boxing, vocals and more. To round off the project, KJ brought in some of the most talented players that Cleveland has to offer. KJ directed every note and beat that was added by these musicians and in each song you can hear that attention to her style. The future is wide open for KJ and her music as she continues to grow and nurture her God given talents.