It started in her bedroom with just a guitar, but Paris Jackson has turned coping with the heartache after a recent breakup into her debut solo album.
Jackson, 22, has been a devoted music fan all her life and dabbled in making her own, but has been hesitant to call herself a singer-songwriter until now.
“It’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever experienced,” Jackson told the Associated Press in an exclusive interview this week.
She describes her ethereal acoustic sound as alternative folk – a far cry from the genre of her father, Michael Jackson. Being the daughter of the King of Pop adds an extra layer of scrutiny to the vulnerability required to put personal songs out into the world.
“I’m excited, I’m nervous, but I feel confident that the people that are supposed to hear this record are going to hear it. It’s going to reach them. And with regards to critics and stuff, I don’t really think they’re going to know how to critique it,” Jackson says.
Earlier this year, Jackson was one half of acoustic duo “The Soundflowers” with boyfriend Gabriel Glenn, until the two split. She describes nursing a broken heart as a literal “aching in your chest”, but Jackson turned her pain into art. “You were my all/And now I fall to the ground”, she sings on her new single Let Down, which drops Friday (Oct 30).
The time in her bedroom resulted in 11 songs on the concept album, Wilted, released by Republic Records, and out on Nov 13. All the stages of grief are represented in her lyrics: anger, denial, bargaining and acceptance, but the last song, the upbeat Another Spring, reveals a stronger woman who lets her “wounds shine through”.
Jackson cites many musical influences – including singer-songwriters Damien Rice, Ray LaMontagne and Conor Oberst. Her eyes light up when she talks about being a “massive fan” of the indie rock band Manchester Orchestra. When she heard that guitarist-singer-songwriter Andy Hull from the band would produce her first record, she was elated. She flew to Atlanta to work with him and says the band was supportive of her sound.
“Everyone was just so welcoming and so kind and they held this project to be, like, very sacred. They understood my emotional connection to it and understood that this is my baby. They didn’t want to do anything that wasn’t authentic to who I am and they just took it to the next level,” Jackson says.
Michael Jackson famously attempted to shield his three young children from the spotlight. After Jackson’s death in 2009 of an overdose of the anesthetic propofol, Paris and her two brothers – who go by Prince, 23, and Bigi, 18 – went to live with their grandmother, Katherine Jackson. Paris moved out at 18 and has been modelling and acting, but always played music.
In June, she and Glenn had a docu-series on Facebook Watch called Unfiltered, which provided a glimpse into her private life and the duo’s small acoustic tour. Jackson revealed self-harm and suicide attempts in her testimonials, and said music was a way to channel her pain.
There’s an upcoming music video to go with the new single Let Down, a nod to the younger Jackson’s love of horror and gore. In it, the character she plays has her heart literally ripped out of her chest by her lover. One of the recurring scenes is set in dark woods, reminiscent of elements in her father’s famous Thriller video. When asked what he might think of her music, Jackson demurs.
“I don’t know. I’m not him, so I can’t speak for him. But I hope he would be happy, and I think he would be stoked because I’m happy,” she said.
The pandemic has sidelined most musical acts and Jackson says she misses hearing her favourite bands live and aspires to play a few shows soon, if anti-COVID-19 measures allow. She said she hopes the music will help people feel “a little less lonely.”
“I found so much healing through creating this. And there are moments where I’ll listen back to certain songs and I’m like, ‘Wow I was so naive.’ But for the most part, it’s just like so much gratitude and joy that I get from listening to these songs and just seeing the development and the evolution,” she said.