To say 2020 was like a stressful rollercoaster ride (with no seat belts!) is an understatement. For many industries, the Covid-19 pandemic caused terrifying drops and the music industry wasn’t spared from this fate.
With music venues closed and club doors shut, many musicians, producers and DJs felt the devastating consequences of the pandemic. However, when one door closes, some have been able to reinvent a new one.
In the spirit of the New Year with hope for better days ahead, we share a story that many have gone through during the pandemic: one of resilience, hope, and remixing our lives.
And, to help start the New Year right, check out this special “Remixing the New Year Mix” by DJ Neil Jackson while you read.
In this post, we share the story of International DJ and music producer Neil Jackson (@NeilJackson). We talk to him about his career, as well as how the pandemic created an unlikely path to discover his new passion. We also discuss what he’s doing to continue bringing music to inspire others to get up in the morning and carry on.
Let's start from the beginning. What inspired you to become a DJ?
I was known as the music kid in my neighborhood. My friends and other kids would come up to me looking for new music, what is trending, etc. In 1992, a movie called Juice came out. It was about NYC kids from the ‘hood finding their way, and one of the main characters was on track to be a DJ, participating in DJ battles. That was the first time I saw music being a career, and I really gravitated towards that – I am from the other side of the tracks, and I love music.
That was the start of my journey. When I was asked by my junior high school to DJ the 8th grade dance, that solidified it.
What have been your most memorable moments as a DJ?
Anytime I’ve DJ’d internationally to countries such as France, Africa and the UK, those events have always been unforgettable.
One of my favorite memories was when I DJ’d at the Super Bowl in San Francisco a few years ago. I DJ’d while Avicii and Travis Scott performed. It was awesome. However, that’s one of many remarkable memories.
You have made a name for yourself as a DJ. With residencies at the hottest clubs such as Marquee/Lavo in NYC and Highlight room in Los Angeles. As well as producing hits such as: Make it Rain and Wow. What have been the biggest challenges on the road to building your career?
The biggest challenge is the current challenge, which is staying relevant. With music constantly changing and technology advancing so quickly these days, keeping up with technology, new music, and new trends is an on-going challenge.
DJing isn’t just about DJing anymore; it's very similar to running a brand. Not only do I DJ, but I create merchandise, follow & adjust to trends, promote/PR myself, do my own broadcasting, etc.
When the pandemic closed down venues, how did it affect the DJ community?
When the pandemic hit, it shut down our entire careers. There was no choice but to pivot and get creative.
Many DJs, as you may have seen, have taken their talents online, live-streaming on different platforms. I'm currently on Twitch. I created a morning show called Beans, Rhymes & Life (BRL), where my audience wakes up with me and I play music and converse with them to set the tone for their day.
I also explored other opportunities that I wouldn’t have had the time to do as a full-time DJ pre-COVID, such as creating a coffee company, which I named after my morning show BRL.
I started growing my appreciation for coffee 12 years ago, when I stopped drinking alcohol. I began drinking coffee, and discovered my love for the taste and quality of different roasts.
When I started my morning show on Twitch, I needed to drop merchandise. I really wanted to create something that represented the show, my audience and the relationship we built by sharing a morning cup of coffee, which was the common thread. Thus, I created my coffee brand BRL with four roasts named after my favorite songs.
What are these 4 songs that inspire you?
“Lovesick” by Mura Masa, “Closer” by Goapele and “Kiss of Life” by Sade and “Chanel” by Frank Ocean. They don’t necessarily describe my style of music, but they inspire me to do better and be better. Those songs encourage me to work harder and set a positive tone for the day. They all mean a lot to me, that’s why I used those song titles for my coffee company BRL.
As someone that has a trained ear for music, what do you notice or look for in your music listening experience that an ordinary music lover wouldn't pay attention to?
I listen for many things, like usage of space, making sure the song is not too busy or not too minimal, lyrical flow, and a lot more. I break down the song, so there isn’t one specific thing that I look for.
What qualities about Tivoli Audio products stand out when you are listening to music? How does our product enhance your listening experience?
The design of the radio was my first thing I was drawn to. The combination of mid-century modern design with modern technology is two of my favorite things. The sound quality is so crisp on both the high and low end. Excellent design inside and out!
What other projects are you currently working on that you'd like to discuss?
In addition to my show BRL, I've launched a weekly show where I explore and support local and small business, such as bakeries by sampling and sharing their delicious treats they have to offer.
I am also releasing new music soon, so be on the lookout! Follow me on @neiljackson on Instagram for the latest on that and other upcoming passion projects.
And lastly, I am going to continue to grow the delicious roast selection of BRL coffee, check it out here.
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