Trevor Jackson is rising fast. The seventeen-year-old R&B singer crossed over into the world of music after starring in film and television projects with Syfy and Disney. Like many pop sensations before him, the acting chops contribute to his charisma and comfort in front of the camera, but Jackson was a musician at heart long before his face made him famous. After dropping his latest EP #NewThang, Jackson’s on tour spreading his music in front of live audiences–something that he’s well-versed in as a former Broadway performer.
His voice is honey-sweet, and his status as a triple threat who dances, sings, and acts makes it hard to imagine any pathway for him but up. We sat down with Jackson to discuss his influences, his dreams of creating a country/R&B collaboration and why the world needs R&B now more than ever.
Watch his video for “Like We Grown” above and get to know him below.
How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard your music?
It’s hard to describe because I love so many different types of music. Whenever I sing I try to pull from all the music I love. It’s mainly R&B and a little bit of pop mixed in.
What’s your preferred R&B era? ‘90s? Early 2000s?
I love R Kelly and Boyz II Men. There really isn’t a lot of good R&B out there right now and it’s sad because I feel like people need it—even without knowing that they need it. You’ve got hip-hop and techno everywhere, and I feel like all the music that used to be played in the clubs is now played on the radio. You should be able to hear R&B that makes you feel a way.
Tell me about transitioning from acting to music?
I started out doing both when I did the Broadway show The Lion King. Then when I moved to LA I was more successful with acting. I was good at it, and it came easily to me, but I felt that I had to do music in my soul. My mom, being the amazing mother that she is said, ‘Okay,’ and took me out looking for a manager. That’s when I linked up with Atlantic.
In what ways has your acting background influenced your career as a musician?
I really notice it being in the studio working on the album. I feel like the transition is kind of easy. When you sing a song you really have to feel the song to sell it. You have to make people understand what you’re trying to communicate behind the microphone. In music videos as well you have to make people believe what you say—there’s actually a lot of crossover.
When did you start writing music?
I probably started writing music—bad music when I was about eleven. I write more melody stuff, and I co-write with some people who are amazing.
I’m sure your music wasn’t bad at eleven; maybe you just needed some good co-writers. Who are you dying to collaborate with?
Kendrick, Eminem, Drake—there’s a lot of people—Iggy, Azalea, Stevie Wonder. I want to eventually do country stuff. I would like to do a Hunter Hayes collaboration. I feel like they’re so similar. If you put a country beat behind a lot of R&B records you’d see the resonance.
What makes country music and R&B so similar in your eyes?
Both are soul driven, so soulful. They tell the story, they make you feel a certain way. It’s hard to hear music like that these days.
Tell me about the making of the “Drop It” video?
Almost everyone on set were my friends. I worked with Mike Ho and we did the first video, “Like We Grown” together. We bounced off each other with ideas, played around. Our choreographer is incredible. The dance team killed it, it was amazing.
What’s your dance background like?
I started tap dancing when I was three. That led to the whole acting thing. When I moved out here I took a couple dance classes, I have a whole different respect for dancers. There are people who can learn choreography after a lot of repetition and practice. Then there are dancers. You watch them taking in choreography and they just get it so quickly. I can learn dances, but true dancers are incredible. I don’t consider myself one.
Is choreography going to be a big part of your live show?
Absolutely. There will definitely be dancing. I’m not sure if it’ll be fully choreography, it might be more playing around. But there will definitely be dancing.
What’s up next—what are your plans in the coming months?
My EP came out September 24 and now I’m on tour. I’m just working on new music, making videos and putting them out when I get back.
What can we expect from the EP?
You can hear new stuff! We have a new version of “Drop It” with B.O.B. There are three new songs, “New Thang” and two other ones. I’m super excited. It’s an R&B record, some of that throwback stuff. There’s a club joint on it that you have to hear.