Neil Jackson was born in Luton in 1976. His acting debut came in “Heartbeat” in 2002. His films include “Alexander”, “Breakfast on Pluto”, “Quantum of Solace” and “Push”. He has recently been seen in the new series of “Upstairs, Downstairs” with Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins.
Interview in “Female First”:
Neil Jackson will be name familiar with TV addicts, but now he’s decided to change tack and take on the world of music.
The Upstairs Downstairs actor releases his first collection of tracks ‘The Little Things’ this February and we talked to him about the album, his musical influences and his the acting career he’s nothing like leaving behind.
You’re debut single ‘Holding A Candle’ came out in December, what was it like when that released for you?
Exciting, nerve wracking, it’s funny because I’ve experienced it all before in my film career. You work on something, and it can be in the works for years when it’s finally released it feels like such a big release and a celebration. But because you work on something like this so closely for such a period of time, it’s just the next natural step from that really.
It was very cool to wake up on December 3rd and have people contacting you about it and seeing all the people being really excited about it.
So what made you make the switch in focus to music then?
I’ve been a musician for a long time; I’ve been writing songs and strumming on the guitar for about 13 years now. I always wrote songs and was in bands as a kid so music has always been on the backburner and something that I’ve wanted to turn my attention to.
Every time I wanted to put more attention to it over the years, a big acting job would come up and I’d be in Vancouver for six months shooting. The time finally felt right now though. It was New Year’s Eve 2011 and I was sat with some friends, playing my guitar and they all loved the songs so I just thought this is the year I need to do it.
So I got in touch with a friend of mine Nick Mailing, who produced the album and he loved them too, so we just started working on it straight away.
What can we expect from the album?
It’s a very personal, introspective album. Every single song on there is a personal moment that happened to me. It’s almost got an autobiographical feel to it. It’s about my life, my feelings and my emotions. I wanted it to be an acoustic album, so every single instrument is played live and acoustically.
The same with the gigs, we don’t have electric instruments on stage. For me, that enhances the personal feel of the album. I wanted it to feel like a very personal journey the listener goes on when they listen to the songs. I think we’ve achieved that, I’m really happy with the end results.
Who do you think as a musician you’ve been influenced by?
I love Damien Rice, he’s been very influential, especially with a couple of the slower songs that have string elements. I love the haunting way he uses those as an extra character, playing them off melody in a way that just adds depth to his songs.
I’ve always listened to a lot of American singer/songwriter types. I like to have the juxtaposition of the beachy Jack Johnson vibe and the more lamenting, haunting style of Damian Rice.
You’re going to back on our TV screens in Lightfields later this year, so what can you tell us about that?
We shot Lightfields in the summer and it’s a five part ghost story of ITV. It’s about a young girl dying on a farm in 1942 and through three generations, up until modern day, the ghost haunts the family as they continue to figure out the true reason behind the death.
So with you also being in Upstairs Downstairs, do you have a passion for period pieces?
I love the period stuff, especially the pre-world war stuff. We went back to around that time for Lightfields and I love that era, it’s got a real romance to it.
In terms of storytelling, the conundrum that comes in with having mobile phones, Facebook and Google, they’re real hurdles as they make things to convenient. Especially a period ghost story or a whodunit, you don’t have the convenience of DNA or all the information on hand.
It means that it’s much more character based so I do really enjoy those kinds of stories.
On Upstairs Downstairs you had to gt back in the boxing ring. As an ex-boxer, what was that like for you?
That was fun. They insist they didn’t write it with knowledge I was a boxer before, but somewhere it must have filtered through. It was great fun, the kid I ended up fighting with was up Team GB selection and it was really good to get back in the ring and flex those muscles.
I ended up training three times a week to get myself back into shape. That was before I read the script though and found out that my character actually has to not be very good at it.
So the hardest thing was trying to look as if I didn’t know how to throw a punch after spending several years doing the exact opposite.
You’ve done TV in both the UK and the US. What’s the big difference between the two?
Scale is the major thing. It’s starting to change now with things like Downton Abbey and Sherlock that are really making a worldwide splash, but America tends to make shows for the world to enjoy while Britain predominantly makes shows for British people to enjoy. If the rest of the world like them, then that’s a great. So that’s the scale thing again.
Over there they have a lot more money, they have a lot more scope and broader distribution. They’re just a lot bigger shows. Bigger doesn’t mean better, sometimes it can be a whole lot worse because the personal touch doesn’t get put to it.
You also had a film you’d written The Passage pick up prizes at film festivals, what was that like?
That was amazing. We were final selection at the Toronto Film Festival and then won the Audience Award at the Durango Film Festival down in California. So not only to think that the film got made, because it’s always a massive gamble, but to think that audiences responded so well is really humbling.
It was a great story to be a part of and something I wanted to get on screen for some time and quite gratifying to see it there. I’ve actually still got the poster with the Durango stamp on it on my wall. It’s good to see it there.
You’ve lived out in America for seven years now. Any thoughts of coming back to the UK full time?
I don’t know really. Actually, in 2012, I came back to the UK seven times throughout the year, so I was in the UK more than America. I was back in 2011 as well for Upstairs Downstairs, so it almost feels like I’m back here anyway.
My home and friends are over in America, but I never really lost connection with the UK and I come back here a lot. Who knows really, everything changes so quickly. I do love Britain and I can never imagine not wanting to come over here.
I do feel very British and it’s something I joke about with my girlfriend and my friends over there. If I’ve not been back for a while, it feels like I need to get my fix, or as much as I love the Americans, they don’t have the same sense of humour and energy as the Brits.
So, what’s the plan for you in 2013?
It’s gonna be quite a big year for me. I’m producing my first film. I’ve also got a script I’ve written called Eternal which is being produced this year that we’re getting finance for at the moment. I’m also going to start recording a second album in the summer, around about June or July I’ll be heading back into the studio.
Then I’ve kind of put everything on hold. I didn’t take an acting job for December and January so I can fully focus on the music. After the album’s out though, I’m going to start looking at scripts again.
Neil Jackson’s debut Album ‘The Little Things’ is out on the 4th Feb 2013 and is available to download here: www.neiljackson.me/store/
The above “FemaleFirst” interview can also be accessed online here.