Country artist Jackie Lee may not be the biggest name in the country musical world but there is more to the singer than meets the eye-and Lakes Jam fans will have a chance to see, hear and feel it.
The Tennessee native will take the Lakes Jam Bud Light Main Stage at 6 p.m. June 27-the first night of the three-day music fest-at Brainerd International Raceway, north of Brainerd and Baxter.
At the age of 27, Lee has already been through extreme highs and lows in his life. Highs include making his Grand Ole Opry debut in September 2014 and releasing single hits such as "Headphones," "Leave the Light On " and "Getting Over You." Lows include his mother dying from cancer in 2016 and then months later he himself was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
It was a difficult time for Lee as he and his family were dealing with the loss of his mother and he also was early into his musical career, trying to get his name out there. Lee went through chemotherapy, which he completed this past January. In May, he released his single "Long Year," which talks about his cancer battle, including how he is cancer free.
"I'm taking some time off right now with playing shows, but I'm super excited about coming to Lakes Jam," Lee said during a telephone interview as he was traveling home to Maryville, Tenn. "I'm on a bit of a journey right now. I'm just coming up with a unique season of my life, with my mother going to heaven and me being on the back end of my own cancer journey. I'm completely clear and I haven't cut my hair since my last chemo, so my hair is the longest its ever been in my life. For people who haven't seen me in a few months would be like 'What's been going on with your hair.'
"I feel like at this time I'm trying to be self reflective. I have such wonderful people in my life. ... They allowed me to heal and I've taken some time emotionally and to spend time at home. I've been faced with the question ... of 'Why did I move to Nashville in the first place?' The answer is I love music so much and it's inside of me and a major part of my identity. You get into the business and you go with the flow and fit molds and fit into peoples' perceptions and you kind of forget why you moved. So I've been on a little bit of a journey trying to repiece that together and it's been really good for me."
Lee grew up singing in church, where his father is a pastor. Lee and his father spent many hours practicing and his father loved country music. Lee said his mother was not musical, but she loved listening to the '80s, pop music. Lee fell somewhere between his parents musical love, but he leaned toward his father's country music as he was the musician in the family.
"I'm not a traditional country artist by any means," Lee said. "When I write songs, I lean on (nontraditional) more than the traditional country. Growing up listening to traditional country and listening to the way they write songs, they are story fed songs. Pop music it is more about the melody and they can say whatever they want. I mold them together. I love to tell a story, but like singing the melody from the '80s."
Lee said the songs he is most proud of include "Getting Over You" released in 2016, which was one of the first songs he wrote, produced and felt 100% confident about. Lee said his close personal friend went through a terrible break-up, so they got together and wrote a song about it.
"I feel emotions very deeply and I like to tap into that and I love to do that when I write," Lee said. "I like to be moved emotionally before I can really get into."
Lee said he didn't write any songs for a year after his mom died. Then one day he and one of his artist friends were talking about his journey with his cancer. Lee said he didn't have any patience to sit down and write a song and said, "It's been a long year, man." His friend then replied, "Let's write that today"-then the single "Long Year" was born.
"I feel a certain pressure-pressure is not the right word-I feel a perspective of my life drastically changed when I went through chemotherapy. I started October 2017 until the end of January 2018," Lee said. "You have a lot of time to think as you are sitting there and you think about the importance of things. I still have all my goals I had when I moved to Nashville. I would absolutely love to have a No. 1 song play on the radio. I would love to be able to sell out my tour one day and all of that, but the realization was the cost of that and I'd hate the cost to do things to sell out. What I mean by that is not being genuine. I'm OK to work as hard as I need to and be away from home as much as I have to and sacrifice as much as I have to for my dream to be a reality, but I don't want to do it at a cost of not being myself.
"I have a responsibility in I can't go back to the mindset I was in before. I have the weight of that responsibility to find a way to do it, to be successful. Being successful means a lot of things to different people and I need to find a way (to be successful) under the criteria of my own mind."
Lee's focus this coming year is to plant a seed for longevity in not only his musical career, but in his life.
"I really want to connect with people on a personal level, not just in my career," Lee said. "I want to try to plant a seed. There is a difference in having seeds and throwing them on the ground and hoping they stick and hoping they will grow versus planting the seeds and watering it and making sure it gets the correct sunlight and watching it grow. There is a time where you don't see the seed grow, you know it is underground doing its growing and I feel, I know this is a cheesy metaphor, but its me right now. I'm planting a seed in my life for the longevity of my life and there will be different things coming from that. It will be the career moves I make, it will be my personal life moves I make and that's what I want most out of my life. I want there to be real fruits in my life in this specific time we are in right now.
"A real goal of mine is for me to be there for people in my life. I know in 10 years if I don't take this time to dig deep inside of me and figure out all the things I'm living for, I'll be an unhappy guy in 10 years because I chased things not right. I'm trying to chase the important things to me in life."
All that being said, Lee is looking forward to doing a show at Lakes Jam and when he hits
the Lakes Jam stage, it will be a high energy show and the audience will have a good time.
"I like to get them involved," Lee said of the fans. "That is what makes me happy on stage its all about an experience. I can get up there and do every song I've ever written, but if it doesn't transform or fit into the crowd then (what's the point). I feel sometimes there is an invisible wall as a performer that starts at the end of the stage and every performer has felt that at one point in their life. And the first thing I try to do is break that down. I want people to know I see you as you see me and let's have a good time."