Podcast: Mr. Jackson readies “Black Gandalf”

The Madison R&B artist discusses his second album, which he’ll celebrate with a May 28 show at Ritual Barbers.


Madison native Ethan Jackson’s project Mr. Jackson made a deliriously charming debut with the 2014 album The Golden Hour Groove Session, a set of electro-R&B songs that found Jackson’s vocals alternating between exuberant falsetto hooks and husky baritone whispers. The bubbly bass lines of “Golden Session” and the beautiful psych-funk of “Ms. L!” made Jackson stand out as a producer, vocalist, and songwriter, with a sensibility both eccentric and achingly sincere.

Jackson is getting ready to release his second album, Black Gandalf, which he’ll be celebrating with a May 28 show at Ritual Barbers, with proceeds benefitting the families displaced by the recent fire at the downtown Madison YWCA. He’s also playing a shorter set on May 20 at The Wisco. I spent some time this week listening to a not-quite-final master of the album, and sat down with Jackson to talk about how the project has been evolving over the last couple of years. Black Gandalf is not a dramatic departure from Golden Hour Groove Session, but expands upon the first album’s sound with a more diverse palette of drum and synth sounds and a few darker lyrical moments mixed in with Jackson’s favored themes of positivity and gratitude.

I asked Jackson about some of the specific moments on the album, how playing more live shows has changed his approach to songwriting, and of course how the title Black Gandalf came about. Give our conversation a listen below. Jackson is holding off on sharing the album publicly until after the release show (where he will have some CD copies), but did release one single, “Is It Her,” last year.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and catch WORT-FM’s weeknight news show In Our Backyard, which partners with us to produce these. Thanks to Dylan Brogan for producing this interview.

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