Wellesley High School Sophomore Jackson Moss says random melodies pop into his head all the time. From there, they go to voice memos on his phone for review, and some are later turned int full-blown songs.
You can get a taste of this young singer/songwriter’s musical stylings on Spotify, where he has dropped a couple of singles, and if you like what you hear, you can listen to his first album of all original music when it’s released this Friday, May 20. His singles reveal melodic pop songs, some upbeat and others more melancholy.
The 16-year-old has taken part in some school music activities, a little jazz band here, a little chorus there, and more recently, a songwriting elective that he enjoyed. But for the most part, Jackson has worked on his music alone or with his longtime guitar teacher Ethan Robbins.
Working on a studio album was something different for Jackson, who said “It was a really cool experience, I didn’t know what I was getting into. There were more steps than I knew existed.” That was before a family friend named Aaron Katz helped to prep Jackson for the process so that he could optimize his time in the studio with producer Sean Mclaughlin. This involved figuring out who would play the instruments, how harmonies would be handled, and more.
Jackson took care of vocals, guitar, and some keyboards in the studio, but otherwise relied on accompaniment on the drums and bass. Then it was up to the producer and technician to weave it all together, and master the recording at the end to perfect the audio levels.
The teen’s album release will allow him to celebrate what hopefully is a return to more normal pre-pandemic activities. Not that he didn’t make the best of the pandemic’s isolation, using his interest in music as an outlet. “That’s when I started getting interested in music production…it’s great having so much stuff on Youtube to learn from,” he says. Jackson downloaded software and experimented with combining tracks, and putting together demos.
An early start
Jackson’s dad, Andrew, says his son dabbled with guitar when he was as young as 4 or 5 years old. Jackson now plays acoustic and electric guitars, and favors those bought at local second-hand shop Music Go Round.
“He was able to play pretty well in elementary school and one of his Bates teachers used to have him bring in the guitar to play at some recesses,” Andrew says. “He also used to like to play with his buddies in elementary school, so it does go back a ways.”
Andrew says he’s “been more surprised about the song writing…During COVID he really had a lot more time to put to use and that’s when the effort became a bit more focused.”
Jackson says his song writing tends to follow his discovery of melodies, and decisions made on scales, chords, and other aspects of the music. Jackson’s album, dubbed “Trial and Error,” encapsulates much of the process of getting to this point musically over the past couple of years. That includes “a noticeably higher pitched voice” on the songs he initially recorded a couple of years back, he says.
As for the lyrics, Jackson says a lot of it is situational. One song is about getting older, transitioning to high school and showing independence. Many of the songs are romantic, and while influenced by Jackson’s personal life, don’t read too much into them.
Dad Andrew says he and other members of their family can’t take any credit for Jackson’s musical talents—”since no one else is musically inclined at all”—other than that they encouraged him to try a variety of activities, and his enjoyment of guitar stuck.
“I was always hearing him play his stuff and was amazed by it,” Andrew says. “It seemed like a shame not to have others hear it too.”