By Exclusive - Matt Lawrence Fairfield City Champion
May 19, 2013, 12:02 a.m.
At mention of the word superstar a raft of complimentary terms automatically come to mind. Phrases like ''larger than life'' and ''cock sure'' are there, as are words like ''arrogant'' and ''egocentric''.
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Humble and quietly spoken on the other hand sure aren't. Enter American country musician Alan Jackson, a man, whom after a near quarter century in the entertainment business has certainly earned his place among the uber elite and yet is as real as the characters in his songs.
In fact, so accomplished is he that his name rests alongside McCartney and Lennon, as the rare trio of singer-songwriters who have written and recorded more than 20 tracks that have landed at the number one spot in the American charts.
''I don't know if I feel like I deserve to be in the same category as those great writers, but it's definitely something I feel is a wonderful compliment and a blessing,'' Jackson said.
''I have always felt that songwriting was always the most gratifying part of all. You can get tired of singing and traveling around and touring, but every time you make a new album it's always a challenge. You try to write songs that create something new and that's one thing you don't get tired of.''
Jackson will return to Australia for a limited series of dates in September/October, featuring headline spots at the CMC Rocks North Queensland Festival in Townsville on Saturday, September 28, and the annual Deni Ute Muster in Deniliquin on Saturday, October 5.
Sydneysiders will have their chance to see Jackson at Allphones Arena on Tuesday, October 1.
He last visited Australia in 2011. It was the fastest selling tour by a country artist in Australian history.
For Jackson, who has released a tally of more than 60 singles, including 35 number ones, playing so far away from home is an exciting prospect and he is quite keen to return.
''I had a great time down there last time and we didn't get to play enough shows so I'm glad we're getting to come back again,'' he said. ''The fans were really nice down there and of course the country is beautiful. It doesn't even feel like going to some foreign country. It just seems like home.''
Considering the wealth of material he has to draw from, Jackson concedes, creating a set list is a daunting task.
''I feel terrible,'' he said. ''Every night I know good and well I'll go out there and won't play somebody's favourite song. With the 60 or something singles I've had out there you do have that. A lot of times too I have songs that are about serious events in my life and sometimes they're a little somber. You can't put all of them in a show because you'll bring the crowd down. I know I've had people ask for a certain song that helped them get through a hard time and it's one that I don't particularly do in a show because it's just that type of song. It is tough putting them together. I have a hard time because a lot of them are my favourites too. You just try to mix it up and do the best you can with it and hope everybody will like it.''
Jackson, who recently released his second album of gospel songs [Precious Memories Volume II], said some songs were automatic inclusions in the set.
''There's a few that almost I feel are automatic,'' he said. ''Chattahoochee is one like that, and a song called Drive that I wrote. When I play in the States I do Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning, because that was such a song that affected people here about 9/11. I don't always do that somewhere else. Remember When seems to be one that crowds are always waiting to hear too, so I like to do those.''
Since the release of his 1990 debut album, Here In The Real World, Jackson has stayed true to his traditional country roots, never straying too far from the music that served as his education.
''I owe a lot,'' he said of his musical influences. ''And not only the influence of the types of songs and how you sing, but also for the desire to want to be a singer.
''Hank Williams was dead before I was born but when I got older and learned about his music that was one of the first that I really connected with and listened to the songwriting ... and Merle Haggard's writing and George Jones's singing. There were just so many artists I couldn't begin to mention that helped lay the groundwork to help me appreciate what real country music is.
''Each song is different and I tell people a lot of times when I start off my shows, 'we're doing songs about country music' ... it's about life and it's about love and heartache and happiness and drinking and dancing and dying and crying - just what life is and all the things you go through.
''We've got real musicians playing ... you've got solos and sometimes you don't in other types of music. You've got steel guitar, which goes with that sound and it goes with the songs whether they're fun, up tempo or sad. And the melodies in real country music in many ways are similar to those gospel songs that I grew up singing. There's just a lot of different elements that just make it enjoyable to like.''
Jackson was recently called to play one of the hardest gigs of his life - performing the closing song at the public funeral for George Jones, held at the historic Grand Ole Opry in Nashville on May 2.
Jones and Jackson were friends since the beginning of Jackson's career and collaborated over the years.
In Jackson's hit, Don't Rock The Jukebox, the music of Jones is referenced and the artist returned the favour by appearing in the film clip for the song.
At the funeral Jackson performed a stirring rendition of the Jones classic, He Stopped Loving Her Today.
''It's the hardest one I've ever done,'' he said. ''To sing the greatest country song that's ever been and sing it for the greatest country singer there's ever been at his funeral service, that was a tough gig, but you know I just willed myself, and I said, 'I'm gonna try my best to hold it together', and try to do a performance for George that I would be proud of. That's all I wanted to do.''
Jackson marked the occasion by removing his hat at the end of the performance.
Looking back at his career to date, Jackson, who also wears the crown as one of the global country music industry's most award-nominated artists, he says he has never lost the ''one step at a time'' attitude he possessed at the beginning.
''There was no way in the world I could ever dream that 20-something years later I'd be sitting here talking to a man on the phone over there in Australia about coming down to tour,'' he said. ''There was no way I could have even dreamed any of that stuff.''
Jackson will be joined on his Australian tour by fellow American artist Sara Evans and fresh-faced local Morgan Evans.
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Tickets for all shows go on sale on Wednesday, May 29, from 9am.
For the Allphones Arena show visit ticketek.com.au.