We caught up with world traveler Tony Jackson, lead singer of the Richmond-based country band Jackson Ward, as he was headed to Nashville. The band will headline the 68th Shad Planking on April 22, and Jackson is looking forward to performing at the event—and trying shad for the first time.
Jackson was a “military brat” and served five years in the Marine Corps, so coming home to Virginia to perform for loyal, enthusiastic fans is a blessing to him. “Virginia has always been home—that’s where my family is from,” he told us. “At this point in my life it’s really good to experience new things that go on around Virginia because I love it—it’s my home state. [The Shad Planking] will be an opportunity to meet people, experience a new event, and actually be a part of it, so that’s what is exciting to me about it.”
Jackson and rhythm guitarist Jeff Richardson formed the band in 2013. (Other members are Bob Breckenkamp, Doug Walls, and Bryan Mitchell.) Starting the new band wasn’t about money or venues. It was about the music. They named the new band Jackson Ward—Tony’s last name and Richardson’s middle name. The name is important, Jackson explained. “We have skin in the game; it’s my name that’s on this, and so it’s meaningful to me.”
The band’s debut single, “Goodbye Trouble (Drink by Drink),” showcased their original country sound, and the band quickly had a loyal fan base. “When we go out and play for other people, we think about their experience too,” Jackson said. “If somebody’s going to spend a Friday or Saturday night, which is precious time for everybody, and they’re going to spend their money to come see us, we want to give them the best show. We also make it interactive. We sing songs that they can sing with us, and we really enjoy that.” The band always takes the time to meet the fans, and people seem to appreciate that. “I think that’s what brings them out, and keeps them coming out,” Jackson said.
Yes, there is the inevitable comparison to Darius Rucker and comments about a black front man of a country band, but Jackson takes it all in stride. The response from fans and people on social media has been “overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “I think as far as the [number of African Americans] who’ve been packaged as country and advertised and marketed as a country artist has been few, yes. But as far as the genre, as far as people who identify with country, there are people of all races. . . . It’s not something that you see everyday, and people comment on it, but I don’t get any negativity from that.”
All profits from the Shad Planking will benefit Wakefield area charities and community organizations. Jackson lists among his charitable causes the Fisher House, which houses families of veterans who are undergoing medical treatment. Another cause close to his heart is breast cancer. “I’ve lost both grandmothers to breast cancer early in their lives, so I missed out on a lot of time with them. I’d like to do more for breast cancer research. It means something to me.”