People of OU: Motown’s newest voice, Dion Jackson Jr.

Autumn Okuszka, Features Reporter

Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and Oakland University freshman Dion Jackson Jr. — these are just some of the artists who got their start at Motown.

Coming from a family of musicians, including jazz vibraphonist Milton “Bags” Jackson, Jackson began singing when he was three — but didn’t realize it was his passion until he was five-years-old. 

In a Christmas play, Jackson sang in front of an audience for the first time. After this moment, he knew singing was something he wanted to do for the rest of his life. 

“I literally don’t see myself doing anything other than music,” Jackson said.

He learned to play piano and guitar growing up, and released his first two songs, “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” in 2018. He did not know his collaboration with Hitsville U.S.A. was just right around the corner. 

Hitsville Next is the Motown Museum’s creative and educational hub which offers programs, workshops, masterclasses and events for emerging artists — including Jackson. His partnership with Hitsville Next began in 2020 through their “Lyric Project.”

“[Hitsville Next has] a lot of lyric projects, and we write songs together,” he said. “It’s me and four other people — we all call ourselves ‘the fab five.’”

In 2022, Jackson entered a singing contest called “AMPLIFY the Sound of Detroit.” He and nine other finalists were selected to receive mentoring, coaching and artist development over a period of eight weeks that all led up to a final performance in front of judges that included Claudette Robinson, the “First Lady” of Motown. Jackson came in second place after singing a cover of “All This Love” by DeBarge. 

Jackson then released his first EP, “Second Narrative,” on Sept. 23. Categorized as an R&B album, Jackson describes “Second Narrative” as a story that’s not from his own perspective.

“The reason it’s called “Second Narrative” is because most of these [songs] are things I’ve never been through,” Jackson said. “I really had to tap into [the] outside looking in and not necessarily from my own experiences.”

With the help of Hitsville Next, Jackson recorded “Second Narrative” in three days. 

“Through my years in the lyric project, we all kind of [grew] a connection, and I said, ‘hey, I’m working on something,’ and they were like ‘really?’ So they gave me studio time,” he said.

Of the five songs that are on the EP, Jackson says “Memory” is his favorite.

“Memory is one of the oldest ones, and that one is the only one that’s actually written from experience,” Jackson said. “It just holds a place in my heart.” 

Jackson has plans for a full-length album, but he wants to give “Second Narrative” as much time as possible to have its own spotlight.

“I know that I want to give “Second Narrative” as much love as it needs,” he said. “Next year I’m going to be very booked with performances [to promote the EP].”

From the young child who sang to an audience for the first time to the man who released his first EP — “Second Narrative” is the first time Jackson has written a body of work and was completely satisfied after the creative process.

“I feel like a lot of times I can be very doubtful of myself,” he said. “Being the only writer and producer on [“Second Narrative”] really proved the critic in me wrong.”

“Second Narrative” is available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music and other major streaming platforms. To follow Dion Jackson Jr. and his music career, his Instagram account is @dionjacksonjr.