Hear TJ Jackson’s funny memory of his uncle, Michael Jackson
TJ Jackson remembers a memory of his uncle Michael that many fans don’t know. It was around the time of ‘Thriller’ says the youngest son of Tito Jackson. My brothers and I were in his car, and he suddenly stops, turns around to look at us and says, “I’m not like other guys.” The King of Pop, of course, was taking a line from his infamous song that redefined the art of video making. We all laughed and started throwing things at him while telling him to start driving again, says TJ (laughs). It’s stories like this that TJ reflects upon when discussing the close bond he had with the man so many people idolized. It would prove true when TJ and his brothers had to deal with the unthinkable. Their mother Dee Dee passed away in 1994 from a drowning accident. Here my uncle was performing all over the world, and he still found time to console his nephew. So, for him, it came as no surprise when the superstar died in 2009, he would step up to raise his uncle’s kids Paris, Joseph “Prince” Michael, and Prince Michael II along with his children with wife Frances. For so long TJ admits he tried to distance himself from the Jackson look and sound while still seeing many up and coming artists like Usher and Chris Brown emulate his family member through their songs and dance moves. Though he’s performed with his brothers in the R&B group 3T in the 90’s— TJ now embraces the Jackson musical traits that made his family famous as evident with his new single ‘Insomnia’ that debuted Friday, Sept 6.
Twins of Media: You took time off to raise your uncle’s children but are now back with new music. Tell us about your new single.
TJ: I think people are shocked. The last time they heard me sing was in the group 3T with my brothers and it was very youthful. Now time has passed and I’m an adult doing more grown folks music. It’s sultry. That’s the best way to describe it.
Twins of Media: How did you choose the title?
TJ: I remember experiencing a couple of nights where I couldn’t go to sleep. I was up with my wife and we were like kids not wanting the night to end. To me, it was a story that hasn’t been told. Insomnia always has a negative connotation and I wanted something to kind of reverse the meaning. The tagline is ‘beautiful insomnia’ and I wanted to show that it can be a good thing as well.
Twins of Media: What do you miss about the group 3T and will you and your brothers perform new music in the future?
TJ: We’re brothers so we are always one unit. A lot of people think we have broken up, but I don’t use that term especially with my brothers. They’re my partners, and we’re just taking time away for our projects, and following other passions of ours. What I miss is touring with them. There is nothing like being on stage with my brothers either singing and smiling or sharing inside jokes. That’s something I do miss, but I’m excited to venture out on my own with my sound. In 3T it’s a collective group, it’s not one-hundred percent TJ Jackson, but Insomnia is, and that’s what I’m excited to share with the world.
Twins of Media: What do you like most in creating music?
TJ: I’ve always written, and I’ve always created music since me, and my brothers were very young. We started the group when I was 5-years-old. Music has always been a part of me, but in the last couple of years, I have come to appreciate that you can have ideas in your head, and within hours have it formulated as something you can listen to and get a reaction. I’ve respected that more as I have gotten older. My brothers and I work at a slower pace because we are very meticulous with every sound, words or melody, but the writing team I used this go-round, we were quick. We did a lot of songs in a quick amount of time. That’s when I learned that being a producer and creator is a special thing and something that I truly cherish.
Twins of Media: August 29, was Michael Jackson’s birthday. How do you continue to honor him on this day and every day afterward?
TJ: After my parents, there was no one more influential to me than my uncle. Music is one way, but even outside of music he influenced the way I thought and approached things. He influenced my desire to give back and make a positive impact in the world. He was always there for me. I remember when I was struggling with certain things, he was checking on me. At the time, it was Uncle Michael being Uncle Michael. As I’ve gotten older, I realized he was the legend that he was and selling out stadiums throughout the world, and he still had the audacity to call his 16-year-old nephew to make sure I was okay. It inspired me and it amazed me more. Everyone in the world appreciated him as the artist, but to me, he was a person. He was a gem of a person, and I owe so much to him. I will always feel I owe so much to him because he shaped my life.
Twins of Media: What is a funny story you can share of your uncle?
TJ: There are so many (laughs). One that I can share is I remember when Thriller came out around 83′ or 84′ when I was 5 or 6-years-old. The song was scary, but even then I understood that my family was artists and musicians. My brothers were older than me, and they knew it as well. I remember us driving back with our uncle, and he pulled over on the side of the street near the Havenhurst house, and he stopped the car and he turned around and said, “I have something to tell you guys.” The first time, we were like, “What?” He then used his favorite line from Thriller, I’m not like other guys. It got to the point where he kept doing it (in character), and we were throwing things at him and saying, “Can we go already!” That is something I will always cherish. It’s who he was, he loved to play pranks (laughs).
Twins of Media: How does your Uncle impact your music today?
TJ: He impacts my music every day of my life in terms of approaching songs from every aspect such as the melodies, rhythms, and lyrics. I hear his voice often when I’m recording and him instructing me and giving me advice. I’m blessed and grateful for it. When he spoke it was impactful, and it made a lot of sense. He was a genius. He will always be close to my heart, and I will always respect him. His influence is definitely in all my music. I tried to still be myself, but I can’t help it that it feels right to do certain things that many will think is a Jackson trait. There was a long time where I was trying to deny it and forge my own little thing, and to be honest, I would see everyone from the Weekend to Chris Brown and Usher resembling that, and here I am trying to do something completely different. Eventually, I asked myself, Why am I trying to avoid this? I ended up following my heart and doing me, and I’m getting that now where people tell me, you sound like Michael and it’s just me being me now.
Twins of Media: What’s next?
TJ: I’ve done a lot of music, so I have a lot of material coming around. I will be releasing an EP later this year, and I will have an album dropping in 2020. I’m doing an acoustic record in February which I’m excited about. I’m also going to start walking in the acting world. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s going to be a busy time for me, but I’m rejuvenated and excited, and I’m ready to do it!
Twins of Media: We wish you nothing but success! Please tell your father we said hello.
TJ: I will. Thank you, ladies, so much. Take care of yourselves and love each other.
Interview by La Trisha and La Tasha “Twins of Media”
Feature photo: TJ Jackson/Insomnia