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‘Nashville’ actor brings other project to stage

Fri., Aug. 29, 2014

Jackson’s rock band Enation plays Pig Out in the Park

Jonathan Jackson is not a country singer.

He just plays one on TV.

And when he’s not doing that, he leads a rock band.

Confused? Don’t be.

Jackson, who grew up in Battle Ground, Washington, has been acting since he was 11. That was when he was cast as Lucky Spencer on the long-running daytime soap opera “General Hospital,” a role for which he won five daytime Emmy Awards. His movie credits include “Deep End of the Ocean” with Michelle Pfeiffer, “Insomnia” with Robin Williams and Al Pacino, and “Tuck Everlasting,” with Sissy Spacek.

Currently, he stars as alt-country singer-songwriter Avery Barkley on the ABC drama “Nashville,” which kicks off its third season Sept. 24.

For the past decade, however, he’s scratched a creative itch with music. He and his brother, Richard Lee Jackson, and friend Daniel Sweatt are the core of a rock band called Enation. The band is headlining the Clocktower Stage on Saturday night at Pig Out in the Park, where they’ll be playing tunes from their forthcoming (and fourth) album, “Radio Cinematic.”

Jackson, speaking in a recent telephone interview from his home in Nashville, said he’s neither an actor who plays music nor a musician who acts. He sees it all as part of his artistic expression.

“I’ve been doing both of those things for so long,” he said. “My dad was a songwriter and a singer and I grew up around that. Music to me is just part of life. I couldn’t imagine just being without playing music.

“And I’ve been acting since I was 11, so that’s my life as well.”

Finding a regular gig that well suited to both his talents seemed like a pipe dream – so much so that Jackson’s dad once suggested he create his own show about a singer-songwriter. Instead, Oscar-winning writer Callie Khouri (“Thelma & Louise”) created one and hired him to be on it.

“That was the incredible thing about ‘Nashville,’ ” he said. “I never thought a show like that would come along.”

Even better, Khouri and legendary music producer T Bone Burnett, who created the music for season one, took the actors’ skills and personalities to heart in creating each character’s musical style.

Thus, the alt-country Avery has played music that is “close in spirit to the music that I do,” Jackson said.

The music Jacksoncreates away from the show is less rootsy than Avery’s, more anthemic, European rock. (In interviews he drops names like Peter Gabriel, U2, R.E.M. and Radiohead.)

And while the membership in Enation has ebbed and flowed, the core members of the Jackson brothers and Sweatt have been constant. In fact, “Radio Cinematic” is not only the first album they recorded as a trio, it’s the first made on a record label – Loud and Proud Records.

“It was really interesting after having played with them for so many years in different capacities, to have it just be the three of us in the room together,” he said. “It was a really interesting creative process for us to work from that place. It felt really right.”

The album was recorded in Nashville in about six weeks, after season two of “Nashville” wrapped. Jackson noted, however, he’d been working on demo-ing the songs for 18 months before that.

It’s likely that the Enation set on Saturday will feature several tracks from “Radio Cinematic,” which is being released in October, and tracks from the band’s previous releases. And don’t worry, “Nashville” fans, Jackson has something planned for you.

“ ‘The Morning of the Rain,’ a song that I wrote and Avery performs on the show, that’ll be in the set list.”

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