Jackson Mathod on his transition from a session musician to a solo artist

Jackson Mathod talks single releases, his upcoming album and fears sharing music of his own

Trumpeter, singer and songwriter Jackson Mathod has spent much of his career playing a fundamental part in helping to shape the melody of a song. Born in Stretham, a village located in Cambridgeshire is where Mathod began playing the trumpet at just eight years old. Now he is regarded as one of the most sought-after session musicians in the U.K. On countless occasions, he has proven his ear for music with mind-blowing performances at beloved music spaces in London like NT’s Loft and Unit31. Mathod recounts his primary school years and how his journey through wind instruments led him to fall in love with the trumpet. “We all got the opportunity to learn an instrument. It’s a classic thing where you learn the recorder first and then you can transition to another instrument. I did that. I don’t know what it was, there’s something about the trumpet. I’m just drawn to it.”

Photograph taken by David Wren

His connection to the trumpet is undeniable, yet just a fraction of the dreams he hopes to turn into a reality. That is to become an established artist – a singer and songwriter in his own right. Aspirations which were birthed during his early childhood years. “I always wanted to write music, but I didn’t know how to write” he admits. “Something really beautiful about writing music is, that you can create a whole piece of music just from an initial idea” he adds. “Releasing an album has always been a dream for me,” Mathod says quite early on in our conversation.

From the onset, Mathod seems elated about this new stage in his career and the endless possibilities that come with establishing himself as a solo artist in London and beyond. He is making music for himself first and foremost, after grappling with feelings that the music he made didn’t represent him. He admits to going through a period of removing his work from music platforms. “I released some music in 2019, but it wasn’t something that I felt really proud of. I didn’t feel like it represented me properly” he says. What ensued from this point onwards was a deep conversation that revealed a lot about Mathod’s state of mind – how he sees himself and what he hopes to become.

Mathod studied jazz at one of the leading schools for music and drama in the country – Guildhall. “We learnt about the history of jazz, but a lot of jazz music is learning by doing. There is a lot of transcription or learning solos off the record. You learn about harmony and rhythm” he says reminiscing about his academic past. As a Guildhall alum, he was able to nurture his talent under the wing of academics who pushed him to “focus on learning how to sight-read and becoming technically proficient“.

Despite having supportive parents and mentors who reminded him of his potential, it wasn’t always an easy road for Mathod and internal pressures had a part to play in that. “When I left Guildhall, I didn’t want to do jazz at all. I just felt it was very competitive and it just made me nervous. I then became a part of the session musician community, but I worried if I was going to be able to play shows.” It’s clear that Mathod has since managed to work through those feelings of self-doubt, which from an interviewer’s point of view is an eye-opening revelation considering how electrifying his stage presence is now.

“A lot of jazz music takes itself too seriously” he says hesitantly. “It’s a challenge to have jazz instrumental music that people can dance to” he adds. Mathod expresses a deep desire to create music that challenges stereotypes of the genre and ushers in listeners, whose appreciation for music may differ from his own. “I want up and coming cats to be playing my music. It’s the same with Herbie Hancock, a tune like Chameleon everyone plays that” he says.

In a sense he wants his music to be universally loved and easy on the ears of modern listeners. He does this by fusing genres together in an original way, a clear example of this is Baba Yaga a single by Mathod featuring Harlequiin released last year. Mathod’s thoughts and feelings reveals itself in his choices, the reasoning behind the sounds he creates says a lot about how he wants to be perceived as an artist. “I want to say something different with my music…I feel like I understand a lot more about who I am and it kinda translates into music” he says confidently.

Mathod admits that his music palette wasn’t so much informed by his childhood friends, but the influence of his dad. “Every day he’d put some jazz on in the car and I just loved it,” he says smiling. Mathod also devoted personal time to diving into the catalogue of D’Angelo, Roy Hargrove, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Chet Baker, Bill Evans, Outkast and more. These are the icons whose careers, help him to reflect on the direction he wants his own to go down. His face lights up as he breaks down his Spotify playlist of musical influences. “Roy Hargrove – he’s one of my favourites, just in terms of his writing,” Mathod says speaking highly of the late award-winning trumpeter. “One of the tunes I’m about to release is definitely influenced by him. It’s called Crazy Race by The RH Factor” he goes onto say. The excitement overwhelms him, as he starts scatting to Strasbourg/St. Denis. “Everyone wants to play that tune” Mathod says laughing.

While explaining how his music draws from these inspirations, Mathod stops at D’Angelo inviting a deeper conversation about fears and the constraints of fame. “There’s this documentary called Devil’s Pie. It follows D’Angelo on his return back. He releases Black Messiah, it’s all about him getting back to the gigs – to the music“ he says. “…a big part of D’Angelo’s absence from the scene was the whole Untitled (How Does It Feel) video. He’s chiselled as hell in that video. That became a massive part of his show. But, it’s not what he wanted. He just wanted people to love his music and not be fixated on his body” Mathod adds. “That’s why I have a whole new level of respect for D’Angelo, because he just left in the height of his fame. It takes a true artist to do that and to come back and win two GRAMMY’s” he continues. In this moment Mathod begins drawing parallels to his own life. “…it’s something like that, that would take away from what it is I’m trying to say. Being an artist now, I have to be wary about how I’m coming across. I’m just tryna do some music. I don’t want any complications, but you just don’t know.” Still speaking of D’Angelo he ends saying, “I’m super inspired by that man, right now in particular.”

The global pandemic has been challenging for us all, time has remained at a standstill for over a year now. Although, an absence of time seems to have given the 29-year-old trumpeter a moment of clarity, allowing him to find himself through music. In doing so he has emerged with multiple single releases, free-spirited lockdown videos filmed in the comfort of his own home and an upcoming album to be released in April. “I love performing with all my heart. It’s in my blood and my lockdown videos have been part of the process. I wanted to show people some of what I’ve been up to and then it became this thing” he shares. “I hadn’t really been that much of a writer before lockdown. My grand total was about eight tunes. In lockdown, I must’ve wrote like forty tunes last year” he reveals.  

“I started learning loads of jazz tunes. It was these mad few weeks or months where I was just writing all the time. My subconscious started kicking in. It means so much to have people message me and say my music has helped them through lockdown.”

Mathod’s upcoming album reflects the creative awakening he has experienced throughout the pandemic. It’s what he describes as a “musical protest”, rejecting the confines of lockdown on his creativity. “It’s all about my journey within the confines of lockdown, I couldn’t do all the things I wanted to do, like travel the world. I do it in my music. I wrote it all last year. I’m really excited to get this body of work out! It was a long time coming.”

Photograph by David Wren

He has been thinking even more so now about his involvement in the production of a song, while learning how to mix and produce which he describes as “another instrument”. “The more I’m learning, the more I’m adding to my musical palette with sound and samples” Mathod explains. He has an eagerness to be involved in the entire process, constantly thinking about ways to evolve, meaning there’s never a dull moment being a fan of Jackson Mathod’s music.

Having recently released his fifth single Dumb People, Mathod is looking ahead to future collaborations with musicians he admires. “My dream collaboration is D’Angelo“ he shares. “Jordan Rakei is an amazing artist. I would definitely love to work with him. I’ve done a gig with him before“ he goes onto say. “I’m also a big fan of Nick Hakim, he’s a singer-songwriter from the states. His first album is really vibey. He’s one of those artists – I’m like I’d be really interested to see what we could do together. I think we could create something amazing“ he ends.

One of the ways Mathod connects with musicians is through jam sessions and live performances. “Live performance is everything to me and it has been for my whole life” he says. “Music isn’t the same without live performance. It has been amazing to do my own music, get that out, record and even getting into writing. It’s another world, but when I’m performing”- he pauses. “I’ve stumbled into this music journey. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m going there regardless. That’s what being an artist is about.”

Jackson Mathod will be playing at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club for a virtual performance on Thursday 25th March. You can also find Jackson at The Jazz Cafe alongside Rosie Frater-Taylor on Monday 24th May. More details here.

Photograph taken by Lilli Mathod




Main photograph taken by David Wren.