A man sits at a piano and regales you with tales of love and life. It’s something that happens just as naturally in a dim-lit New York City neighborhood haunt as it does under the bright lights of Shea Stadium. It’s a timeless tradition that doesn’t occur enough in this day and age. It’s something that Jackson Penn holds sacred.
At the end of 2017, the Manhattan-born and Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, and storyteller sat behind a piano and simply played. Without any expectations or goals, he quietly wrote throughout the year equally inspired by the everyman honesty of Billy Joel and the literary spark of J.D. Salinger.
“I didn’t put out music until now, because I didn’t think I had anything to say,” he admits. “But the truth is, I was trying too hard. Self-expression isn’t rocket science, but sometimes I get stuck in my head. It turns out I have a lot to say when I don’t think about it.”
Jackson unveiled his independent debut single “Streetlights On Mars.” With its lithe guitar, glistening piano, and vivid lyricism (“She was a wild one, a dreamer, a wide-eyed believer, a rocket in the night”), the track immediately caught fire. It hit #12 on the US Viral and #17 on Global Viral Spotify charts; it’s garnered more than 3 millions streams; and Fader called it “an addictive pop song.” Clash Magazine called him “one of pop’s true hidden talents.” His follow-up singles only built on the momentum: 2019’s “My Girl” racked up over 5 million streams on Spotify alone, and his feature on NEIKED’s “Sometimes” cracked 10 million.
His real name is actually Freddy Wexler, and he’s cowritten songs for BlackPink, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Lil Wayne, Post Malone, The Jonas Brothers, Martin Garrix, and Steve Aoki, to name a few. But Jackson Penn unlocks something special for Wexler, representing a childlike approach driven solely by passion. It’s who he was always meant to be.
“I just want to be me,” he leaves off. “Anything else is just too much work. The truth is, the only thing I can do better than anyone else is be myself. I spent too long quieting the kid inside of me. So, I decided to give him a promotion and name him Jackson Penn.”