Pop

Paris Jackson On How Radiohead and Mushrooms Inspired Her Debut

Paris Jackson
Janell Shirtcliff

Paris Jackson

While making her debut solo album, Paris Jackson wasn’t concerned about flaunting her musical heritage. “It’s really just about the music itself,” says the 22-year-old singer-songwriter and daughter of Michael Jackson. “I’ve been writing for a really long time, and I wanted to get into the studio.”

The end result is the recently released wilted, an ethereal concept record on “heartbreak, betrayal, grief and rebirth” that, says Jackson, “tells my journey.” She reveals who awoke her inner artist — and what she surrounded herself with in order to open up.

Jackson, who is a “massive fan” of the Atlanta indie-rock band, worked with frontman Andy Hull — her lifelong hero — to write, produce and record wilted. “Manchester Orchestra was the soundtrack to the most vital time in my life in regards to mourning and becoming who I am today,” says Jackson. “[Hull’s] voice has guided me through some of the roughest times where I really had to lean into healthy coping skills, and to hear [him] singing lyrics from my heart was one of the coolest things in the world. I remember just being so blown away that I physically leaned back in my chair and was gripping the armrest.”

As the daughter of the King of Pop, Jackson “grew up in a house where we listened to everything, so it definitely opened my mind.” She says that knack to look for new things “and not stick with one genre” largely informed her album-making process as she leaned on her natural inclination to “experiment with textures, layers and different sounds — my taste is all over the place.” It’s most apparent on “let down,” which starts off acoustically before building into a haunting psychedelic track.

Throughout wilted, Jackson nods to artists who shaped her life, most notably U.K. alternative legends Radiohead. She says the band made her “feel understood in a way that I never have been before” and even titled and selected “let down,” the album’s lead single, after the 1997 OK Computer track of the same name. Elsewhere, Radiohead’s Kid A, In Rainbows and The Bends inspired the sonic layers on songs like “cosmic” and “repair.”

While scrolling through Reddit, Jackson came across a meme that referred to the concept of the mushroom fungus, blooming among decay, as an “extant form of life.” The idea resonated with the singer as she navigated her own healing and self-discovery while writing her debut. The mushroom “is a really cool representation of rebirth,” she says, “and finds a way to live in conditions where most things can’t survive.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 5, 2020, issue of Billboard.