The Alcoa Tornadoes are one of America’s most successful high school football programs. Located in East Tennessee, the team has won 13 state titles — including a staggering seven in a row between 2004 and 2010. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who would leave such a program, especially with a pair of those championships under his belt.
But you don’t know Broken Bow recording artist Jackie Lee. Though, you may soon. He tells Billboard that as much as he loved the gridiron, he had a deeper passion for music. “I got to my junior year and I was going to be a starter. I loved football and I loved sports, but music was what I wanted to do with my life. So, I felt the need to drop everything else so I could give everything I had to music. It was really hard, as sports was so big in my family and my house. But it was the best decision that I ever made, and it really helped me in my life and career.”
That career is going very well these days, thanks to the success of “She Does,” his debut single — currently sitting at No. 55 on the Country Airplay chart. Lee says he remembers the first time he heard the Kelley Lovelace and Neil Thrasher-penned song. “I was writing at a publishing company here in Nashville. I had taken a break and had heard the song being played in the room next to me. I poked my head in and asked about it, and I was told that another artist had it on hold. I said ‘Ok, but if I ever get a chance to get my hands on it, I would love to cut it. Sure enough, two weeks later, they call me, and tell me the song didn’t get cut and asked me if I wanted it. It was one of the first songs we cut for the record. It was the one that we wanted to be the first single,” he says.
Tomorrow’s Hits: Jackie Lee, ‘She Does’
Music has always occupied a deep spot in his heart, starting to perform — as a lot of artists do — on Sunday morning. “I grew up singing in church and my dad had a little band. I was about six or seven, and I remember going from church to church or venue to venue, and any place that would let us sing. I owe so much to my dad and everything he taught me throughout the years. I really appreciate all that time we spent traveling, trying to figure out who I was as an artist. It really helped me to grow into what I’ve become today.”
He says his parents definitely influenced his musical tastes. “My dad was stone-cold country, My mom was ’80s pop, and I fell somewhere in between. I listened to a hodgepodge of a lot of different sounds from Faron Young and George Strait to Bob Seger and Phil Collins.”
Lee is very proud to be a member of the Broken Bow roster, a place that he says feels like home. “I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to be at Broken Bow. I feel like people try to draw a line between family, work, and friendships, but I feel so close to all of my regionals and so connected to everyone in that building. They work so hard, and I am so very thankful to be with a great bunch of people and promoters. They are a great label.”
Lee is currently working on his debut album, though he says he — and the label — are still actively looking for material. “With [founder] Benny Brown, I don’t think you’re ever done until the album is in stores for sale,” he says with a laugh. “It’s great to know that I have a guy behind me who is so music-minded. He loves albums. You always want to put out songs that will be hits on the radio, but he goes the extra mile in finding songs that make you think ‘That’s a little bit different.’ I didn’t know he or she could do that.’ I appreciate that in him — pushing the boundaries to get people to buy an album.”
From his recent radio tour to making his Grand Ole Opry debut in September, Lee says he is just trying to soak everything in. “It’s definitely been a whirlwind, but I don’t want one moment to pass and not enjoy it. I always hear of artists who say that they wish they hadn’t worried so much about the future and taken in every moment. That’s what I’m trying to do. We’ve had the best time so far. It’s just been an unforgettable experience.”