Jukebox, aka Ronald Jackson, has quite the resume and it seems that he has not stopped adding to it. Since his days producing Will Smith’s Lost and Found album to the more recent “Everyday Birthday” single with Swizz Beatz, Ludacris, and Chris Brown—Jukebox does seem unstoppable. Now the producer behind your favorite hits is in the middle of making his very own album. Modern Frequency sat down with Ronald “Jukebox” Jackson to talk his first break and being in the business since a teenager.
How did you get started in the music business?
I played the drums since I was 6 years old. My mentor Troy Johnson started me in the business. He got a studio on Sunset in Hollywood. I just wanted to be in the studio and work on stuff. He let me work in his studio in his own house. I literally spent the whole summer working on beats until I had to go back to school that year.
I got my first MP60 for my birthday gift and was making beats at home. By the time I was 13, my stuff was featured in a Blockbuster commercial. That was my first check. It just kept transitioning from there.
What and when was your first break?
My cousin owned a studio in Burbank. It was Will Smith’s studio. I begged my cousin for an invite. So I was invited and set up my stuff, I was making a beat, and in walks Will Smith. He heard my beats and started rapping to them. That turned into the Lost and Found album. That was the start of it for me.
You worked with a lot of artists as a producer; who was the most challenging to work with?
I think Will and Swizz. They are masters of the craft. It was very challenging because they always took the song to the next level. They really helped me step my game together.
Where did you get the inspiration for “Everyday Birthday”?
I always wanted to make a song to that track. I free-styled over the track and met with Swizz and Chris Brown. Swizz loved the beat so much he played it over and over again and started rapping “everyday is your birthday and now hit the floor..”
Are you working on Swizz Beatz’s new album?
He is currently not releasing an album, but just capturing these “moments” and I am working with him. It’s hard because I am based out of Los Angeles and he travels all the time, but he’s a good friend, so I’m sure it will work itself out.
When is your album coming out?
My album doesn’t really have a date yet. I’m working on getting my sound perfected. I want it to be organic. There’s a couple of songs that are done, but I want to make sure I have a solid body of work and then present it to the world.
You are wearing a lot of hats right now–producing, writing, rapping—do you find it stressful and where do you find yourself the most creative?
It’s very stressful. After I get done with the track and the title has to speak with the track. I like to record from my house and then after pacing for hours–freestyle. That process is a long process and it has to feel all the way right.
The Dream, Keri Hilson, and many others have gone from producer to artist in recent years. Do you think it’s the right time to crossover as an artist?
A lot of people who have that bug are going to do it. I think it’s a natural and not a trend. If they have a story to be told, why not do it?
Will you be dabbling in any other genres?
Absolutely. I really like to keep my production as broad as possible. I do pop, rap, rock, etc. But I am first an urban drum guy. I even like dubstep.
Do you have any advice for producers who are starting up now?
I think it’s much harder to start up now. I wish I had this break in 2002. I think that’s when the door closed. It usually took just that one song and you’re on fire. The industry is very cliquey now. Breaking in as a producer is difficult, but not impossible. You just have to keep on pushing everyday. When you are not working—someone else always is.