Washington state native Dylan Jakobsen’s burly voice and homespun songs have made an impact on small-market radio stations, with his single “In America” reaching No. 17 on the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart.
The track is featured on Jakobsen’s 14-song debut project I Am, which he produced, wrote and also played every instrument.
“I basically locked myself in a room for like four months and made a record,” he says.
Jakobsen recently visited the MusicRow offices to perform songs from the project, including the title track, “I Am.”
“It’s one of those songs that makes me nervous because it’s so personal to me. This whole song—this whole record, really—is letting people in on the last 25 years of my life. Letting people get to know me as an artist. People come up after the show and say how much they relate to the song, which is crazy to me because it’s a personal song to me.”
Jakobsen began writing songs at a tender age. His parents took notice and brought home an 8-track recorder when Jakobsen was 11, so he could record the songs he was playing. “I sat there and figured out how to play all these different instruments to songs I loved and started writing my own stuff,” he recalls.
His father worked as a police officer in the Seattle area and worked security for concerts by Pearl Jam and Nirvana. “So many of those acts were so influential to me wanting to become an artist. Then I really got into country at 15 or 16 and fell in love with the process.”
His raspy tenor voice, introspective lyrics and acoustic-based songs highlight the influences of artists including John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen.
“If they were on radio today, I think they would be in the country lane,” he mused.
Once Jakobsen graduated from high school, he hit the road with four friends, playing every coffee shop and small club they could find on the West Coast.
“It was me and four of my buddies touring and sleeping in WinCo parking lots. That first tour was the only tour I did where we didn’t even get hotels…that wasn’t even on our minds,” he says. “But every tour after that we just progressed. My mindset has always been I want to tour and just sell out rooms, and get better as a writer.”
He recorded the album I Am in a studio on the West Coast, but recently relocated to Nashville, after having made regular trips over the past few years.
He ended his performance at the MusicRow offices with a cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s “Free Fallin,’” which he began integrating into his own shows around 2011.
“For me, it’s one of the best songs of all time. After I started playing the song in shows, people started asking me to cut this song on a record and I was like, ‘C’mon, it’s not my song.’ But we ended up putting it only on the deluxe edition of the physical copy and just included it as a bonus track.”
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