Jarrod Dickenson had no plans on a career in the music business. After graduating from Midway High School in 2004, he attended McLennan Community College for two years and then earned a degree in communications from the University of Texas in 2008. He started playing the guitar when he was a senior in high school, just jamming with some buddies, but got a little more serious about music when he lived in Austin.
“It was during that time that I started playing a lot more and playing coffee shops and bars and kind of cutting my teeth in the Austin music scene,” he said during an interview backstage after performing a set at the Texas Music Cafe in downtown Waco. He was in his senior year at Texas that he decided, “I’m gonna give this thing a go. And I haven’t stopped yet.”
Dickenson, 36, is the son of Teresa and Dale Dickenson of Waco, and it was his father’s record collection that influenced his musical tastes.
“I grew up with The Beatles, the [Rolling] Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan,” he said. “All of that led me to the blues, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Stevie Ray [Vaughan]. And then from there, I’ve discovered great songwriters like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, a pretty wide range.”
Dickenson has a large international fan base that took root when he opened for English singer-songwriter David Ford in 2013.
“And from there, it was just being relentless and going back and playing to a few people and trying to spread the word and go back again,” he said. “And thankfully, we’ve gotten some good opportunities. We’ve opened for Bonnie Raitt over in the UK and Don McLean and The Waterboys. That exposure has allowed us to keep building and keep growing, and it’s allowed us to then expand into parts of Europe. And for whatever reason, the people over there – very, very thankfully – have kind of latched on to the music and given us a place to play.”
Dickenson was playing at the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival in Northern Ireland in 2012 when he and his brother, Drew, showed up early for a gig and asked the volunteer at the door where he could put his gear until showtime. She showed him a closet where he could store his stuff, and as he walked away, he said to Drew, “Man, that girl was gorgeous.” Later that night, at an after-party for performers and volunteers, Dickenson and that volunteer, Claire, met again and they began talking.
“We were dating pretty much from that moment,” he said. “Long distance, three-and-a-half years, New York to Belfast, and now been married seven-and-a-half.”
The couple – who perform as a duo – recently moved from Brooklyn to the Nashville area, where they’ve found a like-minded community of musicians and other artists as they continue to pursue their music careers.
“Just keep doing it, you know,” he said. “Hopefully, the crowds will keep growing. And hopefully, the bills will get a little easier to pay. But regardless of that, I just want to keep writing, keep trying to write better songs than I wrote the time before and keep playing them to anyone who will listen and if I can do that, then I’ll consider it a success.”
Can’t Keep an Artist Down
Jarrod Dickenson’s latest album, “Big Talk,” was released on February 3. “It is a bit more of a rock-and-roll record than previous affairs,” he said. “A lot of it is in the wake of my previous record, which I recorded and then shopped around. A major label picked it up. And then, as has happened to many artists over the years, it was not a particularly harmonious relationship and one that ended in a year-and-a-half long legal battle to get the rights back to the record. A lot of this album is my reaction to that and some of it was gearing up for the fight to get that album back and a lot of it is just fairly defiant in nature, in that you can try to steal my songs, you can try to keep me down, but you’re not gonna keep me from doing what I want to do.”