Before JudyAnne Jackson knew how to talk, she was singing.
At 9, she wrote her first song, with lyrics about how she dreamed of being a musician. By the time she was 10, the Tampa native was performing as halftime entertainment at Madison Square Garden.
The 13-year-old singer-songwriter is returning to the Big Apple to open the April 9 show at New York City’s oldest rock ‘n’ roll club, the Bitter End. Jackson will be representing the Sunshine State as the iconic venue reopens for the first time in over a year.
“I think it’s so cool to be able to do that as a young musician, being able to play at the Bitter End, where so many of my heroes have played, like Taylor Swift and John Prine,” Jackson said.
The Bitter End shuttered as the coronavirus pandemic hit New York last spring, closing for the longest time since it opened in 1961.
“DirectCurrentMedia (DCM) via Jody Prusan has placed in the lovely and talented JudyAnne to kick off our return to live shows,” said Paul Rizzo, owner of the Bitter End, in a media release. “We’ve renovated and will have new safety protocols in place and a layout that takes these concerns into account while ensuring the musicians sound as great as ever. We missed the Bitter End so much and this DCM kickoff is a proud moment for us.”
Jackson is a seventh grade student at the Academy of the Holy Names. Before the pandemic, she sang at Sparkman Wharf and other venues around town. She also won Producers’ Choice for PBS Celebration of Music and was a finalist in an aspiring singer/songwriter contest by NBC’s Today Show.
“It’s been a big part of our lives, and we just try to support JudyAnne and give her a platform to do what she’s doing,” said her father, Brad Jackson.
During the pandemic, Jackson’s weekly guitar, voice and piano lessons have taken place over Zoom. She spent a lot of the last year connecting with fans on social media, using Instagram and Facebook Live.
“I’ve missed a lot of live music because you don’t get to see the audience,” she said. “It’s definitely not the same as it was when you could play live.”
The April 9 concert starts at 6:30 and will be live-streamed on JudyAnne’s Facebook page. It’s not the only exciting event on her horizon.
This summer, Jackson will travel to Nashville to record her debut EP with Grammy award-winning producer Mitch Dane. After doing virtual cowriting sessions with songwriters, she’s looking forward to an in-person experience. She also hopes to one day tour so she can continue to share her music with others.
“A lot of my music is about how there’s hardships and things through life, but that can’t stop you from going for your dream... And sometimes I feel like it’s not gonna happen yet,” she said. “But you just got to keep working hard and pushing through to make your dreams come true.”