How Bret Jackson uses music and fashion to march to the beat of his own drum

How Bret Jackson uses music and fashion to march to the beat of his own drum

The musician and producer on finding untapped talent for Careless Music Manila and how, with Tommy Jeans, he gets to celebrate artists and their individuality.

Photos by Renzo Navarro

 

Bret Jackson is fresh off opening for ASAP Ferg when we meet. 

He performed at the Harlem-based rapper’s Manila concert the night before with fellow artists from Careless Music Manila, and listening to him talk about it, it’s immediately evident that he handles artist and repertoire (A&R) for the collective and record label. What he loved about the experience, for instance, was getting to watch recent Careless recruit Jetter, a Cebu-based rapper, play his first big Manila show. “Watching him go up there and kill it is just awesome.” 

Bret becomes animated when he talks about his artists and being able to give them the means and opportunities they deserve; the passion comes off him in waves. He often works creatively with brands, using these collaborations to find more artists and give more platforms to the ones he already knows. 

It was a no-brainer for him, then, to work with Tommy Jeans: “They’re working with some really dope artists right now,” he says. “They’re getting into music, and I appreciate that. More investments in music means more money for artists, which they can live off and continue what they’re doing.” The philosophy of the brand very much mirrors his own point of view when it comes to music: having people come together, each of them standing out in their own way with earnestness and individuality — cultures, backgrounds, stories bound by what makes them different.

Over the last few years, as head of artist & repertoire at Careless Music Manila, Bret Jackson has grown passionate about finding and refining new talent for the label. | Bret wears a corduroy button-down from Tommy Jeans.

It doesn’t hurt that Tommy Jeans complements his personal fashion style, of course: “Oversize shirt, denim — that’s all me!” Now also known as the producer and musician KINGwAw, Bret first came into prominence on Pinoy Big Brother: Teen Clash 2010. Nineteen at the time, the mop-topped housemate from Dumaguete had turned heads with his sensitive personality and his guitar.

He’s quick to agree when I point out that most people still regard him the way he was as a teenager. “I don’t really know if I’ve changed (in terms of) how I am as a person,” he says. “People can see you in a certain way, but then that’s not really how you are but you don’t really have the chance to show them. I guess it’s just that I’ve evolved in what I do.”

Music, in this case, has been Bret’s way of catching people up with what he’s been up to. “Wherever I’m at in life and whatever I’m going through is what I’m writing about,” he says. “I’ve always been around music and I’ve always wanted to do it since I was a kid. I’ve been writing songs since I was 14 or 15, with a notebook and a guitar.”

Bret’s passion for music began at a young age. Having written poetry since he was a teenager, it was only natural to turn those poems into songs. | Bret wears an oversized jacket and logo tee from Tommy Jeans.

Rock was a default genre for kids in his high school (“everyone was in a band, everyone played the guitar”) — but Bret was also a poet who, when he was living with his mother in the States, had grown up in the projects around hip-hop. “That has always been a part of me,” he says, so it wasn’t all that difficult to move toward that kind of sound for him.

“After PBB,” Bret recalls, “they wanted me to do a certain kind of music but I didn’t want to.” The company wanted him to record cover songs, wanted him to sing acoustic, wanted him to be the next Justin Bieber. It was an all-too-familiar story of a talented kid having his dreams and idealism — all that potential — pushed aside in favor of what was deemed sellable. “I saw that happen, (and it became) the whole reason why I do what I do at Careless.”

Bret Jackson explores his love of music through finding untapped talent for Careless Music Manila. | Bret wears a navy work jacket and yellow logo tee from Tommy Jeans.

Even for someone like Bret, the opportunity to pursue music didn’t come easy, which is why he takes his A&R job at Careless very seriously. “The landscape was a lot different before,” he explains. “Now, with Careless, I get to pick kids that I think are good and they won’t have to go through the stuff that I went through. They just get help and they can do what they want and be themselves.”

Massiah a.k.a. Hassiam Morton, one of the artists on Careless’ roster and a fellow Dumaguete native, was one of the young talents Bret had come across on his travels. “No one had heard of him,” he recalls. A friend from college showed him a video, and it only had 50 views. “He’s standing in front of a mountain. He’s just in a field, and there’s a boombox playing a beat. And no mic or anything, he’s just going for it.” Bret was blown away: “I’m just like, ‘Wow, this is it. This is as pure as it gets. This is the guy.’”

Bret wears an Americana flag knit pullover, button-down, starembroidered jeans, and signature sneakers from Tommy Jeans.

“The next thing that I really want to see happen, is a change in the idea that, ‘If you want to make it, you have to be in Manila.'”

“The next thing that I really want to see happen,” he continues, “is a change in the idea that, ‘If you want to make it, you have to be in Manila.’” He insists that there are so many musicians out there in the different regions who just need somebody to believe in them. “With Careless I just want to see it get big enough that we can help them. (Filipino music) has always been good, it just needs the right spotlight. It needs people to invest in it.”

What it all comes down to, according to Bret, is faith: “It doesn’t take much, but it just has to be real.”

 

“Filipino music has always been good, it just needs the right spotlight. It needs people to invest in it.”

 

Careless isn’t just an opportunity for Bret to explore musically and foster untapped talent. It’s also a venture he entered into with longtime friend James Reid. “James and I, we started making music together on PBB,” he says. “We became best friends there, and for years we just made music together.” His KINGwAw moniker pays homage to their first band, called We Are Whatever. “It wasn’t the best music,” he quips. “But that’s my best friend. I kept (the W.A.W. acronym) because it’s part of my journey and part of where I came from.”

“It’s just like, we’ve been winging it this whole time,” he laughs. But Careless, he says, just kept growing, and for that he’s grateful. “Now we have an office. I keep meeting people through it that have the same vision or the same energy. It’s work that I love to do.”

 

Follow Bret (@bret.jackson) and Careless Music Manila (@carelessph) on Instagram. Tommy Jeans is located at Level 2, Center Atrium Robinson’s Place Manila.

Photos by RENZO NAVARRO
Styled by NEAL P. CORPUS
Grooming by NICOLE CEBALLOS
Produced by MAINE MANALANSAN and GABY GLORIA
Sittings by GIAN NICDAO and BEA AMADOR
Clothes by TOMMY JEANS
Tags:
#cover #fashion #feature #music #style

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