NORTH FORK, NY — Jackson Gillies, 19, is a young man with ties to the North Fork whose bright star continues to rise.
Gillies, a talented vocalist who has seen a steady ascent to stardom despite daunting physical challenges, won the Santa Barbara Teen Star USA competition in 2016 – and recently debuted his single and music video, “Miss Me Too.”
Gillies, who was previously known as Jackson Gillies Cocciolone, is soaring toward stardom. The debut of “Miss Me Too,” was a huge milestone in his life, he said. And, he also auditioned for the new, 17th season of “American Idol,” which begins airing on March 3 on ABC.
Reflecting on his new single, Gillies describes the song that already has North Fork friends raving on social media.
“I’m really really happy with it,” he said. “I started writing it sitting on my couch at home, thinking about my last relationship. I had broken up with this girl a few months ago, and it was a situation where there was no chance of getting back together. There were still some feelings there, so the song is sort of a question of ‘Do you still miss me? I know we can’t be together, but I want to know if the love is still there.'”
The song was recorded at Brotheryn Studio C in Ojai, CA, Gillies said, adding that his engineer, co-writer and co-producer was Jesse Siebenberg, and Ryan Slattery co-directed the video.
He and Siebenberg, he said, “met through mutual musician friends in Santa Barbara, and immediately hit it off. Jesse recently played Pedal Steel for a hefty number of tracks on the ‘Star Is Born’ soundtrack and co-wrote some of the songs with Bradley Cooper and Lukas Nelson. Needless to say, I’m a lucky guy to be working with him,” he said.
“Since this is my first single, it’s my first inevitable sonic footprint on the world of music,” he said. “That footprint is relatively small now, but it will be interesting to look back at it in 10 years.”
Despite his young age, Gillies has scaled many hurdles, battling a number of health challenges; he was diagnosed at three years old with Type 1 diabetes and he has also battled Hidradenitis Suppurativa. HS is related to leaky gut, and toxins leaking out of the gut try to escape the body via lymph glands creating painful cysts, he said.
Nothing, however, has kept him from reaching for his own personal stars. “The mentality I keep when facing pain or struggle is that complaining won’t do anything for me. We’re all dealt with different hands and each one has its flaws; we have to power through if we can and reach for our goals. My advice is to remember it could always be worse, and always be thankful for the moment you’re in,” he said.
Perhaps one of Gillies’ most exciting moments came recently when he auditioned for “American Idol.”
Although he is unable to say much about the audition yet, he’s thrilled about the experience. “I do look forward to watching myself perform because I don’t remember a whole lot; I was just too excited. Look out for the Los Angeles auditions.”
His mom, Connie Gillies, urges: “Tune in to see if he gets the Gold Ticket!”
Gillies, who lives in Santa Barbara, CA and attends Santa Barbara City College, is fully immersed in music. “I’m currently writing as many songs as I can, and fueling my songs with experience. Honesty is the best tool you can use to reach other people. I’ll be releasing songs and music videos regularly, and hopefully won’t stop for a very long time,” he said.
Looking ahead, Gillies said his greatest dream for the future is to be a recording and touring artist, “and to touch people all over the world with my music. I want a life that’s exciting, but doesn’t necessarily have to be extreme every day. Meeting people and falling in love and getting heartbroken; that’s exciting. I never want to look back at the end of the day and think, ‘What if?'”
Her son, Connie said, recently received the Global Citizen Award from TVDSB for what he has done for the community, including a TEDx talk on Hidradenitis Suppurativa, his participation in the closed-loop artificial pancreas project trial research at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, which led to FDA approval — he was one of 250 participants internationally, Connie said — and his efforts as co-creator and co-producer/performer at the “Teens Sing for Santa Barbara” Unity Shoppe Disaster Services benefit concert after the Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslide, which killed 23.
At the “Teens Sing for Santa Barbara” event, Gillies was one of three teens to conceive, produce and perform in the benefit concert, raising $70,000 for mudslide survivors; he was musical co-director with Kenny Loggins, who has encouraged his dream, and with whom he has worked.
“Kenny is a mentor to Jackson and he is so thankful for that,” his mother Connie said.
Although he is just 19, Gillies’ list of shining musical accomplishments is long: In 2018, at the One805 Kick Ash Bash fundraiser to honor and support Thomas Fire First Responders, Gillies performed with David Foster and the Janet Adderly Theatre Group, Kenny
Loggins, and The Sisterhood Band.
In 2017, he organized and performed at “Something That Matters,” an awareness concert for
Hidradenitis Suppurativa with Kenny Loggins, Tariqh Akoni, Randy Tico, Tom Lackner, Fausto
Cuevas, and LaNesha Latimer. Also in 2017, Gillies opened for and performed with Jim Messina and Band at the William Sansum Diabetes Research Center benefit in Santa Barbara.
And in 2016, the rising young star performed with Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Christopher Cross, and others at the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence in Santa Barbara.
Gillies has always faced his challenges head-on, putting a face on Type 1 diabetes, and showing young people everywhere that the diagnosis does not have to keep them from reaching for their dreams.
He strives to become a successful songwriter and performer and to share his gift with the world. “I want to make music until the day I die,” he said.
In performing, Gillies has found the wings to soar above his physical challenges. “It is freeing to be able to perform and not feel constrained by my conditions. My physical struggles are out aside once I step on the stage,” he said.
His ties to the North Fork run deep: His grandparents, Jackson said, always summered on, and retired to, the North Fork; he’s got cousins, aunts and uncles in the area. He lived on the North Fork from sixth to ninth grade, and the memories are precious.
“I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world now. Santa Barbara is gorgeous but there is no place like the North Fork. There are stretches of beaches on Nassau Point that will always mean home to me,” he said.
For Connie Gillies, herself a talented local photographer and pianist, watching her son succeed is a gift beyond measure.
“Jackson is a special person and I love it when others pick up on it,” she said. Her son, she said, “is a great spirit. A comedian. An actor. A guitarist and singer and a wonderful friend and son. I hope whoever might read this gets a chance to meet him. Once you do, you won’t forget him.”
North Fork friends definitely haven’t forgotten Gillies, who touched scores with his talent and heart. “I’ve been watching this kid since he was performing on stage at Greenport High School’s ‘Guys & Dolls’ many years ago,” Greenport’s Rena Wilhelm wrote on social media after sharing her excitement about the single and music video— and her pride in Gillies for his hard work and dedication. “He’s an incredible talent but beyond that, he is an extraordinary individual. My heart feels like it is going to burst.”
For a full taste of his Gillies’ talent, check out his YouTube channel.