NORTH FORK, NY — The North Fork is abuzz with excitement as longtime friends get ready to cheer on a teen with deep roots in the community, watching eagerly in front of their TVs as he auditions on “American Idol.”
Jackson Gillies, 19, who spent much of his childhood on the North Fork, auditioned for the new, 17th season of “American Idol;” the new season begins airing on March 3 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
“Tune in to see if he gets the golden ticket,” his proud mom Connie Gillies said.
Jackson, 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.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of Jackson,” Connie Gillies said. “He doesn’t let anything stop him and has overcome so many obstacles and a boatload of pain and keeps on working. He gives 150%, including his TEDx talk on HS,” — Hidradenitis Suppurativa, which Jackson has — “which now has 75,000 views and has helped so many. Or his co-producing and co-musically directing the ‘Teens Sing for Santa Barbara Unity Shoppe Disaster Services Concert,’ which, with Kenny Loggins’ guidance and vision, raised $70,000 for the Montecito mudslide and Thomas fire survivors last year.”
Reflecting on her son, who is also diabetic, Gillies said: “We are constantly amazed by him. He wears an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor and just the care and maintenance of Type 1 diabetes is enough — and then to add HS, and five surgeries and not being able to ever grab a bite to eat at a restaurant or eat any prepared food, always having to plan ahead and cook at home and bring food . . . . It’s a lot, but he does it. His goal is to be a pop star and we applaud and support his efforts in any way we can.”
Not only does her son shine on stage, Gillies said, but he is a beacon of hope to others struggling with physical challenges. “He is inspiring the HS community of about 230 million people to come out of the shadows, if their comfort level permits, and go for their dreams — to let nothing stop them.”
As for achieving his goal, Gillies said, “It’s all about social media these days so if you feel inspired follow him on Instagram, ‘like’ his page on Facebook and subscribe on YouTube. You can do all that on his website,” she said.
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 indelible 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 lives with 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.”
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.
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 put aside once I step on the stage,” he said.
For a full taste of his Gillies’ talent, check out his YouTube channel.
For a look at a recent Patch interview with Jackson, click here.
Photo courtesy AMERICAN IDOL-Coverage. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal). JACKSON GILLIES. © 2019 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.