Tue. Nov 13th, 2018

Jackson Pierce: Overcoming the Odds

It is said that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  Jackson Pierce is proof that past mistakes and wrong-doings can be overcome with perseverance and the will to succeed.  He’s been ranked as high as #1 on Reverb Nation’s Singer/Songwriter charts both locally and regionally, and Pierce sees no end in sight for what he can achieve.  Although he spent years captive to his addiction and love gone wrong, the damage incurred by the chaos has led him to where he is today.  He strives to help those who suffer from addiction, co-dependency, and/or toxic relationships, by sharing his experience that you can and will recover.  “I’m not going to be perfect, but I want others to see that you can struggle in life and still be successful.  You don’t have to be a prisoner of your past,” says Pierce. 

He strives to always do the next right thing, both with music and in his personal life.  His ability to market to audiences who can relate to his story has yielded results with very positive feedback, as many listeners describe his music as inspirational and therapeutic.  By defining the demographics of his target fan-base, Pierce discovered there was a considerable desire from listeners to hear the intimate details of his experiences.  While he’d like his music to appeal to everyone, his objective is to be of service to others by sharing his strength and hope to help remind them they aren’t alone and that there really is a ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’  “Addiction is a disease.  As an artist and someone who’s now somewhat in the limelight, it’s very important for me to remain transparent, and for my music to always reflect my current state of mind.  I’m someone that’s been through it, and someone that’s still going through it.  It’s incredibly humbling to know that my music is capable of helping others,” Pierce adds as he recounts his past. 

“I don’t want to say I’d go back in life and change anything because I’m happy now.”

Pierce was born and raised in Northwest Indiana.  Growing up, sports played a large role in his life, both as an athlete and as a fan.  Not uncommon for Indiana folk, he was an avid basketball player and also on the men’s volleyball team for his high school.  At the age of 15, his father passed away suddenly from a heart attack.  Following his death, he lived alone with his mother until he finished high school.  She remarried a few months after his graduation.  

He’s a die-hard fan of both the Chicago Cubs and Bears, but painfully admits he lost all interest in sports during his active addiction.  The Cubs won the World Series for the first time in over 100 years, and it saddens him that he didn’t even watch one game.  He’s always been good with words when it comes to writing, but never really enjoyed doing it.  In fact, he was the sports editor of his high school newspaper and originally intended on majoring in Journalism in college.  Before his freshman year at Indiana University, he switched majors to criminal justice. Unfortunately, he failed the intro criminal justice class and was placed on academic probation after his 1st semester.  With a smile, he admits he never went to class as it was a 30-minute walk across campus during winter at 8am. He figured out it was better to schedule afternoon classes and ultimately received his Bachelors of Sciencedegree in Kinesiology, majoring in Sports Marketing and Management while minoring in Business. 

Photo taken from “Worst Days,” produced by Epidemic Media. Image provided by Jackson Pierce.

During his senior year at IU, Pierce admits he only attended roughly 30% of his classes.  He rarely went to class because he fell in love.  He fell in love with the sport of poker, during the age of ESPN’s World Series of Poker coverage, and the Chris Moneymaker, anyone can win the main event, poker boom of 2003.  Instead of going to class, he would play online poker, putting in marathon sessions on both Poker Stars & Full Tilt Poker.  “We had a little rounders club, I guess,” mentioning that a few of those he began with still play professionally and have become millionaires from poker.  

My Mom was not thrilled about my poker playing days.  At one point I moved to Las Vegas to pursue my dream of playing professionally.  She saw it as gambling, but I was a tournament player.  I played full-time. I passionately studied the game, constantly implemented different strategies, trying to perfect and advance my style of play.  It’s not just a game of chance, there’s an incredible amount of skill and intellect at play.”  At the height of his semi-professional poker career, Pierce was featured as ‘Player of the Month’ in an issue of a poker magazine ‘Southwest Poker News.’  Despite winning more than $200,000 as a tournament poker player, he hasn’t played poker since his addiction began more than 4 years ago. 

“Drugs completely changed who I am and my outlook on life.”

After 6 months in Las Vegas, while ‘running bad’ in poker and going through the breakup of a 4-year relationship, Pierce realized playing poker for a living wasn’t going the way he envisioned and moved back to Phoenix, Arizona. Unbeknownst to him at the time, he would soon be facing the biggest test of his life.  He began working for Enterprise Rent-A-Car in their Management Training program.  He was quickly promoted several times, moving all over the state to manage several Enterprise locations.  After 3 years with the company, he promoted to ‘Flagship Branch Manager’ to run one of the largest and busiest branches in Arizona.  

Life was on the rise, and in June of 2014, he met his second “first” love.  Her name was Maggie.  He fell hard, and he fell fast.  Early into the relationship, she admitted to him that she had a history with drugs, specifically methamphetamine.  At this point, he had no first-hand experience or knowledge about the drug, and believed the stereotypical definition that a meth addict was a kleptomaniac or someone who picked their skin compulsively.  He remembers telling her that if she ever used crystal meth again, he couldn’t be with her.  Just 4 months later, he was using with her for the first time, the beginning of a tumultuous 4-year drug addiction.  

It wasn’t long before his life started spiraling out of control.  He was no longer capable of managing his responsibilities and admits he had absolutely no fear of consequence.  His top priority was no longer his career at Enterprise.  He isolated himself within his relationship, not caring for maintaining any other meaningful friendships or relationships.  The only thing that mattered was maintaining his high, and intimately spending as much time as possible with Maggie.  

He lost his position at Enterprise, after his Group Rental Manager’ came without warning to his office to drive him to complete a drug test, then drove him home (he had a company car at the time).  He was terminated a few days later for testing positive for methamphetamine.  “It was one of the darkest days of my life.  I was ashamed, embarrassed, caught off-guard, and scared, all at the same time.  I worked extremely hard and was very successful as a manager.  I was on pace to make at least $85,000 that year,” Pierce said with a look of disgust. 

At the time he was fired, the relationship had already been progressively getting worse, tarnished by multiple forms of abuse, lies, and infidelities (among other issues).  It had become terrifyingly toxic, fueled by their addiction, and Pierce had become codependent.  The drug brought out the worst in him.  He became immoral, developing a hyper-focused obsession to the euphoric sexual side effect of the drug.  Regrettably, it was very difficult for him to control his unfamiliar and heightened sex drive, at times causing him to act forcibly upon his sexual wants and desires.  At the same time, Maggie had been pulling away and seeing other men.  

Instead of leaving the relationship, Pierce admits resenting her and continuing to treat her as an object for his obsession, sadly forgetting she was the love of his life, and the woman that he adored.  “I often sat high at her house (where we lived together), wondering where she was, stuck in my own head, and losing my mind,” Pierce recalls.  “This was the only girl I had ever loved, and we were drastically falling apart.” 

Early in 2016, during an argument while they were both under the influence, he intimidated her by backing her up against a sliding glass door.  She responded by saying she was going to shoot him. Before he knew what was happening, he had pinned her on the bedroom floor and was choking her, angrily yelling out “You’re gonna shoot me!?”  A few seconds later, he could see he was hurting her, and she was begging for him to stop.  He stopped.  But later that evening, another altercation occurred that again turned physical.  A few hours later, he was arrested at her home and taken to jail, later receiving an undesignated Felony 6 for aggravated assault/domestic violence.  He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years supervised probation and a 60-day deferred jail sentence.   

Image provided by Jackson Pierce from “Worst Days,’ produced by Epidemic Media.

To say aloud that I’m a meth addict and that I choked my girlfriend, I think to myself, ‘what the hell happened to my life?’  I’m a good person and would give anyone the shirt off my back if they needed it.  At least the real me would,” Pierce added as his voice softens.  He was a social drinker but rarely to the point of being drunk.  He used to smoke weed, in fact he was actively smoking it when their relationship began.  He had tried coke a few times before being with her and they used it together during the first few months of being a couple, but admits that was his idea, not hers. He was never addicted to any mind-altering substances until he had met the devil – called speed.  The poker player in him would have bet the house that hed never try it, let alone become addicted to crystal meth.  It was a sure bet that would’ve have caused him to lose it all, but Pierce says he pretty much lost it all anyway.  

Despite consistently being a top performer at work and earning a substantial income, he failed repeatedly at keeping employment during his struggles with addiction.  However, his girlfriend, their bad relationship, and the drug problems had become a muse for his writing.  Pierce notes that this was when he really started to enjoy writing.  “She brought it out of me.  I used to be romantic and make her poems out of song titles on Spotify.  I only used the words in the titles, I never added my own.  The cool thing was that I would find unknown songs that I knew she would like,” Pierce says. “I have no idea where I got the idea from, but I was damn good at it.  I even started a company called ‘Rhyme or Reason Song Poems’.  Writing her poems was when I learned that I thoroughly enjoyed putting words together and discovered I was pretty talented at doing so.”  

While the relationship continued to worsen, he began using writing as an emotional outlet.  He started writing a series of excerpts he titled “Methed Up,” and recorded them to audio.  The journal detailed moments as they were happening in real-time: worrying about her, their relationship issues, their individual personal problems, his struggle getting sober, and his innermost thoughts & feelings.  His journals include all types of moments: the good, the bad, and the ugly, the true confessions of a meth addict.  He lacked the ability to really feel any of his emotions while using, yet somehow was able to put them into words.  

The deeper his mind wandered into its own little world, the more he began tapping into his previously unknown creativity to express his emotions through song.  He’d write down a few lyrics, listen to instrumentals online, then easily put his words to the music as though he’d been composing songs his entire life.  “I distinctly remember one night, it was my birthday and I was alone.  I’m sitting in her very large walk-in bathroom, recording in QuickTime on her Mac, no idea what I was doing but I was doing it,” Pierce says, as he pauses. “And out of nowhere, I’m using this raspy voice I never knew existed.  I truly believe God led me to find my talent in this moment to save my life.  I don’t want to think of what would have happened if I hadn’t discovered music as my therapeutic outlet.” 

At the beginning, every song he wrote was about Maggie.  It was where his creative mind took him in the moment.  Nothing he recorded was meant to be vindictive or hurtful on purpose: no hidden desires, expectations, or meaning.  He jumped in with full force and spent countless hours working on original music as well as learning about his voice recording many covers.  More importantly, this newfound passion kept his altered state of mind occupied, providing an escape from the chaos that had become his life.  The relationship was ending, but his music career was just beginning.  As Pierce talks about his past, he includes that 95% of his music is a real description of his life, the thoughts that came to his mind.  “I write about real life things that I’m experiencing.  I don’t make up stuff or sugarcoat anything, even if it portrays me in a negative light.  I want my music to always reflect my current state of mind and emotion.” 

I’m just a guy that barely has much of anything right now, but I know where I want to be and I know where I’m going.” 

His thanks for saving his life and talking sense into him, he gives to his sister Dawn and his best friend Jeff.  He recalls releasing a recorded video of him performing live that he posted on YouTube.  “Unknowingly, it was my first confessional for my family.  I was high at the time and didn’t care,” Pierce says with a hint of disdain for himself. But he adds that soon after, his family stepped in.  “They knew something was wrong, I didn’t seem like myself.  I was facing a 62-day jail sentence.  I was going to jail, and I knew it.  My girlfriend just cheated on me on my birthday.  My mother told me I had picked the girl over her.  I was at my bottom.  I’ve never been suicidal, but there was one night that a fleeting moment crossed my mind while I was driving, how easy it would be to just turn the wheel and end it all,” he adds.  It was then that he knew he had to face it, go to rehab, and serve whatever jail time he was required to do.  He had considered running from the law, with plans of driving back to Indiana and getting the hell out of Arizona, away from his troubles and away from Maggie.  But his sister and friend got through to him.

He spent a few days with an ex-girlfriend, ironically the woman who first introduced him to Maggie.  She knew the owner of a recovery center and put Pierce in touch with them.  After reaching out to his family for help, he entered a 12 week intensive outpatient program.  His five siblings and an uncle collectively put together $3,200 so he could enter the treatment.  A week later, he moved into a sober living house.  He completed treatment, although admittedly did not remain sober during the program.  While in sober living, Pierce had a mental breakdown after his car was repossessed at work, and the dreadful feeling of loneliness and despair hit him hard.  His previous roommate used heroin right in front of him, and his current roommate snored incredibly loud making it hard for him to sleep.  After a frantic text conversation with his mother, his brother Brian thankfully reached out to him and told Pierce to come live with them.  

“Granted, I still struggle some days, but as an artist it is encouraging when people message me telling me how my music helps them.”

In late 2017, he violated the terms of probation by testing positive for meth on one of his random monthly drug tests and for breaking curfew.  At the time of the violation, he was employed at GoDaddy and was on pace to make $100,000.  “Long story short, I served 62 days in jail and lost my job,” Pierce recounts.  He took pride in the fact that he did remain sober while serving his sentence.  “I was sober the entire 62 days, even though drugs were everywhere. I had guys snorting lines of meth right in front of me pretty regularly.”  He stated it was easy to commit to his sobriety while in jail, because the euphoric effects from the drug had always been sexual for him and involved being with women.  He said it was shocking how easily attainable drugs were in jail. The hard reality that Pierce faced while incarcerated was knowing what was waiting for him upon his release.  While the desire to use had been removed for 62 days, it returned with a vengeance on day 63.  Within a few hours of being released, the obsession became too much to fight, and the disease took over once again, as he yo-yo” used on and off again for several months. 

His sobriety is currently his main focus.  He recently got a a sponsor and they are working on his steps together.  He also started another 12-week treatment program and attends many CA & CMA meetings.  In fact, his first live performance was at an H & I (hospitals & institutions) fundraising event for CMA back in April of 2018.  He works full-time, working between 40-65 hours a week.   He will be finished with probation in a few weeks, and will be asking the courts to change his undesignated felony into a misdemeanor.  Earlier this year, Maggie attended an inpatient, dual-diagnosis, 30-day rehab in California and has been drug-free for almost a year.  She is focusing on maintaining her sobriety and regaining custody of her daughter.  While they are no longer together, they are supportive of one another and have remained good friends.

“Worst Days,” produced by Epidemic Media. Image provided by Jackson Pierce.

His manager, Andrew Glogowski, is a long-time friend who he met at the World Series of Poker in 2005.  They connected not only on the poker level, but on a much deeper level, as they learned they had both suffered the loss of their father at a very young age.  To this day, they’ve only met in person twice since they first met 13 years ago.  In March of 2018, the two decided to go for it with his music, as they had always discussed potential business ventures and entrepreneurial ideas over the years.  “I don’t know where I’d be without him,” Pierce says.  “He has paid for studio time, instrumental licenses, music videos, and mixing and mastering, and in other ways financially while I’ve been working on getting my life back on track.  We have a good thing going.” 

Pierce’s studio engineer is Jack London.  He handles the mixing, mastering, and overall sound quality and performance for all the tracks.  “The two of us work well together professionally, I couldn’t ask for a better guy than London.  He’s helped take my sound and music to another level,” Pierce insists.  He recently released his 3rd music video produced by Louie Cohen of Epidemic Media.  They will be producing at least 10 videos together, continuing to portray Pierce’s road of recovery and positive outlook on life.  “My goal as a musician is to be able to support myself making music for a living.  I really don’t care about any fame or fortune, it’s about doing what I love, and being able to use this platform to help others who can relate to my story,” he says.  Speaking of his production team, “I am extremely grateful to have a group of amazingly talented people who truly believe in me and are completely on-board with what I’m trying to accomplish as an artist.” 

‘Honestly, I’m just trying to figure out who Jackson Pierce is – I’m getting there.”

As Pierce looks ahead to his future, he occasionally takes a minute to reflect on where he’s been.  He notes it wasn’t easy, as many friends and family really didn’t take his music seriously, so there wasn’t much encouragement or support from them.  While they are more accepting of it now, it hadn’t always been that way.  “Before, rightfully so, they wanted me to focus my efforts on my recovery and putting my life back together, away from drugs,” Pierce says.  “I’ve accepted that this is who I am, who I was, and what Ive been through.  It really is rehab for me, as I put so much mental focus and effort into my music and brand, that my mind stays occupied most of the time.  It’s a very warm feeling of accomplishment to know it helps others going through similar struggles as well.  I’m not stopping.”

Pierce is currently working on his debut album titled “Hear Inside My Mind.”  He’s hoping to release the album early in 2019 with 15 or so original tracks.  His third single, “Send Me To My Grave” is releasing soon on all music platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, & Google Play.  He has a website for not only his music, but also for inspirational quotes and a list of recovery meetings near Tempe, AZ.  “Great Minds Think Alone,” his first single, is a song that has musically opened the door for Pierce. While in our lowest moments we feel we fall harder than any time before, hindsight shows us we were learning when we hit the ground. His second song, “Worst Days,” is honest and straightforward.  Life is about finding balance, and Pierce brings the best forward from the worst that now lies in his past. Each song is a step in the journey of self-discovery and reflections of distant memories. You can follow Pierce on his journey by liking Jackson Pierce Music on Facebook and by subscribing to Jackson Pierce Music on YouTube. 

Edited by Jackson Pierce for accuracy.

“Remember the Demons, Not the Euphoria.”

 

 

Follow Jackson Pierce Music:

Facebook Music Page: https://www.facebook.com/jacksonpiercemusic 

YouTube Music Channel: https://www.youtube.com/jacksonpiercemusic
Website: https://jacksonpiercemusic.com