Local musician Jake’O competes in national televised song contest representing Wisconsin

‘There’s music everywhere but the Driftless is definitely magical for me’

Taylor Scott, Managing Editor


Local musician Jake’O performing March 21 on NBC’s “American Song Contest”.

Valley Sentinel sat down with Jake’O to talk about his journey, what it’s like to represent Wisconsin, his favorite cheese and the sounds of the Driftless.

Watch Jake’O perform below and listen to our interview with him in full.

(Photo provided by NBC)

A local artist from our very own River Valley area recently returned home after representing Wisconsin on the national stage as part of NBC’s “American Song Contest”. Jake’O performed an original song on the show last month and shared his inspiration and thoughts with us on the journey.

What is it?

“American Song Contest” is based on the worldwide phenomenon “Eurovision Song Contest,” organized for 65 years by the European Broadcasting Union and watched by 200 million viewers annually. “American Song Contest” is featuring live original music performances – representing all 50 states, five U.S. territories and our nation’s capital – competing to win the country’s vote for the best hit song.

Hosted by Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson, the live competition kicked off March 21 and consists of three rounds as the artists compete in a series of qualifying rounds, followed by the semi-finals and the ultimate grand final where one state or territory will emerge victorious.

“I don’t want to say like backwoods mysticism is the thing that inspires my music, but it very much is, it’s the land… you can’t help but be introspective to some extent. And I feel like that solitude has allowed me to really hone in to the sounds that are around me…there’s music everywhere, but the Driftless is definitely magical for me.”

Jake’O

The 56 artists span a wide range of performers, from undiscovered talent, up-and-coming new artists, rising stars to established and legendary icons — including Jewel, Michael Bolton and Macy Gray.

“We can’t wait for viewers to discover new music from our incredibly talented artists from across the country and help decide America’s next big song,” said executive producer Audrey Morrissey in a statement.

Representing Wisconsin is Jake’O, a resident of the River Valley, who is an American vocalist, guitarist, performer, and entertainer that combines vintage vibes, modern motifs and futuristic flair in every original song by fusing Rock ’n’ Roll, Blues, Pop and R&B.

AMERICAN SONG CONTEST — “The Live Qualifiers Premiere” Episode 101 — Pictured: Jake’O (WI) — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

Inspiration

“The Driftless region of southwest Wisconsin is quite a magical place,” says Jake’O. “I don’t want to say like backwoods mysticism is the thing that inspires my music, but it very much is, it’s the land… you can’t help but be introspective to some extent. And I feel like that solitude has allowed me to really hone in to the sounds that are around me…there’s music everywhere but the Driftless is definitely magical for me.”

“American Song Contest” describes Jake’O as the originator of the Nuvo-Retro sound — a term he coined to describe his genre and style — having built a reputation in Wisconsin by using his soulful vibrato voice, reverberating mile-wide guitar tone, electric showmanship and signature baby blue brand.

So what’s Nuvo-Retro?

“Nuvo-Retro is a convergence of things that I love,” says Jake’O, with an excited smile. “And that’s the vintage vibes, the modern motifs and the futuristic flair. And I like to put them all in one, or take two thirds of them and put it together and to create. So Nuvo-Retro is retro futurism. It could also be like a modern, futuristic take on things, future retro… When I came up with the term ‘Nuvo’, it’s actually a derivative of the French word ‘nouveau-riche’, which means like, it’s a new movement, a new movement of, of rich in the the socio economic terms, but I like the idea of nouveau being like a new movement, like a next generation.”

What happened?

During his nationally televised performance March 21, Jake’O electrified the audience with his original song “Feel Your Love” — a love romp that featured his wide range of vocals and skill with the guitar.

However, facing stiff competition in week one — including the legendary Michael Bolton, Jake’O wasn’t chosen by the jury or public vote to move on.

“My biggest takeaway was I got to plant the seed of Nuvo-Retro and I feel like that night I performed was the night that Nuvo-Retro was really created to some extent,” says Jake’O. “And that was an honor because I think the takeaway is that maybe there’s somebody else that was watching that’s like, ‘I want to make that type of music’.”

What’s next?

“I’m gonna keep going, I’m going to be making music,” says Jake’O. “When I got home to Wisconsin, I just picked up my guitar… I don’t want people to think that it’s over… they’re gonna select two more wildcard contestants and you never know what’s going to happen. So you know, if it happens, they call me back, I’m gonna hit the stage and do my thing. But if that doesn’t happen, I’m gonna just keep making more music.”

Jake’O iterated how proud he is to have represented Wisconsin and even sat through a lightning round of truly Wisconsin questions for us — and left us with some truly Wisconsin answers that you can only listen to online.

Want to hear more?

A recording of Valley Sentinel’s full interview with Jake’O is available below:


You can also follow Jake’O on Spotify. Many of his songs are archived currently as he explores re-recording them following his appearance on “American Song Contest”.