When Justin Jackson picked up his first guitar, he had just come through a divorce and was working on an electrical engineering degree at Oklahoma State University. As he began noodling around on an acoustic guitar he borrowed from his uncle, it wasn't long before he wanted more volume. With no money to buy an expensive amplifier, he made one. It was a little black box that plugged into his stereo.
He was so pleased with this invention that he bought a book about how to apply for a patent. This propelled him on a journey that sent him to the UNM School of Law, the Peacock Myers law firm, where he practices as a patent attorney, and on July 24 to the KiMo Theatre, where he will release his first CD as Justin Ray Jackson.
Jackson, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, has been a tinkerer since he was young, much like his grandfather, who has received three patents for his inventions. During college, Jackson designed and built electrical circuits for professors' projects and undergraduate classroom instruction in the university's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. When he learned more about patent attorneys, he decided to become one.
After spending a summer at the American Indian Law Center's Pre-Law Summer Institute, he applied to the UNM School of Law. He earned his J.D. in 2005.
"I like climbing, rappelling and snowboarding and when I saw the mountains here, I knew this is where I wanted to go to school," he says. "In Oklahoma, I had to rappel off of water towers and bridges when no one was looking."
After arriving in Albuquerque, he began a campaign to fill in the gaps in the school's intellectual property offerings. He successfully petitioned for a patent class and an intellectual property class. And he worked with Professor Ted Occhialino to establish an exchange program with Franklin Pierce Law Center, which specializes in intellectual property and patent law.
Jackson joined the Peacock firm after his first year of law school, which precluded him from taking advantage of the new exchange. The firm guaranteed him a job after graduation. At the firm, he drafts patent applications and represents clients through the patent process.
"I like the diversity of things that come through our office and of the clients, who can range from a scientist at Sandia National Laboratories to a farmer welding something in the back of his pickup truck," he says. "It's rewarding when I get a trademark registered or a patent issued."
In the meantime, he has continued to play the guitar and write songs. It took him a while to do both together.
"I would think about the lyrics to a song when I was playing it, but that's all I could do," he says. "Then for a month I played the same song over and over until I could finally sing and play it at the same time. After that, I could do it for every song."
Being a country boy from Oklahoma, Jackson was never interested in any other kinds of music. He describes his music as "edgier country," and considers Hank Williams, Jr. and Toby Keith his inspirations for their commitment to producing music their own way and expressing their own convictions.
"Playing and writing music has been a great outlet for me to express my feelings, take out my frustrations and relax," he says.
He finds inspiration for his songs every day. For example, he has written a song titled, "Looking for Files in all the Wrong Places."
As he has developed his repertoire and musical skills, Jackson has devoted more and more of his spare time to his music, investing his own money into his dream of being a full-time musician.
The July 24 concert will also serve as a benefit for the Keshet Dance Company to celebrate its debut concert as part of a new partnership with the City of Albuquerque at the KiMo Theatre. Jackson will be playing with his band and the doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with free refreshments, followed by the performance at 7 p.m. For more information, check out the Justin Ray Jackson website.
A Conversation With Justin Jackson
Q: What was your favorite class in law school?
Q: Who was your favorite professor?
A: Charles Daniels
Q: What was your least favorite class?
A: Constitutional Law
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald Passman.
Q: Who are your favorite musicians?
A: Hank Williams, Jr., and Toby Keith. I really like the attitude they put into their music.
Q: What would you like to invent?
A: A highly efficient solar cell.