by Isabela Costa

Kara Jackson wants to be dangerous. Wielding her voice like a honey-coated blade, Kara crafts a blend of emotional folk music and poetic alt-country. With the radical honesty of Nina Simone, and the intricate lyricism of Fiona Apple and Joana Newsom, Kara’s writing blurs the line between poetry and song, demanding an attentive ear and a repeat listen. Raised by country folk and Black feminist poets like Gwendolyn Brooks and LucilleClifton, Kara’s Songs have the softness and warmth of a southern drawl, while still being sharp enough to cut deep. Born and raised in Oak Park, IL, a community 10 miles west of Chicago, with a Southern sensibility imbued by their parent’s background, her innate talent was unlocked early on honing her skills for music and writing from a very young age.

What does awakening mean to you? Awakening is something that’s always happening. For me, it’s trying to approach every day as a new, clean slate and not judge myself for who I was before today.

Is it possible to have a peaceful transformation or true change always comes with brutal rupture? I don’t think change is always brutal. Sometimes it’s natural and cathartic to grow out of an old mode. I think a lot of change is heartbreaking, but bittersweet.

Is the world a balance of opposite forces? Are we constantly looking for that balance in ourselves? I’m a libra so I think a lot about balance. Something that’s been really important to me as I get older is embracing that I’m not for everybody, and resisting the urge to try to please everybody or every audience. I also believe in embracing contradiction, the way we are naturally in opposition with ourselves, because I think accepting the fact that I will make mistakes and I am still smoothing out inconsistencies allows me to have more patience for everyone around me.

What was the last artistic piece that transformed you? I was really transformed by “gossypiin” by Ra Malika Imhotep. It’s a book of poems in the lineage of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf” and it deals with history and memory in such a striking way,

How does your own artistic practice alter yourself? I feel like I’ve always come to art to make sense of of everything that feels wrong, whether that’s myself or just the state of the world. So when I tend to my art practice I feel like I aim to emerge realer with myself, about where I’m at, what’s hurting, what needs to get better. It’s like a diagnosis.

When it comes to artists, is there a fetishization of suffering? I’m not sure what suffering is being referred to here but I feel like there’s been less room now for earnest feeling. People are looking for fun and escapism in their work, and individualism has made people less sympathetic to suffering all around the world. Yet at the same time people are coming together more than ever to share their grief, and pain, not to fetishize it, but to unite around struggles, to face the way their suffering is a shared experience, and I think that is going to be felt in the art soon, too.

Most people experience life as passage of “mandatory” rituals: school, job, marriage etc. What happens once you escape those rituals? Emptiness or accomplishment? The rigidity of the structures we live in that render these choices (work, marriage, etc) mandatory limits our imagination and as a result limits how we define success. I often think about how if we were not forced to work so much, what would we define our lives around? Escaping these structures opens us up to endless possibility in my opinion.

Do you have personal rituals in your routine or during your process of making new work? I don’t know if its a ritual or more so habitual but I like to start my work with myself. I like to figure out how I feel and where I stand in my work in a room by myself before I bring other people into that room.

What happens once you give birth to new work? Is it a release? When I write something new I like to bring it to people I trust. Before something ever sees the world I like for it to be in the hands of people who care about me and my work in a way the public is not obligated to.

What makes art eternal? What makes art eternal is the way itwe observe it. we memorialize art and extend its life by continuing to engage with it, remarking and critiquing it.

Why do you do what you do? I’m still figuring out why I do what I do but I’ve always made music because it’s what I’ve loved about the world. I love music and our inclination to make sounds, to communicate with them.

What to make when everything has been made? You have a conversation with the people who have chosen to speak already. I appreciate that I’m not the first person to speak or to do something, because that’s terrifying. All I have to do is enter a conversation that’s been happening long before me.


Kara Jackson @karakara
Original Pictures provided by The Oriel Company @theorielco Bio by Jamila Woods
Interview + Collage Isabela Costa @isa.chromatic