Tito Jackson may have long been known as the Jackson 5 brother with all those crazy hats, but he wants you to know he's got way more going on than just hitting the milliner to beef up his collection. He's actually been in the studio (with the help of his sons, Taj, Taryll and T.J. of former boy band 3T) recording his first solo effort, So Far So Good, which just launched with the first single, "We Made It."
Now, he explains only to UsMagazine.com why he decided to wait, along with a quick update on how brother Michael Jackson's kids are holding up since his 2009 death.
UsMagazine.com: What inspired you to branch into a solo career?
Tito Jackson: I actually started a solo career back in the days of Motown, but it so happened that the brothers left the company at the time that I was in the middle of my project, so it was never released. I had three sons, so I had to stop and raise my boys. I just put my project on the back burner for a little while, or a long while I should say. I worked for my kids, raised my sons. But since everyone in my family has a solo career, I thought it was time for me to do something.
Us: How is this album different from what you produced with the Jackson Five? And what sets it apart from the work of your siblings?
TJ: I think what sets it apart is that it's just me expressing my musical abilities, and what I feel and think musically. Instead of having four or five other brothers with their input, I'm able to totally express myself.
Us: Was it ever difficult to get the five of you to agree on the music you all produced?
TJ: Well, it's a musical thing. It almost speaks for itself, especially when you're speaking about musical disagreement. The music will speak for itself.
Us: Awesome. Are your sons on the album at all?
TJ: My sons have a huge involvement in the album. They helped produce and write some of the songs and sang in the background with me. They kept me really focused on the project. After my brother passed away, it was very difficult to get back into a musical groove. I had to take time to just mourn for a moment. I felt Michael wanted me to continue my music. He had heard the title track, and he liked it and praised it very much. I started back on it about four months ago, and now I'm going to complete it and get it out.
Us: Incredible. Are there any tributes to Michael on the album?
TJ: No, but I’m working on something. It's actually still very hard for me to listen to his music. Although, I hear it all the time, to actually listen to some of his later music when he wasn't a Jackson Five is difficult. I don't instantly think about Michael Jackson the superstar, I think that my brother is not here.
Us: How is the whole family coping? Has it brought the family closer together?
TJ: It brought us closer as a family, and we are there for one another. I truly understand the meaning when they say, 'You never get over it.' You don’t.
Us: Do your children or grandchildren hang out with Michael's children at all?
TJ: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, Blanket and my grandson are best friends. They're close in age, so they play together. Prince is having fun and enjoying school and that whole thing. So is Paris.
Us: What about Janet? How is she handling everything? What do you think of her tour?
TJ: I haven’t seen Janet's show yet, but I hear great things about it. I saw her last concert tour, and it was fabulous. She’s always excited me ever since she was just a little baby on stage with her brothers. I always enjoyed watching her.
Us: Do you think Janet will settle down and have a family with the new boyfriend?
TJ: Janet is a hard worker, and she's always motivated by new ideas and building her career. Who knows? Maybe she's at an age and time in her life where she might want to take a little slower place and maybe consider some of the things she hasn't touched on in life. Maybe a family. Maybe marriage. You never know.She's been married before, but maybe a family this time. We'll see.
Us: You've kind of developed a reputation as the Jackson who wears the hat. How many hats do you have if you had to guess?
TJ: How many hats? Wow. Quite a few. At least 50.
Us: Do you have a personal favorite?
TJ: I like my Beaver Boat bowler.
Us: I read that Michael said you were the calm one that kept everyone grounded in the group. What was it like playing that role in the family?
TJ: It's just the way that I've always been. I tell it like it is, but I don’t voice my opinion unless it's asked for. I keep my thoughts to myself, and I think that's one of the best ways to be. With brothers you become friends. Some you hang out with more than others. You talk to one about the other a little more. You get mad at them. Then, you love them. Then, you apologize. You have to apologize whether you want to or not. You have to. That's your brother.
Us: Who was buddied up in the Jackson Five?
TJ: There were two groups. Michael, Marlon and Randy were a group. And then Jackie, Jermaine, and I were the other group.
Us: Once the album comes out, will you be going on tour?
TJ: Yes, I plan to do various dates over the course of the year including a radio tour as well.
Us: Will your family be touring with you at all?
TJ: I'm pretty sure my mom will always come in and check on us and visit to make sure everything is okay. She makes sure we’re behaving.
Us: What about your dad?
TJ: Joe Jackson is a great man. The problem that people have with my father is that he tells it like it is. He's just straight up and doesn't beat around the bush. Tough love. If he likes you, he'll let you know that. If he doesn't like you, he’s going to let you know that, too.
Us: And what about Mike's kids? Will you be taking them on tour at all?
TJ: If they want to come out and hang out with Uncle Tito, that’s always welcome. I'm going to be taking them fishing this summer. I'm going to hang out with them a little bit when I get a chance.
Us: That’s great. And how are they? This must be so hard for them. How are they coping?
TJ: Well, they're children and they have a way of not being okay, but being okay. They miss their pops dearly, but they are continuing to be children and do all the things that children do. They go to Disneyland and go to the movies and the park, things children do.
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