Austin High School junior, Jackson Snelling, has a bright future ahead. At the age of 16, Snelling has already discovered a talent for singing and songwriting that cannot go unnoticed. This past December, Snelling had a video go viral for his original song “Please Listen.” The video was an instant success with now more than 47,000 views and over 2,000 shares.
Despite his recent success, Snelling hasn’t always had it easy in life. Snelling and his biological brother Dawson were adopted as babies by David and Dacia Snelling, and both were later diagnosed with different forms of Autism, as well as other health and behavioral issues. His brother was labeled special needs with a failure to thrive. When Jackson was just seven years old, and his brother nine, their father passed away in his sleep from a heart attack.
“That night in February 2009, I had a severe asthma attack and seizure, so my parents took turns sleeping with me that night,” said Snelling. “That morning I could not wake my dad; he had died lying next to me that night.”
Although a younger Jackson could comprehend his father’s death, his brother Dawson could not. Dawson is 18 years old now and a senior at Austin High School, but only functions at a 5-8 year-old level.
“My brother is always asking if Dad is coming home,” said Snelling. “We try to explain to him, but he will keep asking. It has been difficult for us to move on due to reliving my dad’s death all of the time. Now that I am older, I realize my brother cannot comprehend my dad’s death, so I try to take my time to explain it to him over and over in hopes that he will get it someday. Because of all this, I wrote and recorded the song ‘Please Listen’ for my brother.”
Despite his disabilities, Snelling has always had a love and passion for singing.
“Singing just comes naturally to me. I started entertaining my parents by singing as soon as I began to talk. I have an excellent memory, so I can learn a song within a day and retain it. I used to sing and retain entire Bible lessons.”
“Singing and songwriting is my savior,” added Snelling. “It has kept me grounded. Songwriting is like journaling to me. This is where I can relieve tension, worries, and memories.”
Snelling has been singing in the choir at Austin High School since sixth grade.
“My teacher has always wanted me to sing in the show choir, but I have a hip disorder that prevents me from moving around a lot,” said Snelling. “That includes dancing and sports. However, I have performed several soloes for the choir since sixth grade. I have also sung at many funerals in Austin and Mr. Larry DeWitt’s cancer benefit fundraiser before he passed.”
Snelling says his biggest accomplishment so far has been singing for his peers at Austin High School.
“Austin High School held a retirement celebration for our Middle School principal Mr. Deaton. They had several local bands perform, then after the band finished, you hear my name “Jackson,” being chanted throughout the auditorium; it became so loud that the high school Principal Mr. Herald called me up on stage to sing my two original songs, plus “Mary Did You Know.” At every pause, the crowd went crazy, and I received the largest standing ovation
ever. Then as I was exiting the stage, the retiring Mr. Deaton, who is famous for singing “Blue
Moon of Kentucky,” asked me to remain on stage. He said that he had been wanting to sing with me since the sixth grade. So it was an honor to be able to sing” Blue Moon of Kentucky,” with Mr. Deaton on his last day,” said Snelling.
Due to the support of his peers and teaching staff, Snelling said he felt like a true star that afternoon.
Snelling also attends Maxwell’s House of Music in Jeffersonville for piano and voice lessons.
“I started there when I was 13,” said Snelling. “I’ve been taking lessons with Ms. Shelia O’Bannon for almost four years now. She is my rock. She has seen me at my best, and my worst, and has stood by me through it all with the patience of a saint.”
Snelling’s viral video came out of Maxwell’s Studio when the owner, Mark Maxwell, decided to do a few interviews to show the talent coming out of his studio. Snelling was interviewed by Joel Jackson about his life story and song that Snelling had written for his brother.
“The interview went crazy,” said Snelling. “So Joel used it as sort of a trailer for my music video of ‘Please Listen.’”
Once the video was released, it immediately went viral. People from all over the world started reaching out to Snelling and sharing their stories about losing loved ones.
“People of all ages are relating to his story and sharing theirs with him. Jackson has been answering each one individually and offering his condolences. He has reached out to a few very young teens by offering to talk with them if need be,” said Snelling’s mother Dacia Snelling. “Jackson is a great and very humble kid.”
Since the release of his viral video, Snelling has had the privilege of performing for WHAS11 Good Day Live, and for other local restaurants in the area.
Snelling isn’t slowing down this momentum and has even bigger plans for his future.
“I definitely plan to pursue American Idol and The Voice,” said Snelling. “My long-term goals are to keep singing and writing, and go to college for music theory and teach like my mentor, Ms. Shelia O’ Bannon. I pray that I can make it big and support my family. My mom has made so many sacrifices for me. She often goes without to provide for my brother and me.”
If you want to see Snelling perform in person, he has a couple free shows coming up in mid-January at the Brooklyn Pizza Company in Seymour. Show times are 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM on Friday, January 18, and Saturday, January 19.
To follow along on Jackson’s journey, or see more of his upcoming shows, you can visit his Facebook page for the latest updates: https://www.facebook.com/JacksonSnelling02/