When 18-year-old Jackson Dean Nicholson, defensive end for the Arundel High School Wildcats, took the field Friday to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner,” he wasn’t expecting to become a viral star. After all, he delivered the same performance last year as a junior, and still calls Odenton, Md., home.
But when a video of his low-key, countrified version of the national anthem went out on the World Wide Web, the world took notice, as the performance has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
“It’s definitely been a buzz and it’s kind of been crazy,” the artist, who goes who goes by Jackson Dean, said Tuesday.
Versions of the notoriously difficult-to-sing anthem have been known to go south. Dean formulated his own modest version that seems to draw on his early days learning how to play guitar in his family’s home as it was being rebuilt after burning down.
“I changed it so it fit me to where it would sound good,” he said. “I did it the way it allowed me room to sing.”
Dean’s rendition comes at a time when the anthem has been embroiled in controversy involving President Trump and and some professional athletes, including National Football League players. Dean, however, said he wanted to keep politics out of his performance.
Dean said he will finish high school a semester early in January. He’s worked with a Nashville producer and, once school’s out, he can pursue his musical career in earnest.
“This has taken off a lot faster than we thought,” he said.