When former world kickboxing champion and successful business entrepreneur Ali Jacko told those close to him, including celebrity friends, that he was going to launch a singing career, they thought he was crazy.
Undeterred, Ali used the strong work ethic from his days as a champion fighter to do what it took to make his musical dream come true. He assembled a talented team, took musical training, honed his songwriting abilities and shot what is one of the biggest-budget musical videos ever done by a British-Asian artist, featuring supermodel and TV personality Jodie Kidd.
The London-based singer/songwriter, who poured raw emotion from personal experiences into his song Give My Love A Brand New Name, hopes it will be the first step towards a successful rock career. The 46-year-old already has big plans and like his fighting days, won’t give up until he delivers a knock-out blow.
Eastern Eye caught up with Ali to find out more about his debut song, future plans, musical influences, what his close pal Salman Khan thinks of his singing and more.
Why did you decide to become a singer?
There was never a plan to become a singer, otherwise I would have done it a lot earlier. I have always loved music as a fan of great artists and one day surprised myself when I got behind the microphone. That moment triggered something in me, which I guess is a strong love I have for music and singing.
How did your debut single Give My Love A Brand New Name come about?
Nobody, including my friends and family thought I was serious when I expressed a desire to release a song. (Laughs) They thought I had lost my marbles. So I took it up as a personal challenge to release a song and the only way I was gonna make that happen was with a top team around me. I assembled a good group and worked really hard. The result is this song.
What inspired the track?
I think all songs are based on personal experiences and this one is no different. Although the song reflects what I have been through, I am sure it has sentiments everyone will relate to. Anyone who has been in love or has lost a love will be able to relate to this song. Sometimes people don’t realise what they have until they lose it, and this song reflects that.
What kind of reaction have you got to the single?
Thankfully the initial feedback has been very positive. I have been told the song is very catchy. The lyrics, guitar riffs and vocals have also received a good response.
Tell us a little more about the music video?
This is my first music video and I have had an absolute blast shooting it. We have spared no expense on this music video and have filmed at some interesting locations, including on a private plane. I feel really blessed that a big name like Jodie Kidd agreed to be in the music video.
What was Jodie Kidd like to work with?
She is a super person and I absolutely loved wor-king with her. She has a great personality, is very down to earth and very tall (laughs). I am looking forward to working with her again on some other projects that we are discussing right now.
Have you made a musical master plan?
From my fighting days to my business career, I have always been very focused, so yes, I do have a plan. I have written and co-written around 15 songs in two months, and am really looking forward to sharing them. I am going to make sure each song has a unique quality. Yes, some songs may not be for everyone, but I hope people connect to the emotions I am trying to convey. Although rock music is my first love, I plan to explore different genres and collaborate with various artists, including some big names. I am really looking forward to sharing my debut album with the world.
You have strong connections in the subcontinent, including high-profile Bollywood friends. Do you want to break India?
I want to make an impact in India like I want to make a mark in many other countries around the world – I want everyone to enjoy my music. But yes, India is a huge market and I would like to be a part of it. Hopefully it will happen soon.
What does your friend Salman Khan think of your singing ambitions?
(Laughs) Like everyone, he just doesn’t want me to embarrass him. But he is a very encouraging person and said if I can sing, then he will give me his backing. I told him, I need his blessing more than anything else. Friendship and his good wishes are the most important thing. However, knowing Salman and the heart of gold he has, he will make sure that I am looked after. (Laughs) I am about to shock a lot of people in a good way and hopefully he will be one of them.
Looking ahead, who would you love to collaborate with?
I am open to working with any like-minded person who has the same musical vision as me, whether they are established or newcomers. I have been lucky enough to work with some great musicians and songwriters so far. Hopefully that continues. There are some big names being lined up, but it’s too early to talk about that.
You are setting yourself huge targets. Are you worried you have taken on too big a challenge?
If I saw challenges as too big, I would never have won a professional fight, let alone all the titles that I did. I’m not afraid of challenges or obstacles. If a giant step can be taken then I am the one to do it. The bigger the challenge, the more motivated I am.
Who has been the most interesting person you have met on your short musical journey?
I have met some great people already, but top of the list has to be Sef Naqui, the head of my record label LBE Music Group. From being part of So Solid Crew and becoming a successful solo artist to writing songs and running a label, he has done it all and is now sharing that experience with newcomers like me.
How does the task of trying to crack the music industry compare to your kickboxing days?
They are, of course, two very different industries and require very different talents. Kickboxing was a really tough, uphill battle, but it was an awesome rush and I loved every moment of it. I am hoping to enjoy the musical journey and like my kickboxing days, I have the right people in my corner. I am going to basically enjoy the ride by putting out some amazing music for people to listen to. I want to touch people’s hearts with my music. That is my ultimate goal.
You also seem to have discovered an ability to write songs. Where does that come from?
Well, I believe music as a whole is a gift at this point of my life. It has been triggered by love and that has also manifested into songwriting. I have surprised myself, actually. I never thought I would be penning down my emotions on paper, but that is what happened and the results have surprised everyone, including established names in the music industry.
What is your biggest driving force?
My driving force is me, it always has been. The fact that I am a British Bangladeshi who can still make a difference at this point in my life is a huge responsibility. That makes me work even harder.
You are writing love songs and releasing one, but how much of a romantic are you?
(Laughs) I would like to think that I am, but only someone who has been my other half can answer this question.
Musically, what inspires you?
That’s a difficult question. I can mention hundreds of diverse artists who have influenced or inspired me in some way. Some of these, in no particular order, include Bob Marley, Tina Tur-ner, Billy Ocean, Billy Ray Cyrus, Elvis Presley, James Blunt, Bryan Adams, Michael Jackson, Guns N’ Roses, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Lopez, Leonard Cohen, Phil Collins, Robbie Williams, Ed Sheeran, Enrique Iglesias, The Black Eyed Peas, Sting, Shaggy, Chaka Demas, Apache Indian, General Levi and Shabba Ranks.
Tell us something that not many people know about you?
There is a lot people don’t know about me and I am hoping they will find out through my songs, which are very personal to me. I have really poured my heart into the tracks, including Give My Love A Brand New Name.
Finally, why should we pick up the new single?
I am hoping that after hearing it, people will be left with no choice but to pick it up. I hope it will be the first step towards me sharing more music with the world.
Give My Love A Brand New Name by Ali Jacko is out now. Log onto www.alijacko.com to find out more.