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Meet Erica Plaener and CHRIS JVCKSON: Penn State’s Own Musical Duo

Less than a year ago, a soulful singer met a mellow musician in a frat bedroom with a studio at 409 East Fairmount Avenue.

Erica Plaener, now a Penn State sophomore, met senior Chris Jackson, who uses the stage name CHRIS JVCKSON, at a Pi Kappa Phi party last year. Upon seeing his musical set up, Plaener asked to hear his music and told him she sang. The duo immediately began jamming together, became best friends, and have worked on music together ever since.

Plaener can’t remember her life before singing. She grew up singing alongside her sister, sippy cup in hand, at age three and participated in musicals throughout elementary school. Recently, she evolved to producing music and taking vocal lessons at Penn State.

“I wasn’t that good when I began performing,” Plaener said. “But I would constantly practice. The fact that I heard myself get better as I got older was really cool to me.”

Jackson, on the other hand, began playing the piano when he was seven and taught himself how to play the guitar during high school. Jackson started writing music when he learned to play the piano, though never completed any songs until he started producing. As his producing capabilities grew, Jackson became a quad-threat musician with talent not only on the piano and guitar, but the bass and drums too.

In their time working together, Jackson and Plaener have constantly pushed each other to reach their highest potential as artists. “I’ve been working on my singing,” Jackson said. “I’ve always written lyrics but I never took my singing seriously until I met Erica.” On the other hand, Plaener helps Jackson with production of their music, and makes it into a well-rounded finished product. “I have a really good ear so I can pick up on minor mistakes or flat notes that Jackson might not hear,” she said.

Plaener and Jackson’s inspiration comes from across the board. “My top three influences are Kanye West, Paul McCartney, and Dr. Dre,” he said. “Lately, I’ve been inspired by recent music by Travis Scott, Future, and Drake.” His personal style, however, is versatile. “It really depends on my mood and what type of music I’m listening to at the time. I’ve produced rap, trap, R&B, alternative, and pop.”

Plaener said that, like many artists, Adele is one of her biggest inspirations. “I don’t think our generation is going to see another artist with a voice of that magnitude,” she said of the British icon.

Adele’s recent hit “Hello” is the base for the duo’s newest cover, “Hello, I’m Sorry.” Jackson’s production mixes Plaener’s take on Adele’s smash hit with his cover of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry.”

“Hello, I’m Sorry” is Erica’s favorite track of theirs despite the challenges that came with recording it.

“‘Hello’ is not an easy song to sing, and we had to record the same parts over and over again to find which sounded best,” she said. “There are still things about it that I would like to go back and change, but I’m still really proud of what we made.”

The two produced and published three tracks on CHRIS JVCKSON’s SoundCloud. They first released a soulful and soothing original track called “Sunday Morning.” They later perfectly joined The Weeknd’s “Wicked Games” and Drake’s “Hotline Bling” in their cover “Wicked Games x Hotline Bling,” as well as “Hello, I’m Sorry.”

Their tracks have become Penn State favorites and have made their way around SoundCloud through thousands of reposts from fans and other accounts, racking up more than 50,000 plays.

“I’m shocked every time I see how many plays ‘Hello, I’m Sorry’ has gotten,” Jackson said. “It’s really funny how we see exactly who played it and how many times. Knowing that people around the world are listening to my music is pretty surreal.”

Jackson was also a part of the infamous “Tell Ya” music video filmed at Pi Kapp’s old residence. “We originally made the song as a track to bump at pregames,” he said, “but it quickly started getting played at parties and daylongs in Greek Life. Once we dropped the video it immediately got attention from many blogs like Onward State, Barstool, Total Frat Move. It ended up getting around 100,000 views.”

For now, Jackson plans to graduate this spring with majors in supply chain and IST and a minor in economics. Upon graduation, he wants to move to New York City to pursue a career as a consultant. Though his near future doesn’t immediately involve a career in music, Jackson plans to “save up money and eventually open up a studio out in LA to do music production for a living.”

Erica Plaener is majoring in broadcast journalism while she continues to improve her vocals. Though there is no definite musical future for Plaener, she wants to sing for the rest of her life and said that nothing would would make her happier.

“Singing professionally would be a dream come true,” Plaener said. “It’s really the only job I can see myself loving and looking forward to every day.”

Though Pi Kapp is no longer around, the talent its house brought together still is. You can check out CHRIS JVCKSON’s SoundCloud here for more of his and Erica’s work.

About the Author

Emma Curtis

Emma is a staff writer for Onward State. She is a sophomore in the College of Communications and a first generation Penn Stater. Emma comes from a diverse military family and has moved around a lot; however, she has recently found her favorite home in Happy Valley. Contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @cinemmatiic.

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