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Jackson Bengtsson of ‘Designer Disguise’: “Struggling to figure out how and why to do things in the music business is what fueled me to become who I am today”

I wish that someone had told me that all the work I was doing was in fact valuable. I struggled in figuring out what skills I needed to develop in order to become a proper musician and business person. I spent a lot of years just figuring out social media algorithms and building a small […]

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I wish that someone had told me that all the work I was doing was in fact valuable. I struggled in figuring out what skills I needed to develop in order to become a proper musician and business person. I spent a lot of years just figuring out social media algorithms and building a small fan base. There were many times that I felt I had strayed from my path, however it has become clear that each little tangent and journey I have gone on have all led me here.


As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jackson Bengtsson of Designer Disguise.

Jackson Bengtsson is the lead vocalist in Designer Disguise (DD), a songwriter, and producer. Born in Moraga, CA, Jackson has grown up creating music since he was 4 or 5. She started with singing and then began playing piano in 2nd grade. In middle school she joined the choir and became one of the outstanding lower voices at the school. Jackson went on to star in musicals and operas throughout high school and college. Jackson received her degree from Western Washington University in music. WWU is where Jackson and Josh met and that is how Designer Disguise started in late 2014. Since then Jackson has been creating music for DD and other projects. Her style ranges from trap, to future bass, to post hardcore, and more.

Jackson is a non-binary person and prefers female pronouns despite presenting as a male. Throughout her life she was often ridiculed and bullied. Today she stands for good, kindness, and love. She and DD hope to inspire more good in this world to make it a kinder place for all of us to live.

Today Jackson lives in Seattle creating with Designer Disguise.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

No problem! I grew up in Moraga, CA. I started music young. My family remembers me humming tunes before I could even walk. I learned piano and joined all the singing things in school I could. I had some intense trauma in high school that made things very difficult. I had to be sent away to heal. I struggled with drug addiction and mental illness, I still do to some degree.

I went to college first at Willamette U and then transferred to Western Washington U and got my BA in Music. During my time there I also got a minor in Audio Engineering and that is where I met Josh Wildhorn. The first day we met he asked me if I wanted to be in a band and since then we have been playing music together.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Music has always been what I wanted to do. It’s almost like I didn’t and don’t have a choice. Music is what sustains me. I have had significant trauma and pain in my life and the only pure way for me to express it is through music. When I perform I feel safe and powerful. I remember in 7th grade when I got my first solo and performed it in front of an audience. That feeling is something I will never forget and that I am constantly searching for still.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of the most interesting things that have happened to us as a band was when we recorded with one of our favorite producers, Erik Ron. We had been trying to figure out what to do next and I had recently added Erik Ron on FB. He made a post saying he wanted to develop some bands and I immediately dove into man’s DMs. I sent him our most recent music video, Stronger, with really no expectation that he would message me back. In a couple hours he had messaged me back and expressed interest in producing and recording us. A couple of months later we hopped in our car after playing a show with Nekrogoblikon and drove 20 hours to his studio in LA. Then we spent a week recording the Nowhere EP. That experience illuminated so much to me in terms of what it takes to make a great record.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m having a hard time of thinking of any funny mistakes. Well, this is a bit embarrassing, but I used to drink, and when I did I drank far too much. One time Josh and I were seeing one of our favorite bands Hands like Houses. After the show we wanted to make friends with the band so we offered to smoke some weed with them and they obliged. Things were going well I believe until a freelance journalist came to interview one of the members of HLH. Every time she asked a question I would try and answer and basically ruined the entire interview by trying to talk about myself and my band. I was being goofy, but let me tell ya, she was not laughing. Josh was not happy with me and we still tell people about that when people ask why I don’t drink anymore haha.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Well DD just signed with Substream records and we got a lot coming down the pipe. We just released our single with Dropout Kings and people are listening! We got another song that is currently being mixed that I am really excited about. Our most recent release, Outta My Face, was a an expression of anger, which felt right in these frustrating times we are in. The next track, Good People, is more of a hopeful anthem meant to remind us that we can always fight for good. We also have a lot more songs than just the one coming, but I can’t talk about those yet hehe.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I think diversity is massively important. Wether it is representation of race, gender, or sexual preference I believe that the children of America should see all facets and groups of our populous in the entertainment we watch. As a non-binary person I hid for a long time behind my male presenting body, too afraid to be honest about my identity. However, after watching Queer Eye I found a hero in Jonathan Van Ness. They explained their experience with being NB and it opened up this whole world to me. I think that seeing representations of ourselves is so important. By seeing ourselves represented in media then we realize that it is ok for us to have this identity and we don’t need to hide.

We also need diversity in order to have more perspectives and narratives. All groups have valuable information to input based on their experience, but if only white men are in control the is the only experience that is being broadcast and that will make people think that that is the singular way to live, as it is the singular example we are being given.

Finally, it is important because there is not group of people that doesn’t contain massive talent. By not having diversity in our media we are drastically cutting down the amount of special beauty and artistic styles that normally wouldn’t be seen. Expanding diversity expands what we know and gives us a chance to look at things from a different perceptive. This is invaluable. This will also affect our culture in that it will normalize the that all people are powerful and should have a chance to thrive, not just certain groups. I hope that this diversity inspires young people to assert their identity and not live in fear of “what they are supposed to be.”

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I wish that someone had told me that all the work I was doing was in fact valuable. I struggled in figuring out what skills I needed to develop in order to become a proper musician and business person. I spent a lot of years just figuring out social media algorithms and building a small fan base. There were many times that I felt I had strayed from my path, however it has become clear that each little tangent and journey I have gone on have all led me here.

To be honest this question is kind of hard to answer as my journey is the most valuable part of my life. Struggling to figure out how and why to do things in the music business is what fueled me to become who I am today. There are certainly some technical things about uploading to Spotify and stuff I would’ve liked to have known. However, being on my own and having to figure it out was the most valuable lesson. This reminded me how capable I am and that even if I don’t know something, I can figure it out.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Never stop making music for fun. The only reason I do any of this business stuff is because it will allow me to make music for the rest of my life. The business stuff is also what will help you get paid for your art. However, if you get too bogged down in the business side, it becomes very easy to lose sight of your true passion and purpose. When you hit that point of stress, stop and sing or play your instrument. This will remind you why you work so hard at this.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My hope is that the music we create will inspire others to live a life of kindness, love, and self actualization. So many people live in the shadows of a cruel world feeling like there is nothing they can do to make the world a better place. I believe that if enough of us believe in good that we can create a kinder world. I hope to inspire those that would take that inspiration and spread it through the world as well. My hope is to take nihilism and turn it into optimism.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My family and especially my parents have helped me through this. I have had significant trauma in my life. This trauma has made things extremely difficult for me. My family has always been there to catch me when I fall and to remind me of who I am. They have loved me through all my mistakes and episodes and continue to be there for me. If I didn’t have my family I would likely be lost. I am actually currently dealing with some serious health issues and my family is helping me heal and it means more to me than anything.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It’s a classic, but “be the change you want to see in the world,” from Gandhi is a huge motivator for me. I’ve always wanted to help create a more perfect world. A world where kindness and love reign. However, the evils of humanity can see insurmountable, especially only as one person. But, it starts with one person and grows from there. I have decided to be the good in the world that I want to see and in doing so I hope to inspire others to do the same. If we get enough people on the side of good in the cosmic scale of justice, we can tip it and start to build a world that is for all of us, not just the privileged few.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to sit down with Andrew McMahon, the singer and pianist of Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin, and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. He has been a hero of mine since I was very young. His songs got me through moments that I may have never come back from. His music has guided the way for me and saved me. It would just be incredible to get to talk to him about his experience and let him know how his music and story have inspired me.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me on FB or IG or Spotify. Just search Jackson Bengtsson.

Also, please follow my band Designer Disguise on FB, IG, YT, and Spotify.

And follow my cover channel Desire the Vibe on YT.

Tons of sweet content there to check out! Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me, I really appreciate it.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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