Dion, 16, has a great start at a creative future
By Julie Gerke
If Taylor Swift can use bad break-ups as the starting point for award-winning albums, there’s no reason Jaxon Dion can’t use his life as the basis of a successful country-faith song.
After all, in the last three years, the 16-year-old has gone from teaching himself guitar to launching self-penned songs on YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.
Jaxon Dion, also known as Jax, will be a junior this fall at Triopia Junior-Senior High School. His song, “Interstate Miles,” is already on YouTube and became available for download June 10 from Apple and Spotify. Other songs, plus covers of favorite country-rock artists, are posted to his Facebook page.
“I had random lines in my head and had to write them down, but I never did,” Dion said, explaining how he started to write songs. “One day, I was just sitting in my room and a tune came to me and I wrote it down.”
Those lyrics eventually formed “Running Clock,” an ode to a losing football season, missing curfew and personal loss. “We all have a ‘running clock’ time in our life,” he said.
His mom signed him up for guitar lessons when he was young, but he wasn’t interested and the guitar was put aside. When he was in sixth grade, Dion tried trombone in the school band, but didn’t like reading music.
Instead, he developed interests in basketball and football, school plays, and showing cattle at county fairs as a member of Victory Ag 4-H.
However, in 2020, when COVID-19 kept the Dion family (Jaxon, parents Joey and Abby, and siblings Lucie and John) cooped up, Jaxon Dion picked up the old guitar and used YouTube and apps to teach himself chords. Once he had them mastered, he learned to play and sing songs from other artists, and eventually started writing his own music.
Dion uses personal experience to create lyrics of universal appeal. “Interstate Miles,” for instance, cues his love of cranking tunes on the radio as he drives between Concord and Jacksonville.
“I’m only 16. I’m not going to write about alcohol or women,” he said. “I’m going to write about true things, actual things.”
The Dion family is one of deep faith, and Jaxon Dion found an early stage home at First Christian Church (“1C”) in South Jacksonville. He sings and plays guitar as part of a praise band that shares “upbeat, elevation” music to a weekly audience of 1,200.
“They asked me originally if I wanted to be up on stage,” Dion said. “I said, ‘Heck, yes.’ I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
He used the church’s in-house studio to record “Interstate Miles” with the guidance of production pastor Josh Beckman. Dion wants to write an album of country and faith songs, but acknowledges it will take a long time to produce the 15 to 20 songs needed.
Last spring, he played the role of God in “Children of the Rainbow,” a Triopia musical written by the late Ken Bradbury, who mentored hundreds of students in music and theater at Triopia and through his performing arts camp.
“Ken [Bradbury] introduced me to plays and theater,” Dion said. “He taught me how to put myself out there.”
He also credits his uncle and grandfather, Central Illinois musicians Luke and Mike Crawford, who he calls “very talented,” plus grandmother Pam Dion, a guitarist, of Carthage.
Still, it was a performance in April, on stage with singer Drew Baldridge for an announcement of the Morgan County Fair entertainment line-up, that really made an impression.
“I think it was just pure excitement at that point,” Dion said. “It was time to roll. I was super excited. … [Baldridge] told me to chase my dreams. He’d done the same things.”
Dion has since played gigs in Meredosia and Grafton, and recently started a summer job at Mason Sound in Jacksonville, a business which provides sound for Central Illinois music shows and events. “I’m running speakers. It’s pretty cool,” Dion said.
His parents said he always had an interest in reading and music, and laughed as they recalled his first musical try, “Rotten Smelly Fish.”
Jaxon Dion plays guitar every waking moment he can, they said, and recently was the first member of the family awake on a weekend. His dad found him at the kitchen table, strumming a new tune.
“My goodness, now it’s a concert every night,” said his father, Joey Dion, who is principal at Jacksonville High School.
With both parents as educators (his mother, Abby Dion, teaches business education at Jacksonville High School), children Jaxon, Lucie and John all get support for wherever their interests lie. Lucie Dion, for instance, is busy with volleyball, basketball, softball and babysitting; John Dion is interested in the family farm at Meredosia as well as basketball, baseball and football this fall.
“What’s really cool right now is all the opportunities that are coming,” Joey Dion said. “Jax has a really good support system. … He’s on the cusp, honing in on a God-given gift to him and he’s using it.”
Jaxon Dion will be playing at the Morgan County Fair Pavilion on Friday, July 14, prior to the concert in the Grandstand.
On the Net:
YouTube.com/Jaxon Dion – Interstate Miles
Coming June 10
Interstate Miles will be available for download on Apple Music and Spotify.com