The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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SMU alumni making music

Jack ONeill and Cary Pierce of Jackopierce released their first album, Promise of Summer following a 12-year hiatus in 2008. Photo courtesy of Cary Pierce Images
Jack O’Neill and Cary Pierce of Jackopierce released their first album, “Promise of Summer” following a 12-year hiatus in 2008. Photo courtesy of Cary Pierce Images

Jack O’Neill and Cary Pierce of Jackopierce released their first album, “Promise of Summer” following a 12-year hiatus in 2008. Photo courtesy of Cary Pierce Images

In the late 1980s, Cary Pierce was an SMU freshman theater major who didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the theater kids. During his freshman audition, Pierce recalls that he was “reamed out. The guy was like, ‘I’m happy to buy you a bus ticket home.'”

Luckily for Pierce, he wasn’t the only “pariah” of the department. During a 9 a.m. Saturday morning theater class, Pierce bonded with fellow outcast Jack O’Neill. They discovered a mutual love for playing the guitar, and since Pierce had a studio in the room, they both started jamming.

The jamming turned into something a little bigger, and the two started playing acoustic around campus.

“With acoustic, you don’t have to worry about drums, five different people or who’s got to study for a test,” Pierce said. “It was me and Jack.”

Pierce said SMU was a phenomenal opportunity and a foundation for them to get Jackopierce off the ground. Through word-of-mouth and friends, Jackopierce started playing at college campuses around the country. They also landed a regular gig at Mimi’s back in Dallas where they built up a steady SMU fan base. Pierce recalls when singer Jack Ingram watched them play and decided he wanted to do that as well. “We passed the torch to him,” Pierce said.

Jackopierce’s music is what Pierce describes as “singer-songwriter-rock,” influenced by artists like Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. “It’s all about the songs,” he said. “If it can’t be played on an acoustic guitar with a voice, then it’s not really our thing.”

Thanks to their grassroots music movement, the band released five successful albums before deciding to break up in 1997. They played a farewell tour, released a Decade album, and called it quits. “We broke up and didn’t speak for five years,” Pierce said.

Pierce said the split was amicable; O’Neill wanted to move on and left for New York. Pierce went solo and released his record, “You Were Here.”  He also helped write songs with artists such as Chris Tomlin and Katy Perry.

“It’s been cool to be a part of other people’s careers,” Pierce said.

In 2002, in part because of their manager’s insistence, Pierce and O’Neill reunited and started touring again. In 2008, they also released their first new CD in 12 years: “Promise of Summer.” Pierce said the new CD is about summer love and getting back together. It’s also a shout-out to his family, three young sons and his wife. Pierce said that he and O’Neill are happy with the new music.

“We definitely cringe over a whole bunch of stuff we’ve done in the past,” he said. “Hopefully now we won’t have too many things to look back on.”

Jackopierce continues to tour, but Pierce said being home is more important now.

“I want to coach my son’s soccer team and be involved with my community and my church,” he said.

The band has some destination shows coming up in Sonoma and Martha’s Vineyard in California next year, and they will be playing at the Granada Theater on Nov. 20.

Pierce now lives in University Park and is happy to be back in Dallas. The self-proclaimed Jimmy John’s addict hopes to do something at SMU eventually, like speaking or teaching. Most of all, Pierce wants to reach out to the new generation of SMU students, and he is. The band plans to give out 5,000 copies of their new CD.

“We’d love to have the next wave of SMU people be a part of what we’re doing,” he said.

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