Janet Jackson sounded like any mom who’d just sent her only child off to preschool for the first time.
“It was very sweet, but he’s trying to get his whole schedule set,” she said after Week 1 of school for son Eissa, who turns 3 in January. “He hasn’t figured it out yet. He’s not wanting to get up. He says, ‘I want to stay in bed, Mama.’ ”
These days, Jackson is balancing single motherhood and singular superstardom. After completing another leg of her Las Vegas residency and a summer run of European festivals, she’ll perform Saturday at Treasure Island Casino amphitheater in Red Wing — her first outdoor appearance in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
“You guys don’t have a lot of bugs now? That’s the one fear: bugs flying in your mouth,” she said by phone Monday. “It won’t be humid and in the 90s. I’ve done that, too. I don’t mind it outdoors.”
Jackson knows Minnesota. She recorded her five bestselling albums in the Twin Cities — from 1986’s “Control” to 2001’s “All for You” — with producer/songwriters Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
“It’s home away from home for me,” said the longtime Los Angeles resident. “I spent so many years there. It will always hold a special place in my heart. The people are always nice to me. It’s a part of my life. You can’t talk about my career without talking about Minneapolis.”
Over the years, Jackson lived in downtown Minneapolis hotels and stayed at Jam’s mansion on Lake Minnetonka. Despite all her treks here, though, she never considered buying property in the Gopher State.
She reminisces about learning how to drive a car with a manual transmission in the Twin Cities, commuting from Jam’s Minnetrista home to Flyte Tyme Studios in Edina in freezing fog on icy streets.
“I was so stressed, but I made it there,” she recalled. “What great memories.”
She gleefully remembers making snow angels outside the original Flyte Tyme in south Minneapolis in the late 1980s.
“I was so excited. Right out in front of the studio on Nicollet. It was fun for me.
“I’m a big kid.”
Coloring ‘Rhythm Nation’
Flyte Tyme is where she made “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814,” released 30 years ago this month.
“Minneapolis colored that album in every way,” she said. “It played a huge part. Even calling out the city in ‘Escapade.’ Minneapolis and the album belong together. They really do.”
As always, she sang about romance, but also addressed racism, poverty, drugs and other social issues on what was something of a protest album.
“Those were my concerns ... wanting to make a difference, make a change, wanting the world to be different, trying to make a stance for, ‘Let’s come together and do something about these issues,’ ” she said, getting warmed up.
The album is “still very relevant. I feel ashamed to say that. I wish we would have moved on. But hopefully it will, as it has over the years, inspire another generation to listen and to create change in the world how they want to.”
Jackson credits Jam and Lewis for helping her find her voice when she came to Minneapolis in 1985 to make “Control.”
After two slow-selling albums, singing songs “about other people’s experience” and being told what to do by label executives, she decided to give recording one more try.
“Jimmy and Terry wanted to allow me to have my voice and speak about what is going on in my life,” she said. “That’s how it all began.”
Jackson is still tight with the hitmaking producers, who relocated to Los Angeles in 2003.
“Jimmy just texted me from Paris 10 days ago; I was actually in London at the time,” Jackson said. “We’re still close. I love that.”
No terrible twos
Her son Eissa is the big relationship in her life right now. Separated from her third husband since their child was 4 months old, she said she “absolutely loves” motherhood.
“It’s definitely changed me for the better. Everyone always said how patient a person I was. But I found a whole new world within myself when it comes to patience and having someone that relies on me to care for. It’s the first thing on my mind and the last thing on my mind.”
Not surprisingly, her son is musical. He fiddles with a violin and sings. Jackson made up a bedtime tune to serenade him.
“Sometimes he’ll wake up and sing it to me. But he’ll sing it to me, saying his name,” she said like a verklempt mom. “It’s so cute.”
Even though she’s a relatively new mother, Jackson sounds like an old soul when asked if Eissa is experiencing the “terrible twos” that parents whine about.
“What’s terrible about it? They’re growing up, they’re exploring, they’re discovering, they’re walking into their independence. There’s nothing terrible to me about that,” she said. “They talk about the tantrums. Eissa hasn’t served me with that. So, I’m thankful.”
Named to Rock Hall of Fame
This year Jackson, 53, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with singer/actress Janelle Monae talking about her as an icon for black women and a model of fearlessness for all women, especially those in the music business.
“I never thought about myself being there, even when my brothers [the Jackson 5 and Michael as a solo artist] were inducted,” she said of the Hall of Fame. “It means a great deal to be in this special place, especially alongside my brothers.”
The induction evening in March had a more private but equally otherworldly moment — Jackson met Stevie Nicks, a fellow inductee for her solo career.
“I never knew she was such a fan,” Jackson said. “We had a nice conversation. Such a sweet woman. She’s someone I used to listen to as a kid in Fleetwood Mac.”
Janet is the ninth and youngest of the Jackson siblings. As the second most famous member of the prominent family, she’s always facing scrutiny — from fans, the media and the industry.
“I love what I do. But there’s another side of it that you don’t really sign up for. Some artists handle it well, some don’t. You can get very caught up, and I’m just thankful I never did. It has to do with how you’re raised. It’s not an easy business. Being under that microscope, you always have everyone watching you. And it’s that fine line: You must stay true to yourself. And you have to be very careful how you walk, where you step.”
Roller skating with Prince
One of the other Jacksons brought Prince into Janet’s life long before she came to Minneapolis in 1985 to meet Jam and Lewis.
“Prince used to call my house when I was a kid before he became as famous as he became,” Jackson recalled. “He had a crush on my sister LaToya, and I’d always be the one to answer the phone. He used to come roller skate with our family sometimes. Then I had a couple of encounters with him in Minneapolis. We were never best friends, but we knew each other.”
With a couple of her besties, Jackson has recorded a new song for “Jam and Lewis Volume 1,” an all-star album — likely featuring Mary J. Blige, Sounds of Blackness and others — by the hit producers that’s due in 2020.
It’s “classic us,” she said of the track.
Jackson is not working on any other new music, but she’s “still creating things,” though she did not go into specifics. In 2011, she signed a deal with Lionsgate to produce movies. She starred in a series of movies, including 1993’s “Poetic Justice” and 2010’s “For Colored Girls,” after appearing in the TV series “Good Times” and “Diff’rent Strokes” before launching her recording career.
With November concert runs in Australia and Hawaii coming up, she’s concentrating on being a music superstar onstage and a new mom offstage.
“I sure do lose a lot of sleep. And I don’t ever nap,” she said without sounding whiny. “He’s such a sweet boy. When we travel together, he has a lot of friends among the [touring] group. They have children, and he gets his play time, for sure.
“Where does any mother or father get their energy from? It’s something God gives you. You figure it out. You’re the last on your list; they’re first when it comes to everything.”