Should a new definition of the word serendipity ever be required, Californian singer-songwriter Jade Jackson’s career to date would surely suffice.This hugely compelling artist first pursued her music career aged just 13, after she witnessed Cali punks Social Distortion live, having been mesmerised by their gnarly frontman Mike Ness. Today, she speaks to Music Week on the phone from her Santa Margarita home having just spent weeks on tour with none other than… Social Distortion. It doesn’t take long to discover that this particular band actually changed her life twice.
“I played everywhere; every winery, restaurant and alleyway in the central coast where I grew up,” she says of her early years performing after that epiphanic gig before her big break came along. “I once played at this coffee house and Mike Ness’ wife and son were there. They saw me, filmed some of it on their phone and, after seeing me, she said to Mike, You really need to listen to her stuff. About a week later, he called.”
And so, at Ness’ invitation, Jackson found herself nervously sat in her car outside his studio ready to meet her hero. She laughs as she recalls eating precisely seven almonds to regulate her blood sugar before going in. She need not have worried. Ness did more than listen, he went on to sign her to a publishing contract, produce her stunning debut Gilded, and use his contacts at Epitaph to broker a record deal with their sister label Anti. This month, Jackson - and her bandmates, bassist Jake Vukovich, drummer Tyler Miller and guitarist Andrew Rebel - are finally ready to present Gilded to the world at large.
While the album’s signature song is the gorgeous, slow burn ode to self-empowerment, Motorcycle, if you want an instant introduction to Jackson, look no further than the video for the single Finish Line. It’s a stirring song married to simple footage of her roaming her hometown. The video, she says, “was 24 years in the making because it was my life. It was very real”.
The same is true of her debut. Jackson’s is a hard sound to pin down. The tender sadness of Mazzy Star is a starting point but, more accurately, her music is a blend of her childhood indoctrination in early country, punk and rock’n’roll, including influences like, “Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, The Smiths, and The Damned”. The resulting sound has been labelled everything from ‘country post-punk’ to ‘western noir’ and ‘sombre goth folk’. Jackson has a compelling explanation as to how these differing genres fit together in her music.
“My dad always said early country music and punk music are actually really similar,” she offers. “It usually has to do with poverty, heaviness, depression, real life stuff. The two genres were always very similar to me, though they sound completely different. They share the same spirit.”
And Jackson is certainly not shy when it comes to embracing that spirit.
“Writing is therapy for me,” she concludes. “It really is a way of keeping me normal. There’s so many emotions out there that will attack you, like anxiety and pain. For me, I feel really affected if I see someone who is hurting, it hurts me. It always has since I was little. You don’t want to [feel] hurt, right? So what do you do? You can drink or, for me, I pick up my guitar and write. Hardship and real life are the most inspiring things to me.”