Jade Jackson is a Californian country singer/songwriterwho grew up in the small town of Santa Margarita, where her parents owned a restaurant. Both were enthusiastic music fans, and she grew up on a diverse diet of solid country from the likes of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams as well as influential UK indie artists like The Smiths and The Cure. On completing high school she had amassed more than 300 songs. However after a failed record deal she turned to drugs and crime and subsequently served a prison sentence before returning to music. While performing in a small coffee shop she was spotted by the wife of Social Distortion’s Mike Ness who was equally taken with her songs and agreed to produce her debut album Gilded. Lonesome Highway caught up with her in a break from her tour to support the album’s release.
You have written that the first concert you attended, without your parent, was a Social Distortion concert, Was their combination of punk with country elements a roadsign to future direction?
Social Distortion always stood out to me amongst other punk bands because of all the early country music I was raised on. As a fan of both early country and punk music, I was always aware of the common threads between the two. I definitely heard more of the country music influences in Mike’s solo stuff which I’ve always loved as well.
Mike Ness’ two solo albums were standout combinations of the combined genre. Were you aware of them before you worked with Mike?
Yes, I was very aware of them! They were played in my household just as often as the Social Distortion albums.
You were given the task of listening to Car Wheels On A Gravel Road before going into the studio. What did you learn from that and were you worried that it might overtly influence your performance?
Mike gave me that record before I knew he wanted to produce my album. I fully submerged myself in the songs and fell in love with them before he suggested we use Car Wheels On A Gravel Road as a template for my own. It influenced me organically and became a point of reference that enhanced the communication between Mike and I in the studio.
The link between the honesty of punk and real country music, in terms of portraying real life, has been noted. Who were the bands and writers who most influenced you growing up?
The Gun Club, The Smiths, Buck Owens, The Pogues, Bruce Springsteen, Gram Parsons, The Violent Femmes, Ray Price, Social Distortion, Mike Ness, Hank Williams, George Jones, Cowboy Junkies, Mazzy Star, The Cure, Townes Van Zandt, Neko Case, Bob Dylan, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Rolling Stones, early Guns N Roses, Bright Eyes, Emmylou Harris, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Robert Johnson, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, etc.
When you worked in your parent’s restaurant you began writing lyrics in your down time. Were lyrics, literature and poetry something that interested you for a long time before you began to write yourself?
Yes, I would open the CD booklets to memorize or copy down lyrics all over my notebooks, my arms, my clothes, etc. As a young kid I loved both listening to and telling stories; poetry was my favorite subject in school.
This is your first album and your first real touring experience. Where they what you expected?
I prayed about being able to tour and dreamed about releasing an album on a record label for a very long time. These are goals I am so thankful to have reached!
That life on the road isn’t easy is something that you have noted but that you like that it wasn’t easy. Is that still the case?
I'm open to whatever hardships, sacrifices or challenges that may come with life on the road. On our last tour I found that the difficulties made me stronger and I look forward to the lessons to be learned in the years ahead.
A lot of touring musicians find kit hard to maintain relationships while constantly gigging. Is that something that you take as part and parcel of the musician’s life or do you try to find something more?
I don't want to cap myself off from the possibilities of finding love or a connection. As a songwriter, relationships can be very inspiring. However, I will admit, this is something that took me a long time and a lot of lonely nights to realize.
What are the primary sources of your writing and does being able to travel broaden that perspective?
I get most of my inspiration from imagining the world through somebody else's eyes. Traveling and seeing new things definitely adds to that but the trick is finding the quiet time to be able to sit with my guitar and write.
The album is a very strong open statement of intent. Are you looking forward to recording again or is it too early to consider that right now?
I'm really looking forward to getting back in the studio. I write fairly frequently, so I have lots of material.
With the mainstream clogged up, for the most part, with pop and edm influenced production values. What do you see as the future for a more traditionally influenced strand of country music?
I have no idea. Most of the country artists I listen to are my own records. There are some current artists I love like Jason Isbell or Sturgill Simpson who are becoming more popular which is exciting!
How does Europe feature in your plans?
I'm hoping to tour in Europe as soon as possible!
How much has your immediate family influenced your musical choices?
I've always been really tight with my immediate family, they're my best friends. Because I looked up to my dad so much, I paid attention to his taste in music. I went from saying I loved the same music he did just so I could be like him without truly having developed the appreciation yet, to actually having the music affect me directly and letting it change my life. Their support and encouragement gave me the confidence to follow my heart in music.
You are treading your own musical path now. Where do you think it will take you in the future?
I'm not sure. But I'm so hungry for where I think it can take me.
Interview by Stephen Rapid