A debut album that has attracted a lot of deserved attention this year is Gilded by Jade Jackson. She and her band notched up another debut recently; first show in the UK and headlining too. Before facing her first London audience Jade talked to me about her influences, songwriting and the new album.
How did you gather influences as diverse as Hank Williams and The Smiths? “My dad’s record collection. There was always music in our house and Dad would play Hank Williams then The Smiths, Cash, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure and George Jones. There was no escape so it’s not surprising that the melancholy, sad style that Dad liked influenced my writing so much.”
What else have you drawn on? “I’m a people watcher; that goes back to before I started writing. I’d be on the bus where I’d observe the other passengers, letting my imagination run wondering what sort of lives they led. I was very shy, so empathised with the kids who were picked on. Working in my parents’ restaurant gave me a thick skin and a useful source of material. People don’t always treat you very well while waiting for their food”.
All this must have worked as you’ve written hundreds of songs. “As a teenager, writing was an outlet for me. I didn’t go out much, I lived quite a solitary life. Writing was my way of dealing with emotions, it’s a good place to store humility or sadness.”
Did that independent approach extend to learning to play? “I had piano lessons in elementary school but later my parents moved to set up their restaurant. They needed all the money they had to start the business so there were no more lessons. Dad bought me a guitar poster that I stuck on my wall and from it I learned how to play”.
You attribute a lot to Mike Ness. Was that a chance encounter? “I grew up listening to his band, Social Distortion. They were the first band I ever saw on my own. That fired me up to write my first song. About ten years later his wife saw me play in a coffee shop, filmed a bit then the next thing was Mike calling to suggest we meet. I was so nervous!”
What particularly do you owe Mike? “He discovered me when I least believed in myself. I’d had a serious accident that led to a very dark time when I was on the point of giving up music. That’s when his wife saw me. There was a real chemistry between Mike and me that is very much part of Gilded”.
Also, a big part of the album is your band? “Oh yes, they are my brothers”. How did you meet each other? “Well, I didn’t have much of a social life but I’d always wanted to be in a band. Mike suggested we use session musicians for the album but I wanted smoothing more permanent. I met our bassist, Jake Vukovich, in the lunch line at school. He noticed the Rolling Stones pin on my bag. He played guitar then but taught himself bass. Lead guitarist, Andrew Rebel was well known in our town because he played so many instruments. I was sure he wouldn’t want to play in my band when when I asked he said yes and has become such a close friend. That left a drummer. We we discovered Tyler Miller through Andrew in the Cal Poly jazz department. He’s our sunshine. Tyler is always happy and positive”.
And finally, what’s next? “We are so excited about this European tour, it’s our first time over here. The record label and management will do the business of when to record the next album and our touring schedule. We certainly have the songs to do another record”.
The Slaughtered Lamb (nothing to do with werewolves) has a basement live venue that was ideal for Jade Jackson’s first UK show The stage is more of a platform that just about held the band’s gear so perfect for artist to bond with audience.
And bond they did. The place was full and the welcome Jade and her band got as they went straight into ‘Aden’ suggested most were familiar with Gilded. The opening lines pretty much summed up the first part fo our chat, “I grew up my father’s daughter, he said, don’t take no shit from no one, you’ll never see me cry..”
Unsurprisingly, their set was a live version of the record. What the songs lacked in the producing expertise of Mike Ness, they made up for in energy. Not only that but there was the sheer pleasure in both hearing the songs live and seeing a band working so well together. In quick succession came ‘Finish Line’. ‘No Guarantees’ and ‘Bridges’. What also came over loud and clear was this is no backing band. Jackson led with the vocals but as the set progressed, she frequently ceded the front slot to Rebel for some blistering solos.
The punk and country influences were a constant feature; ‘Motorcycle’ menaced, not just in sound but lyric, “Boy, it’s been fun, but my motorcycle only seats one”. Another from Gilded, ‘Troubled End’, was more rockabilly. A new song, ‘Long Way Home’ seemed to come straight from the country section of Dad’s record collection.
Even on such a cramped stage Jackson wove between her band, one moment facing the drum kit then with a flick of her jet black mane, she swivelled round to the audience. She has presence but to show yet again this was a team effort, she often diverted attention to the others.
The set finished with the reflective ‘Gilded’, “Unlatched the cage, set the wild bird free” which was a fitting intro to the final song, a powerful ‘Good Times Gone’.
Jade Jackson can consider her UK debut a big success. We look forward to seeing her back over here soon but I suspect that may be in a rather larger venue.