Jade Jackson, 24, makes a bold introduction with her debut album Gilded.
Available May 19, the 11-song collection is loaded with lyrics that would grab the attention of any music fan, starting with the opening line in song one, “Aden.” She sings, “I grew up my father’s daughter/He said, ‘Don’t take no shit from no one.'”
In “Better Off,” she asks a question that can apply to anyone’s fate, singing “How are you so sure of what you have not faced?” Then in her cheating song “No Guarantees,” she delivers a harsh truth about love when she sings, “It’s not hard to be unfaithful/Ah, the things a heart is capable of/It’s not hard being unstable/’Cause there’s no guarantees in love.”
But some of her favorite subjects to sing about are independence and positive affirmations. In “Motorcycle,” she pitches her heart to a guy who’s only looking to hit a home run right off the bat. Striking him out, she sings, “Please don’t cry/It’s been fun/But my motorcycle only seats one.”
Out now, “Finish Line” is a song about leaving naysayers in the dust while chasing dreams. She sings, “So I won’t search for strength in someone else/’Cause I can pat my own back by myself/Waking up for the first time/Is when you don’t stop running at the finish line.”
“It empowers me and makes me feel strong writing those lines,” she said over the phone during our CMT.com interview. “I hope my music can encourage people to follow their own dream or their own path because sometimes, you don’t have people telling you, ‘Hey, you can do it,’ when you know you were born to do something. Just keep going for it, and I think anything’s possible.'”
For the “Finish Line” video, director Andrew Van Baal follows Jackson and her band on a day at home in Santa Margarita, California, giving an authentic look at their lives before leaving for tour. She writes new affirmations in Sharpie on her childhood bedroom wall, waits tables at her family’s restaurant and runs the scenic hills of the California countryside.
“Santa Margarita is really small — like population 1,100,” she said. “Everybody knows everybody. My parents had the only restaurant in town, and I’ve been working there since I was 13. It’s pretty special because he filmed my parents. He filmed where I actually worked. He filmed me in my room writing on my wall, and he filmed me in my mom’s chicken coop. It’s 100 percent real. I miss it, of course, now that I’m on the road.”
The writing affirmations on the wall part in the video plays an important part in both the piece and in Jackson’s creative process. It’s a habit she’s had since she was a child when she first fell in love with words, and it might be as close as any fan will get to seeing one of her songs being born.
“Poetry was always my favorite thing in grade school, and story time was always my favorite time of the day in elementary school,” she said. “Poetry just comes to my head. Does that make sense? Sometimes when I explain it, it sounds so funny, but it really just feels like somebody is dumping water on my head.”
Growing up, her parents made sure she was raised her on classic country by Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and George Jones. “My dad always played records at home,” she said. “If there wasn’t music playing at my house, something was wrong.”
She picked up the guitar at age 13 when she first started working full time at her family’s restaurant to save money to go to music school. By age 17, she had written 375 songs and after graduating high school, she was later accepted into the music program at CalArts in Santa Clarita, California.
“My parents and friends were really supportive,” she said, “but I think when people aren’t familiar with something, they don’t really offer you encouragement for it. For me it was always like, ‘You’re going to pursue music? You need a Plan B. You should go to school.’ So, I kind of had to to encourage myself, especially in the last couple of years waiting for the record to come out.”
Jackson and her band are on their first national tour opening for Social Distortion, which was the California native’s first live concert without parental supervision.
“The guys in my band are my brothers and my best friends,” she said. “We’re like a family, and people are like, ‘It’s so hard. You have to sleep on people’s couches, and you don’t get to shower.’ But this is what I’ve wanted to do forever. I am on cloud nine. And we get to see all these free Social Distortion concerts, too, which is just an incredible learning experience for us.”
Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness produced Gilded, marking a full circle debut for the rising chanteuse.
“He went through all my lyrics and would circle the words he thought were the strongest, saying, ‘These are payoff lines. You really want to sing these with more gusto or strength,'” she recalled. “Without him, there would be no record. He believed in me enough to invest in my music, and that’s the biggest compliment ever.”