Songwriter Jade Jackson On Her Journey To A 'Gilded' Debut The California country-rock artist, 25, tells NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about the personal and health struggles that have fueled her new album, Gilded.
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Songwriter Jade Jackson On Her Journey To A 'Gilded' Debut

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Songwriter Jade Jackson On Her Journey To A 'Gilded' Debut

Songwriter Jade Jackson On Her Journey To A 'Gilded' Debut

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

When Jade Jackson was only 14 or 15 years old, she'd play guitar and sing regularly at a local coffee shop right across the street from her parent's restaurant, where she waited tables.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BACK WHEN")

JADE JACKSON: (Singing) Do you remember when life was a spiral-bound? We were the pen. Before wishing, we would've used lead.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One day at a gig, she got a small note in her tip jar with a big pronouncement. Written on that dollar bill, Jade Jackson is a star. Now 25, it might all be coming true for Jackson. Her debut full-length album, "Gilded," is out.

Jade Jackson, welcome to the program.

JACKSON: Hello.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm curious - when you got that note - Jade Jackson is a star - what were you dreaming about in that coffee shop? What were you hoping?

JACKSON: Well, I wasn't really hoping for anything. I don't remember exactly what song I was singing. But I always sang all original songs. And I think the woman had stayed for most of my performance. And then I saw her leaving because everybody else was standing and watching me. But she started making her way out of the cafe and started, you know, writing on the - what turned out to be a dollar bill with those words on it. That kind of stuck with me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you still have it?

JACKSON: I do. It's hanging in my room.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

JACKSON: It's really faded now. But, I mean, I feel like I should put it behind glass or something at this point.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. You started writing songs at 13. You were so young. What were you writing about that could've felt so urgent (laughter)?

JACKSON: Everything and anything. And, you know, they give you, like, these calendar packets in school where you're supposed to write down, like, your homework and, like, what you did over the weekend. And mine were just chock full of lyrics. I just got ideas all the time. When I was in class, I would hear something from the teacher. He would say something about - the first thing that comes to my head is when I was learning in a literature class about the iceberg effect of writing. And just the word iceberg - I was like, I want to write a song about that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

JACKSON: And so just my mind started turning. And I just stopped paying attention. I don't know how I passed (laughter) school because I was always just - writing was my main priority.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You've just made a music video of one of your songs. It's called "Finish Line." I want to ask you about it. But first, let's listen to a little bit of that song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FINISH LINE")

JACKSON: (Singing) I don't care about things 'cause they don't care about me. My skin's a lot thicker than you'd think it'd be.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We see a girl's bedroom in the video. Is that your bedroom?

JACKSON: That is my bedroom (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Your real bedroom.

JACKSON: Everything in that video is 100 percent autobiographical. And when the video director told me that's kind of what he wanted to portray in the video, I was like, are you sure? Because, to me, like, I have a 10-by-10 bedroom. Like, I suffered with some anxiety in college, and I remember just scribbling words all over my wall in Sharpie just to calm myself down.

And so, honestly, it was kind of embarrassing when people came into my room because it was like, oh, they're going to think I'm crazy. But he actually wanted to put that in the video. And so I was like, you know what? I'm just not going to hide anything. Like, let's just do this. Let's just let people see exactly who I am so I don't feel like I have to keep up some persona of someone other than myself.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FINISH LINE")

JACKSON: (Singing) Waking up for the first time is when you don't stop running at the finish line.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What were you writing on that wall with that Sharpie?

JACKSON: I don't think it shows it that long of a time. But there's all these things I wrote to myself, you know, positive affirmations to keep me going because I had been going through a period of time where I didn't know if music was going to happen and so on and so forth. So it resulted in me scribbling on my wall. And then we actually captured that in the video.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You mentioned you were going through a hard time, and you were writing these things on the wall. What were you going through?

JACKSON: My first semester of college, I broke my back. And they had me on a lot of different medications. And I got to a point where I realized that I was depending a little bit too much on the medication. And I just cut it cold turkey. Because of that, I kind of mentally spiraled into, like, a pretty deep depression. And within that depression, I looked for something that I could control. And that sort of manifested in an eating disorder. During that time, I felt very clouded and put my music on the back burner. And I just don't think that's how anybody should feel.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you hope to tell young people about suffering from that?

JACKSON: Actually, my sister and I both have suffered with an eating disorder. And we've both kind of went through that and came out the other side. When I was going through it, when she was going through it - I feel like you become so enclosed in the problem in your own self that you don't realize that it's something other people go through. And you don't realize it's something you can get help for. And you don't seek that help.

And we want to partner together and create something that will help people get through it because we feel very blessed that our family was supportive about it. But the more people you talk to, you'll hear stories where women have carried this around with them for 30, 40 years, you know? So with my music, I always knew there was a reason why I wanted to have a bigger voice and perform. And I think once I discovered that my sister and I wanted to do that, then that kind of made sense.

(SOUNDBITE OF JADE JACKSON SONG, "BETTER OFF")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mike Ness of the punk band Social Distortion helped produce your first album. And you just went out on a West Coast tour with Social D. And you're headed back out on a national tour with them later this summer. Do you just feel like this is incredible?

JACKSON: Oh, yeah. This is beyond incredible. I can't believe the - 'cause we did - we toured the West Coast with them. And I think it was, like, halfway through that tour - Mike kind of just real off the cuff, just nonchalant, was like, yeah, so I want you guys to do, you know, this other leg of the tour with us. And you know, to him, he was just, like, inviting us and saying, yeah, come along. But for me, like, it's changing my whole life.

You know, it's really surreal. And it makes the in-between times where I'm, you know, living at home at 25 in my little 10-by-10 room and waitressing at the same place I've been waitressing for 13 years - like, it makes that OK because I know that I get to get on the road and give it my all and try to make this work, my dream.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BETTER OFF")

JACKSON: (Singing) Why are you not trying to mend these broken wings? I need somebody who'll smile when I sing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: "Gilded" is Jade Jackson's new album. It's out now. Thank you so much.

JACKSON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BETTER OFF")

JACKSON: (Singing) Better off without me. And I feel so low. Alone I'd be less lonely.

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