This article was originally published on KCPR.org.
Nashville-based Americana singer-songwriter, Jade Jackson, returned to California for a brief tour to reconnect with the state and county where it all started.
On Dec. 4, Jackson finished up the five-date solo tour at The Siren in Morro Bay. The crowd was warmed up with a captivating, full body solo performance by Sacha Carlson. Later in the evening, Jackson took the stage with Tyler Jackson Miller on drums and Devin Hollister on upright bass.
Jackson came on stage wearing an old San Luis Obispo High School cheer uniform she found at a local thrift store, Castaway, earlier in the day. Early in the set, she invited Jacob Gearhardt, a longtime friend and fellow local musician to play fiddle with her band. She was quick to express her excitement and gratitude to be playing a hometown show and be surrounded by her early supporters, from family to dear friends, before she heads back to Nashville.
Jackson was raised in Los Osos until she was 13, where she began piano lessons. She would later take the music theory she learned and pick up guitar. With an affinity for storytelling and a passion for music, her journey into songwriting happened quickly. Jackson’s family eventually moved to Santa Margarita to open a restaurant called The Range and it was “all hands on deck” from there, she said.
“There were less than 1,100 people there and I rode the school bus with five kids. People don’t really think of that when they think of California,” Jackson said in reference to living in Santa Margarita.
“I think it had so much to do with the sound of my music because of the landscape, it was so country and folk,” she decided.
Jackson spent several years waitressing at her family’s restaurant and eventually left to pursue an education at the California Institute of the Arts in Santa Clarita. She often played her songs at coffee shops in her free time.
One winter break, the unexpected happened.
Kreuzberg California, a local café, has a long-running open mic night. On the night Jackson showed up to perform, the wife of Mike Ness of the band Social Distortion was in the audience. She filmed Jackson on her phone, marking the beginning of Jackson’s mentorship by Ness. Ness helped produce her first couple of records and supported her in getting a record deal.
Ness also encouraged Jackson to form a band, where she met her drummer and manager, Tyler Jackson Miller. The two have toured together for several years now, but Miller’s manager title is a new edition.
“In a nutshell I got dropped from my record label, and I had to let go of my manager at the time because we weren’t meeting our potential,” Jackson said.
The two decided it was ultimately in their best interest to move to Nashville, Tennessee, to continue pursuing music.
“Out there, you are surrounded by people who are doing exactly what you are doing, so it’s a lot easier to connect with people and keep the momentum going,” Miller said.
Jackson said getting dropped from her long-time record label, and the metamorphosis it entailed, played a role in conceptualizing her California tour.
“I want to go backwards, I want to remember why I started this and take my idea of the business things out or compartmentalize, put it over here and focus on the songs again,” Jackson said.
Jackson said she is most proud of her song “Elavine,” but it’s titled “No Guarantees” on her debut album “Gilded.” She wrote the song about a dear friend, but was told when it came down to releasing the track, the name was too unique and therefore too hard to market.
“I cried myself to sleep, but I still did what they told me to do … but now I’m playing it as Elavine so that’s pretty special to bring her back into the song and play it the way that I want to play it,” Jackson said.
The crowd at The Siren got to hear “Elavine” with the original lyrics and deeply moving performance. Jackson reiterated the song’s story live on stage and it became clear that the song remains a loving tribute to a friend, but also a monument of reclaiming power in Jackson’s body of work.