• John Van de Mergel

Sounds | Jade Jackson, 6FT Changes


Je hebt zo van die nummers waarvan je bij de eerste paar tonen denkt 'bwah, klef!' om dan geleidelijk aan te moeten terug komen op die eerste indruk. 6FT Changes lijkt initieel op zo'n kleffe, zeurderige countryballad, heeft echter véél meer diepgang en dat wordt vrij snel duidelijk. Jackson doet het met haar prachtige atypische (country)stem, twee gitaren en wat keys als opvulling. Ze houdt het nummer op elk moment ingetogen en laat het nergens ontsporen. Een subtiel juweeltje dat zachtjes binnekomt. Luister ook naar: Bottle It Up

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In most musical careers, the debut album tends to lay bare the soul of the artist as she introduces herself to the world, its songs created from a real life still pure and unencumbered by any spotlight or harsh exposure. Jade Jackson, however, has chosen to flip that notion on its head, and with her second full-length, Wilderness, she casts a light more focused on her own life than ever before—due in part to an inspiration from finally coming to terms with a traumatic event in her own journey.


Her first album, 2017’s Gilded, was a masterful, critically acclaimed introduction to her strong soulful stylings as told through the eyes of characters and storytelling, with Jackson keeping any hyper-personal glimpses at arm’s length. But for its follow-up, the singer-songwriter from the Central Coast of California decided to embrace the concept of “writing what you know” and build her songs from an autobiographical perspective. And while the subject matter of Wilderness isn’t necessarily directly drawn from it, Jackson found that revisiting some of the darkness surrounding an accident she experienced in 2012 and its aftermath helped open the door to further self-reflection.


Two days after her 20th birthday, while a first-semester student at CalArts college in Santa Clarita, Jackson was hiking in nearby Sand Canyon when she leaped from a rope swing and fell 15 feet onto a rock. She sustained serious injuries, from shattered vertebrae and slipped discs to a ruptured coccyx, and was told by doctors that she may never walk again. An allergy to medication in the hospital gave her seizures, and when she was eventually discharged, she was forced to live in a hotel while wearing a back brace and using a wheelchair due to her dormitory’s inability to accommodate her needs. She realized she was depending more and more on the painkillers she was prescribed and after stopping cold turkey by destroying her prescription refills and flushing the remaining pills, her body and brain spiraled into depression. She also developed a control-related eating disorder that would haunt her for several years following. Jackson refers to her mind state during that time as “suicidal.”


“Needless to say, for the first time since I had written my very first song, I didn’t believe in my music anymore,” Jackson says. “Because of my depression I didn’t like myself, so I couldn’t possibly imagine someone else liking what I created. But even that couldn’t stop me from writing, and songwriting remained my therapy through it all.”


Jackson began jamming with some musicians in her home neighborhood in Santa Margarita while on a break from school about a year later. She felt comfortable, as she had already built a small following and familiarity with the area’s venues in years prior, and slowly regained her musical confidence. The story from here and through the release of Gilded is better known, but Jackson has never before spoken in detail about her accident. In doing so, she hopes to inspire others with her story, and takes particular courage from the way she learned to navigate through those unknown, murky days and nights.

The theme of her new work deals heavily with those attitudes and feelings while focusing largely on other true encounters and relationships in her real life. Wilderness is a powerhouse of a record about the in-betweens and stepping stones we dwell in and leap across while coming to terms with our senses of self, and how melancholy can be a powerful weapon to wield—especially in the form of a roots-rock or country song. While some tunes are less hopeful than others and some contain brighter glimmers of light, Jackson has chosen to heal herself through this raw, pure approach, finding comfort in her own skin and spending less time in the observational spaces of her past work. In doing so, she is able to share and connect even more directly with her audience and in turn feels that therapeutic relief like a reward, similar to the lifting of a burden when shared or a secret when told. And all the while her compass needle remains pointed straight ahead, empowered by the means through which she has climbed, grown, and changed.

“The wilderness I refer to on my album is this in-between area I’m in right now as a musician. It’s the unknown—like when we’re touring, you don’t know where you’re gonna play, or sleep, what you’re gonna eat, if you’ll have monitors…there’s so much unknown at this grinding stage in the game. I am incredibly thankful for the way my career has started, but I’ve always had this urge propelling me forward. I know where I want to go—I can visualize it—but right now I’m walking through the wild, still picking up tools, still learning, and making my way.”


Wilderness, like Gilded, was produced by Mike Ness, the SoCal punk rock legend who essentially plucked Jackson from obscurity several years ago and helped hone her craft and sound. Jackson calls Ness “a master of feel and rhythm” and credits him with showing her how to invoke more of those calling cards in her new work, in addition to those countless tools now in her arsenal that they developed together over time. As the pair’s working relationship continues to evolve, Jackson recognizes that Ness has become more open to her input while she herself has gotten more hands-on in the studio, a process that ultimately resulted in delivering the sound for which both parties were striving.

“I think for the first album I couldn’t even believe I was there, but this time I had more of an idea of what I wanted, so it was more collaborative,” Jackson says. “Mike and I had the time to feel each other out and see what worked for us both, and the bond only got tighter. He is patient and kind. The more I learn, the more comfortable I feel raising my hand to ask better questions.”

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