Y ou won’t find high schooler Jade Jackson updating her Facebook page, watching reality shows on MTV or hanging out with friends on the weekends.
For one thing, she has grown up without the Internet or TV (someone else updates her websites). And because she writes a song a day, there’s little time for socializing.
Yet, her musical endeavors have paid off. After opening recently for Merle Haggard and Charlie Daniels, the folksy singer/songwriter will perform two shows at the upcoming Live Oak Music Festival and is lining up a slate of other gigs.
A senior at San Luis Obispo High School, Jackson sings in a mature voice accented by falsettos (think Jewel, with a touch of Sarah McLachlan.) While she looks older than her 18 years, songs like “Listen to Your Mother” — a first-person tune about a teen girl who pairs up with an overly hormonal boy — give away her youth.
We recently caught up to the Santa Margarita resident in between classes, gigs and her job at her parents’ restaurant, The Range.
Q: I saw that you’d written like 76 songs. Is it more than that now?
A: Yeah, it’s more than that now. I have two laundry baskets full of lyrics in my room. I’ll write a song, and the first person I’ll play it for is my dad. I’ll watch his facial expressions, and if he really likes it, I can tell. And I’ll keep it and show it to my band. If not, I’ll set it aside and use different parts of it for other songs.
Q: Did you get to meet Merle Haggard?
A: I didn’t get to meet him. He was with his wife, and they said when he tours with his wife, he doesn’t really talk. He wouldn’t even sign my album cover. But I got to meet The Devil Makes Three, which is one of my favorite bands.
Q: You started out on the piano, right?
A: I grew up without cable and Internet because my parents — even though they’re only in their 40s — they’re super old-fashioned. So I never had a TV or anything like that. I’ve never even played a video game in my life. So that just kind of got me into music. My grandma gave me a keyboard when I was like 4 or 5.
Q: When you first started playing guitar, were you writing your own stuff right away?
A: Yeah, when I was 13, I wrote my first song. Back then I was really into Social Distortion and all those punk-type bands. But I never really played anyone else’s songs.
In elementary school, my best subject was always poetry. And I always loved music. So I found I could do both.
Q: On your website, you wrote that you write songs to vent. How does that work?
A: Most of my songs are stories about other people. I might sing “I” or “my,” but I kind of like watching other people. I always saw kids my age who get frustrated or they’re dealing with growing up and resort to drinking and bad things. I always felt bad because I didn’t need to do that. When I had those feelings, I’d just pick up my guitar and write a song. I’d feel so much better. I had some pretty bad relationships, but it’s almost worth breaking up after I finish a song about it.
Q: You’re not afraid to mention how old you are in these songs. Is that
something you’ve worried about?
A: When I was 15, people would think I was 23. So I kind of liked people to know I was younger. Now I’m 18, and I kind of wish I was younger. It kind of gives you a step up.
Q: What did your parents think of the “Listen to Your Mother” song?
A: The first person I played it for was my dad. Of course, he didn’t like it at first. He told me, “I was about ready to beat someone up.” It’s actually not a true story.
Q: You’re doing (two shows at) Live Oak?
A: The first one’s at 8 a.m. (June 19), and the funny thing is I’m graduating from high school on the 18th and then I’ve got to wake up at 4 and drive to Live Oak the next day, so so I don’t get to go to Grad Night or anything like that because I have to go to bed.
Q: If you had to model yourself after any other teen artist, who would it be?
A: I think what Taylor Swift is doing is really cool. I wish I could be doing what she’s doing.
Q: What is your ultimate rock star fantasy?
A: I’ll play anywhere. I love playing coffee shops. The Merle Haggard show was sold out, that was really amazing. But sometimes it will make it when I see one person look a certain way, or someone will say something to me afterward.
Reach Patrick S. Pemberton at 781-7903.