From her parents’ farm in California’s Santa Margarita, Gothic folk-rocker Jade Jackson is struggling to discuss “Gilded,” her upcoming debut disc on ANTI-Records — but her pet rooster Muhammad keeps interrupting her with crowing every few minutes.
Her family found him by the side of the road, his eyes gouged out and spurs snapped off from cockfighting.
“We nursed him back to health and now he’s completely healthy, but he just can’t see,” she says. “So he crows at random times because he doesn’t really know when the sun is coming up.”
In a nutshell, that sums up the whimsical backwoods charm of Jackson, 25, who at 13 started composing after attending her first concert by proto-punkers Social Distortion, whose frontman Mike Ness produced her record. He’s also having her open his band’s current tour, which hits The City this week.
As a teen, she was so shy that she ate school lunch alone in the girls’ bathroom.
She says of Ness: “Watching him passionately commanding an audience gave me a feeling inside, like, ‘Wow. I wish I could do that!’ So I spent the next 10 years of my life trying to get there.”
There’s a sweet, small-town innocence wafting through the country-inflected “Gilded” tracks “Motorcycle,” “Better Off” and the loping “Finish Line,” with its defiant, yet philosophical lyrics: “I grew up my father’s daughter/ He said don’t take no s— from no one/ You’ll never see me cry” and “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.”
Ness’ studio skills give everything a smoky urban edge that echoes Jackson’s years slinging hash at her family’s restaurant. “Tonight’s my last night waitressing before I head out on tour — I can’t even believe it,” she says.
The first pre-teen tunes Jackson penned were dirges, like “Johnny Hung Himself.”
She says, “They were very dark, and I always put a suicide or murder in each song.”
By high school graduation, she had written more than 370 songs, and she could do a three-hour set without repeating herself.
Ness’ son caught one such coffeehouse gig and forwarded cellphone footage to his dad, who contacted her out of the blue with a production offer.
Jackson used to abhor Santa Margarita. Now she loves it, and has no plans to go Hollywood.
On cue, Muhammad crows for the umpteenth time in the background. He might have other ideas. “I have a video of ‘Finish Line’ coming out, and he’s actually in one of the scenes,” she says. “So his career is off and running now, too!”
IF YOU GO
Social Distortion, with Jade Jackson
Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. March 16, 9 p.m. March 17
Contact: (415) 346-6000, www.ticketmaster.com