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Hometown favorite Jade Jackson headlines the grand reopening of the Fremont Theater on Aug. 7 

This Saturday, after being shuttered for nearly a year and a half, the Fremont Theater will reopen with Santa Margarita native Jade Jackson at the top of the bill. Jackson, too, has been cut off from what she loves most: performing. She and her band had just returned from an early 2020 U.S. tour with Lucero when the COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on her future touring plans that March. She was looking forward to playing the Stagecoach Festival as well as some dates with Amanda Shires.

click to enlarge HOMETOWN HEROINE! Santa Margarita native Jade Jackson (second from left) and her band—Devin Hollister (left), Julian Ness (second from right), and Tyler Miller (right)—headline the Fremont Theater on Aug. 7. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ALICE BAXLEY
  • Photo Courtesy Of Alice Baxley
  • HOMETOWN HEROINE! Santa Margarita native Jade Jackson (second from left) and her band—Devin Hollister (left), Julian Ness (second from right), and Tyler Miller (right)—headline the Fremont Theater on Aug. 7.

"It finally felt like we were at the spot where the ball was rolling, and then the pandemic hit," she said during a recent phone interview.

In March 2020, Jackson was just a few years into her big career break. In 2017, she'd been signed to ANTI-Records, which released her first big commercial record Gilded. Rolling Stone magazine named her on its "10 New Country Artists You Need to Know" list. She had opened for Social Distortion and Lucero; shared the bill with Nikki Lane, JD McPherson, and Lizzo; and had been booked into some big festivals. Her second ANTI-Records album, Wilderness, was released to a warm reception. She was heading toward the next level on her pathway to stardom. Instead she found herself back at her parents' Santa Margarita restaurant, The Range.

"Everyone, including my parents, were like, 'What should we do?'" Jackson recalled. "My parents let everyone go except family at the restaurant—it seemed like the safest thing to do—and I rolled right into full-time restaurant service: cleaning up, serving, creating menus. I buried myself in restaurant work, which is fine. I know how to do it. I was so busy I didn't have time to complain, and my family had their health and the business was surviving."

Jackson's been working at The Range for 17 years, about as long as she's been writing songs. From the outside looking in, she appears to have come out of nowhere to sudden success in 2017, but for those of us who have been following her local career since the beginning, we've witnessed her tireless grind up the mountain to a "real" place in the music industry.

She could have—and maybe should have—turned into a prima donna. She looks like a star—tall and gorgeous with a beautiful voice and a gift for songwriting—but Jackson remains remarkably down to earth. When I called, she was cleaning out her touring van. She and her band recently returned from the Under the Big Sky Fest in Montana, where they played with Emmylou Harris, Jason Isbell, Tyler Childers, Colter Wall, Charley Crockett, and others.

"If I find one more sunflower seed," she mock threatens. "I actually don't mind doing it. Sometimes I'll find little treasures like five bucks or an unopened can of Redbull. Mine!"

She also talks about how concertgoers sometimes marvel at her rolling up her own cords and equipment, asking, "Wait, isn't your job done? You were just up there singing." Jackson credits her parents and her years in the service industry for her roll-up-her-sleeves attitude. She's just ... well, nice! And that sweetness comes through, which is one of the things music fans find appealing about her.

She also can get stressed out. The music industry isn't quite as easy as she'd hoped it would be. If you asked her a decade ago what "making it" would be like, she would have said "a record deal," but now that she's got one, she still thinks she's "made it," but it's not like she's buying new cars and houses. She admits to having "stress dreams" about both restaurant work—"Have I missed a table?"—and her music career—"Will I ever perform again?" It was one of those stress dreams that led to her most recent single, "6FT. Changes."

"I'm not really a 'I'm going to sit down and write a song' kind of person," she said. "I'm a 'I have a pit in my stomach and I have to get this out' writer, which was what happened with this song. I was on my way to sleep and it fell into my consciousness, so I went to the living room and scribbled it down."

On it she sings, "Last night I saw it, the crowd and the sweat/ The lights in my eyes and the warmth in my chest/ The theater walls held murals of gods/ And their gold paint was peeling from years of applause/ Oh I want to go back to the way it was/ Before we had distance between us/ Six feet changes the way it was/ Handshakes and hugs in a crowded space/ Dancing with strangers and holding up beers/ Tapping on shoulders and whispering in ears."

She recorded the song and made a music video for it in the empty Fremont Theater.

"Usually I let my team guide me, but in this case I wanted to get this song out now and film it at my hometown theater that I've always loved," Jackson said. "It was a pretty surreal and emotional experience. I'm up there singing the song over and over again, and I couldn't help but feel super emotional. I didn't know when things would be back open. Lots of theaters all over the country closed down for good. I was hoping it wouldn't happen to the Fremont."

Jackson believes she's not quite big enough to headline the Fremont and says of her opening act Willie Watson of the Old Crow Medicine Show, "I am a huge fan of his music! We really should be opening for him. Honestly, I can't believe he's going to kick off the show. I can't believe it!"

I say we show her she is big enough when she plays this Saturday, Aug. 7 (8 p.m.; all ages; $31.03 at fremontslo.com), with her excellent band: Devin Hollister (bass), Julian Ness (lead guitar), and Tyler Miller (percussion and tour manager), as well as her guest musicians Devin Welsh (keys) and Jacob Gearheart (fiddle).

"Songwriting has just been a part of me," she said. "People sometimes say, 'What's your first musical memory?' But that's like asking a fish what it remembers about its first time in water. I feel really lucky. My band is like family and I love touring with those three boys."

Maybe Jackson will never become a huge star, headlining theaters even bigger than the Fremont, but she doesn't care.

"I know I'm never going to quit."

More music ...

click to enlarge MUSIC BY THE MISSION Popular outdoor series Concerts in the Plaza returns Aug. 6 with the Damon Castillo Band. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BARRY GOYETTE
  • Photo Courtesy Of Barry Goyette
  • MUSIC BY THE MISSION Popular outdoor series Concerts in the Plaza returns Aug. 6 with the Damon Castillo Band.

Don't forget Numbskull and Good Medicine have the B-Side Players at The Siren this Thursday, Aug. 5 (7 p.m.; 21-and-older; $15 presale at eventbrite.com or $20 at the door). The nine-piece mixes Latin sounds with funk, rock, jazz, and hip-hop.

Concerts in the Plaza returns this Friday, Aug. 6 (5 to 7 p.m.; all ages; free) with the Damon Castillo Band. Mixing urban R&B, jazz, and more into a sophisticated blend of danceable pop, this is one of SLO Town's favorite local bands.

click to enlarge CALIFORNIA DREAMERS The Mother Hips bring their breezy psychedelic sounds to SLO Brew Rock on Aug. 6. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MOTHER HIPS
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Mother Hips
  • CALIFORNIA DREAMERS The Mother Hips bring their breezy psychedelic sounds to SLO Brew Rock on Aug. 6.

SLO Brew Rock hosts California folk rockers The Mother Hips on Friday, Aug. 6 (7 p.m.; 18-and-older; $25 presale at ticketweb.com or $30 day of show; standing room only) with The Mother Corn Shuckers opening. The hips have been at it for 25 years, delivering breezy, sometimes psychedelic Americana.

click to enlarge COUNTRY KING Multi-platinum country star Brantley Gilbert headlines Vina Robles Amphitheatre on Aug. 7. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JEFF NELSON
  • Photo Courtesy Of Jeff Nelson
  • COUNTRY KING Multi-platinum country star Brantley Gilbert headlines Vina Robles Amphitheatre on Aug. 7.

Vina Robles Amphitheatre hosts hard-rocking country star Brantley Gilbert this Friday, Aug. 6 (7:30 p.m.; all ages; $45 to $79 vinaroblesamphitheatre.com) with Sean Stemaly opening. Gilbert, a multi-platinum seller is know for hits such as "Country Must be Country Wide," "You Don't Know Her Like I Do," "Dirt Road Anthem," "My Kinda Party," "Bottoms Up," "One Hell of an Amen," and his Lindsay Ell collaboration "What Happens In A Small Town."

Unfinished Business plays their Beatles tribute show at SLO Guild Hall this Saturday, Aug. 7 (7 to 10 p.m.; all ages; $10 at my805tix.com). This tight, professional quartet features Don Utterback (drums and vocals), Mark Walters (bass and vocals), Ed Miller (guitar and vocals), and Thomas "Toes" Cuffe (on keys and percussion), who'll play between 40 and 50 Beatles classics!

Carbon City Lights returns to SLO Brew Rock on Saturday, Aug. 7 (7 p.m.; all ages; free). The alt-indie-rock band blends folk, pop, and rock with some funk and a little country twang.

click to enlarge HONKY-TONKERS Mike and the Moonpies play a Numbskull and Good Medicine show at The Siren on Aug. 10. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE AND THE MOONPIES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Mike And The Moonpies
  • HONKY-TONKERS Mike and the Moonpies play a Numbskull and Good Medicine show at The Siren on Aug. 10.

Numbskull and Good Medicine also have country artists Mike and the Moonpies at The Siren on Tuesday, Aug. 10 (7 p.m.; 21-and-older; $15 presale at eventbrite.com or $20 at the door). The band's newest album, Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold, finds the honky-tonk act recording at Abbey Road Studios with the London Symphony Orchestra. The album was inspired by "countrypolitan" music like some of Glen Campbell's work.

click to enlarge CALLING ALL GUITARISTAS Local musician John Summers shows off his hand-painted Stratocaster at a past Central Coast Guitar Show, which returns on Aug. 7 at the SLO Guild Hall. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CENTRAL COAST GUITAR SHOW
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Central Coast Guitar Show
  • CALLING ALL GUITARISTAS Local musician John Summers shows off his hand-painted Stratocaster at a past Central Coast Guitar Show, which returns on Aug. 7 at the SLO Guild Hall.

Guitar-o-rama!

The Central Coast Guitar Show 2021 happens this Saturday, Aug. 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the SLO Guild Hall (2880 Broad St., SLO). Tickets are $10 at the door or $8.99 on my805tix.com; a buck off if you're selling or trading instruments). "Manufacturers, dealers, collectors, and local musicians will be displaying, selling, and trading their new, used, and vintage guitars and guitar-related products, as well as other musical instruments and services," according to organizers. Δ

Contact Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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