We jumped on Zoom with our friend True Jackson! True is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter we met at Bleach’s fourth of July show. You can read more about True in the LA Times or Forbes. In this interview, we discuss how her star sign fits into her style as an artist, the importance of vulnerability in songwriting, and her creative collaboration with fellow artists Jonah Roy and Paco. She released her debut album “Simulation” last year, and her latest single, “So Sad!”, dropped in May.
What’s your go-to gas station order?
Okay, so I love Hi-Chews. Not all gas stations have them, but they’re my favorite. Everyone thinks that’s funny because my name is True. So everyone calls me Hi-True. Probably that and then I like Spray. I’m pretty…just classic Spray and Hi-Chews.
What’s your star sign, and do you feel it fits you as an artist?
I’m on the cusp of Aries and Taurus. And I don’t really know that much about it. But apparently, they’re kind of passive and kind of stubborn, but also very nice and outgoing. And I think that fits me really well, because I’m very stubborn. But I do think that it’s me as an artist because of my music. It’s not super like upbeat and happy. There’s songs where I’m very much so like. I think it fits.
Many of your songs pull directly from your personal experiences. While you’ve said you wanted listeners to connect to these personal experiences, has it been a process to learn how to be more vulnerable through your music?
Yes, I’ve been writing music since I was 10. And a lot of my songs that I write are about my personal experiences, most of them are. But once I started collaborating, I had a hard time being 100% open, just because I don’t want to tell everyone my feelings or have them be like, “Oh, I don’t really like that lyric.” Because that’s how I feel. But I feel over time and getting closer with the guys that I make music with, it’s been easier to kind of be more open and honest. Because I feel like it’s important as an artist to share your feelings and for people to relate to them, because a lot of people go through the same thing. It’s been a process.
Your debut, “Simulation,” put together over quarantine, involves themes of living as a teen during a pandemic in a largely virtual setting. How have you balanced the digital world as a tool for expression and connection while not getting overwhelmed by its more toxic side?
That’s definitely been a process, I will say, because I spent a lot of time on social media and just especially doing music, a lot of the stuff I have to do is surrounded by posting on social media all the time. And I just had to learn how to get away for the day and do things for myself, which luckily became easier once I was able to sort of go outside. I would say going through COVID the one thing that like held me together was being able to write music, because it got me off my phone off social media, and I was doing stuff that made me express my feelings. But it was definitely weird being in my room and being forced to post on Instagram and stuff like that because of music, which I just didn’t like. But once I was able to kind of go outside or just stay in my room and get off my phone. Because otherwise, I will just post. Like, everything just gets put off, if I’m just stuck on my phone all the time. I will say I’ve had phases when I’ve been like addicted to my phone. It’s so bad.
Your latest release, “So Sad!”, dropped at the end of May. How did this track come together, and how do you see it as a progression of your music following “Simulation”?
Actually, I made so sad in like less than an hour with my producer Jake, right before he left for an airport right as our Forbes article dropped. So it was just kind of, I would say, spur of the moment, which I feel is definitely what the song sounds like. It’s very electronic, a lot of random noises, there’s some sounds like us clapping and tapping cups. I think personally, that’s been something I’ve been wanting to make for a while musically, I wanted to join using guitars and pianos and also electronic instruments, because I’ve never really been able to do that. And that was definitely something that I wanted to try, and I’m big fan of this girl named Benny, she’s a New Zealand artist, and she has a song called “Snail,” which is just like electronic beats and sounds, and I was very inspired by that to make “So Sad!”. And that’s kind of the sound that I was going for as an artist. So being able to kind of pursue that and make a song like that from simulation was cool.
The visuals accompanying your music have a really retro theme, what was your inspiration behind this choice?
I love the 80s, I love the 80s, I love the music. I’m a big fan of Stranger Things, which obviously takes place in the 80s. My mom’s dad was a in a rock band in the 80s and then in a jazz band later, so I’ve just been always kind of influenced by the 80s. And so just kind of having that interest in 80s led me into other kind of retro things. And also, I feel recently, the Gen Z kind of age has been very focused on retro old, 90s-80s vibes. And so I wanted to just kind of show that with bright colors and old TVs and electronics, especially since COVID happened. And yeah, definitely kind of, the parallel between being stuck in like a digital age today. But then also having that callback to the TV, like you said, things like that. So I think that was really cute and really cool.
You started playing music, learning guitar, and writing songs at a really young age. How do you feel you’ve grown as an artist in the past couple years?
I actually grew up with stage fright. So up until my freshman year of high school, I didn’t tell anyone I played any instruments. I didn’t write any songs. And I’d been playing for at least like three years. So I feel like that was definitely something that helped me grow. Because going to a new school, my freshman year, I decided that I didn’t like to hide my favorite thing about myself. And like, the one thing that was my passion. So over these past few years, I would definitely say that has been a big growth for me because I just have been able to actually share my music and make it from me singing it on my phone into my voice memos into something I’ve played in front of people, either just at school or online or whatever.
You collaborate with Jonah Roy and Paco a lot. Why don’t you tell us about your creative relationship? What strengths do each of you bring to the table?
I met Jonah like a year and a half ago, right before COVID because our moms went to high school together and reconnected. And from the second I met him, we like made a song in the first like three hours of knowing each other. And also at that time, that was kind of still when I was sort of shy. So being able to connect with someone that fast and be able to be so open about my music with them was definitely a good part of our relationship. And I met Paco and Jake, the other two, a little bit later. And we just all kind of clicked, we all have a lot of the same interests, we listen and play music, we’re all kind of outgoing and love the same things. And especially being in COVID, and having nothing to do, just left us kind of sitting together for seven days straight, which definitely developed a relationship. And both Jonah and Paco are amazing artists and have their own unique sound. But I think it’s good because we all kind of have like a similar climate.
The video for “All My Time” features a lot of funky outfits, even a 1920s flapper outfit! What are some of your favorite accessories and thrift finds?
I love this store in Anaheim. I think it’s Burbank. Actually, it’s a thrift store, that’s all old clothes from old movies. So I have a shirt from Hannah Montana. It’s a green shirt, which is my favorite color. But it’s definitely one of my favorite finds. Because it’s just so iconic. And it’s such a cool store, you can find really old stuff, you can find something from like, horror movies. It’s so cool. That was definitely what partially inspired the “All My Time” music video, because you can find the coolest like old stuff for movies. So it’s very authentic to that time period. It’s called That’s a Wrap. It’s the coolest. So maybe we can go but our last question for you today.
What are some of your upcoming plans now that the pandemic is coming to a close?
Well, I’m planning on just continuing to release music. I know Jonah is coming out with some stuff. Same with Paco. I’m featured on them. Hopefully in the future, I can have an album out and have more shows that aren’t just in my backyard. I have a few places in LA that I want to have a shot at, like there’s the Troubadour that I really want to play at. That’s a really cool one, the Fonda, all of those big staples in LA. Those are definitely some things I want to do that now.