Jade Blocker is a bonafide singer-songwriter and a Columbia, South Carolina native. Her acoustic guitar, raspy voice and soulful words are both powerful and vulnerable. After seven years of playing music solo, she is finally doing something people have been telling her to do for a long time, she is starting a band. The new project is a four-piece band led by Jade and is simply called “Blocker”. After only one month of practicing together, they are making their debut on Friday, November 10th, at Arts & Draughts at the Columbia Museum of Art. In this interview Jade and I talk about not only the new band, but how she got to this point, her “Don’t give a fuck, just do it” attitude, her love of Britney Spears, and the importance of vulnerability in her music.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Columbia.
Tell me about your style of music?
I was always just doing singer-songwriter stuff, just solo stuff, I didn’t know what kind of genre to call it until I was around certain people and they told me: “You play pop music”. And I thought well this is interesting. But actually I don’t mind it because I’m a sucker for pop music. I love Britney Spears, she’s my favorite. I hate to admit it but she’s my guilty pleasure. I also love Lady Gaga.
What is it about Britney Spears and Lady Gaga that you admire so much?
They just don’t give a fuck. In their music, in their confidence, they’re just very strong women to me. And people overlook them in my opinion. But yeah, I’m a sucker for them… I think they’re great.
Tell me about your musical journey.
My first guitar was a “first act” guitar from fucking Walmart, I was 11 or 12. I started playing the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) in my middle school. And then I played drums and guitar for youth group at church and became a youth leader. I quit playing drums when I finished high school but I kept playing guitar.
I remember going to New Brookland Tavern when I was 19 and I was just hanging out. My friend Beth Dickerson was doing a singer songwriter night, an open mic night thing, and I was scared to do it. But Beth told me “Come on Jade, you can do it” and I did. And so she was actually the one who encouraged me to start doing it. And then I kept playing open mic nights and then people just started asking me to play shows. And I started playing shows more and more and more.
And what songs did you play? Did you play your own songs?
They were my own songs. They were like, depressing break up songs, lesbian break up songs. Like, “You broke my heart giiiirl”.
You started your solo act at age 19, now at age 26 what’s different? Where are you in your musical journey?
For the longest time, I was really scared to start a band. Everyone would ask me, “Why don’t you start a band?” and I would say “hm, maybe. I’m not sure, but maybe one day”. When I first met Garrick Turner in 2013 he told me, “You need a band”. And ever since then he’s always been encouraging me to do it. And I’ve always said “Nah, I’m just busy, I’ve got too much going on”. But really I was just scared. I didn’t know what my songs would sound like with a full band. I was just lazy and scared, but finally I just said this would be really cool. I feel like in a way I just grew up, as an artist. And now with a band, the songs sound completely different, but in a good way.
So, you have a band now? Tell me about it and how it came together.
I have a band now. We’ve been playing together for a month and we have a show next Friday! It’s called Blocker. The band is me on guitar and vocals, Garrick Turner on bass, Ronald Gandy on drums, and Donovan Amison on guitar.
So this what happened. I was doing Rock Roulette (side note from Lillian: Rock Roulette was a fundraiser for the nonprofit Girls Rock Columbia where willing participants were grouped into bands and tasked with creating a song to play at a showcase in just one month) and while we were practicing, I told my bandmate Ashleigh Lancaster “Yeah, I have a band, I’m gonna get a band together”. Even though in my mind I was saying “Maybe, we’ll see”. And then soon after I get a message from Phil Blair, who is in charge of the Whig, and he says “Hey Jade, I heard you have a band together” and I thought “Oh shit I don’t, I don’t have anything right now.” But I told him “Yeah man, I do”. And he said said “Do you want to play Jam Room?”, but that was too soon and so he said “What about Arts & Draughts at the art museum on November 10”, and I said “Yeah, we’ll do it”. And that’s when I started texting everybody saying, “Hey, do you wanna be in the band? Do you wanna be in the band? Do you wanna be in the band?” And here we are! But it sounds natural. It sounds like we have been playing together forever so it’s really cool. They’re good guys.
Did actually being in a band for Rock Roulette help jump start the band as well?
Yeah definitely, it made me realize, I can do this. If I can meet with these ladies every week, I can make this band happen.
How are you feeling about the show on November 10th at Arts & Draughts?
I’m really excited and I’m really nervous. It’s so different playing with a band than as a solo act because there’s so much more added to it. And it sounds different too. Our band sounds like “pop rock”. It’s a mix of R&B, pop, and rock. I kinda just want it to be a surprise cause no one really knows what it’s going to sound like because we haven’t released a single or anything. People are just gonna show up on and see what it sounds like.
What’s coming up next for you and your band after Arts & Draughts?
I have a solo show at the War Mouth in November. And then I think the full band will play a show at New Brookland Tavern sometime in December, I’m just not sure of the date yet.
Do you ever get nervous about people not liking your music?
I don’t. If they don’t like it, that’s fine. To each their own.
Where did you get your confidence?
My mother. She has always been a huge influence on me, on my music, and who I am as a person. When I was coming out she always supported me, she always just told me, “just be yourself, just do it”. Just the way that she is and her “just do it” attitude has impacted me a lot.
My dad has also influenced me a lot. He was a musician and I got a lot of my musical talent from him. He’s a percussionist and was also the lead singer of his own band for a while called the Early Wilds.
What do you think about the Columbia music scene? What could be better?
It’s not my cup of tea right now. I think that the music scene needs to be revitalized. Columbia is growing and we have a unique opportunity to bring a fresh sound.
Who are some of your favorite local musicians?
The Rejectioneers, Pet Peeves, Debbie and the Skanks, and Say Brother.
What are you bringing to the Columbia music scene that hasn’t existed here before?
I’m bringing a new sound. It’s something completely different. People may like it, people probably won’t. We’ll see what happens. It’s a simple four piece band playing good music with a melody. I feel like it’s huge. There’s not a lot of black lesbian front women in the south playing in a rock band.
Are there any musicians in the south that you can think of who you see yourself reflected in?
Not really. I don’t think about it much, I just do. You got me on that one.
Do you think the scene is not accepting of women or do you think that women just lack the confidence to go for it?
I think the scene is ready for women I just don’t think women are stepping up.
What is your advice for aspiring musicians, especially women, people of color, queer people, or anyone else who may feel here voice isn’t as celebrated?
Just don’t be scared. People are going to judge you but do it anyways. You never know who might need what you’re putting out. It’s easier said than done, “just be confident in yourself”, but just do it and just stay true to yourself.
Is there anything else you want to tell me about you or your music?
I don’t think I play especially sad music, but I just write what I feel. I remember playing house shows on Senate street and people would come up to me afterwards and tell me, “I really liked what you did. I really needed that”. Like one of my old songs “This Moment”, it’s seven years old and people still love it. The lyrics are, “Life’s so hard. You’ll try and change it. You’ll rearrange it. Be present in this moment. Don’t look back, or even think about it. You’ll wanna shout it out, be present in this moment.”
Why do you play music?
For me, it’s a good release and it helps me process things I can’t necessarily understand. And for others, people might be going through a really hard time, and it could help. To make people feel something. To be vulnerable is to to learn, you grow from it. It’s scary as shit but I’d rather be vulnerable than to be shut off and write stupid shit. Being vulnerable is the main thing.
What are your aspirations as a musician?
I just want to have fun with my friends. I want to write new music, have fun, and see what happens.
*photos provided by Jade Blocker