Ground Control to Jade Thunder
Updated: Apr 8, 2022
Welcome Back to Ground Control! After a busy few months at Satellite HQ, we're really excited to be back with another edition of our Ground Control interview series, this time with the wonderful Jade Thunder
Jade Thunder is a Liverpool based singer songwriter and musician. In February 2022 she released her stunning debut album Alchemy and sat down with us for a chat about her musical journey and how she came to write her album! Having seen her perform a number of times, we are huge fans of Jade. Her sublime vocals and captivating stage presence are a real treat and we are so excited she agreed to join us for this interview!
Helen Maw: Hi Jade! Thanks so much for joining us as a guest on our Ground Control interview series! We're so excited to talk about all of the exciting things you have going on at the moment, but first, introduce yourselves to our followers and tell us more about Jade Thunder!
Jade Thunder: Hello! I’m Jade Thunder, I’m a musician, a singer and a composer, I’m originally from Chester but I live in Liverpool and have done for four years now and I am a website designer too!
Rach Hankin: I think it’s worth noting as well that that is your real name..it’s not a stage name..it’s the coolest name ever.
JT: I always say that’s why I married him! *laughs*
RH: Now, you’ve recently released your debut album Alchemy. Tell us about the process behind writing and recording it, how long did it take to make?
JT: So I’ve always wanted to write an album but I’ve never really had the confidence to because when you’re a cover artist, that’s what you’re known for and I was known for singing Alanis Morissette, Florence and the Machine and Eva Cassidy and when you’re in that scene, going into the original scene, it’s hard to break that barrier cos people want you to sing Adele!! So lockdown was the perfect opportunity for me to go ‘right, I’m going to write this album!’ I had a block for about 10 years when I was taking antidepressants and then I realised when I started writing poetry again I was like ‘ahh, this is because I’m not taking them anymore’ and I felt like I was free because I was so brain fogged before and I wrote the song Pills because it was about that process and taking them and I sang it to my husband and he liked it! Then from Jan 2020-Sept 2020, so a period of 9 months, I found I was writing 3 songs a day and it was always between 1am and 3am, i dont know why, it’s just when everything is quiet and I have no distractions so I'd just sit on my phone and write and it was like free therapy! So it took 9 months overall, some songs came in 10 minutes and others took longer but I always write the song first and then I add the chords later, it’s a really strange process and then that made it take longer but the initial writing of the album took 9 months.
RH: Would you say being a cover artist has helped with your creativity or has it stunted it?
JT: A bit of both really. It's amazing as a cover artist as you're meant to know a bit of everything and so I’m inspired by lots of different things! However, I don’t want to pigeon hole myself at the moment even though everyone tells me I have a distinctive style. I’d love to know what that is and how you would categorise it cos I don’t know!!
It's been a great challenge in that way but through mimicking other artists, you lose your own identity and voice and so when I started writing the songs I was like I’m singing this in a style of someone else, like I wrote a country song, which didn't make it onto the album and started singing it like Carrie Underwood! But it’s not Jade so that’s why it didn't make it on the album because I have to find songs that are Jade and that are authentically me which is hard! So it’s a blessing and a curse all in one but I’ll take it *laughs*
HM: I think that’s a good attitude to have, especially for a first album, it’s good to have a bit of everything in there and I remember we discussed it briefly once and said that the unifying theme across the album is your voice so it doesnt necessarily matter if the styles change, it’s all your work and every song matters to you in a different way.
JT: Yeah and I think..in case you didnt know, I LOVE Fleetwood Mac and you listen to their catalogue of songs and if it's Stevie who’s written it, it’s a different style to Lindsay or Christine and it’s all the same but also very different so I think for that, that’s the kind of inspiration for me, it doesn't matter what it is really, I’ve just put it under the umbrella of Americana because I dont know how else to catagorise it.
RH: There needs to be a new genre term that’s just like ‘genre bending’ - nobody sticks to just one genre anymore!
JT: I just dont want to be limited!
"I have to find songs that are Jade and that are authentically me which is hard!"
HM: I’ve said the same in the past because I’m similar to you in that the last three singles I’ve released have been completely different to one another and I’ve done a bit of everything. I think you have to nowadays because you write music for different reasons and it’s better if you have a wider variety of styles because you can then reach more people with your music.
JT: Well I've actually noticed since sending the album out to different people, certain radio stations will play three songs and another will play another one and it’s just whatever suits their audiences and it’s kind of cool cos it’s still getting out there but its just not what I thought. There are a couple of stations that are playing Storm and I’m thinking ‘that doesn’t suit your audience’ and it's not what I would have put down for them but at least they’ve got a variety to choose from!
RH: Through creating Alchemy, you've mentioned your various stylistic influences, was it important to you to have those influences represented in the album?
JT: If I’m really honest, I wasn't thinking about the styling of it at all, I didnt write the songs cos I had a theme in mind. Interestingly, Alchemy and Glasses were some of the last songs I wrote and they’re the two that get the most comments out of them all. I did these pre-production demos on Garageband and so had a rough idea of what I wanted and then I got into the studio and it was all completely different because you start asking musicians to come in who have heard the demos but they have their own interpretation of it so whilst I'm there going ‘no that’s wrong, play it like this’, I still gave them a lot of freedom.
The drummer was consistent throughout the record cos I thought, that can't really change and I had two Bassists, both of which are really really amazing Bass players. I knew they had similar styles so the back line was really strong. Then anything else that came in, I kept quite tight cos I didnt want the music to veer off too much in different directions but there was one song which was Forgiven which was a complete spanner in the works as it's so funky and Chic and that was the brief too, to be Chic! I definitely think it was fulfilled but maybe a little bit too much!
RH: You can’t have too much Chic!!
JT: There are so many influences though, so I’m gonna throw you some weird ones now! As a kid I listened to a lot of Genesis, Pink Floyd and the Jam, the Who, The Clash, all of these old ‘Dad Rock’ bands because that’s what was cool back then! Queen! God there was a lot of Queen, Elton John, Blondie…honestly I could keep going!
RH: That is my dream playlist that you are listing right now!
JT: So that was what I grew up with and then when I started listening to my own music, my first concert was Alanis Morissette, the Jagged Little Pill tour, showing my age! She just had me mesmerised from the get-go. She didn’t even try, she had no shoes on, hair down her back, dressed normal, no pyrotechnics or anything, just her and a GOOD band on stage and then I just thought “that is what I want to do ''. Then the next influence was probably Shania Twain, girl crush! Then...oh no I’ll be shot for this..then there was Nickleback!
RH: No, I am here for this, we love Nickleback! I never understood the hate for Nickleback
JT: Metallica, HUGE fan! Nothing Else Matters was the first song I learnt to play! Then..ah I’m doing it by age here! So at the moment I’m 15 *laughs* then when I got to about 17, that was when I started getting into real heavy..so I queued outside of HMV for Slayers album at midnight so it got really heavy and then I came out of that and then it was anything and everything..going right back to the 60s, I dont really have a main influence.. I dont know why! You can hear a lot of Prog Rock in the record, all Yes and also Evanescence and Avril Lavigne, they are massive influences on me! Can't remove the emo kid!
HM: You have an illustrious history of live performances, with the pandemic hopefully now on its way out, how does it feel to be back performing again?
JT: Ah well! I’m only actually going to go back to doing the theatre shows! Not really gonna do the pub scene anymore, I feel like 24 years of torture is enough! *laughs* It’s really hard entertaining drunk people, it takes a certain person to do it and before the pandemic, I had all of the patience in the world but coming out of the Pandemic, I’ve got no time for it anymore and I don’t want to entertain a load of drunk people who aren’t there to see me..it’s different if it’s your show and everyone is with you and singing along and getting drunk, but I’m talking about a pub where they come to drink with their friends and you are the background music. You're giving your heart and soul into this tiny little mesh sphere in front of you..sometimes I’m welling up and then you look round and no one is clapping and then I think ‘what am I doing this for?’. There is one venue that I’m still playing though that I’ve been playing for 11 years so it’s like my residency so I stay there but even that’s through gritted teeth. The theatres though, I love them!
RH: I think the theatre gigs though are really nice vibe arent they because when we both still worked in the Epstein, we had a lot of theatre but we also had a lot of music as well and whatever it was, an artist or a tribute band, it was always a nice crowd and yeah, people would be getting drunk but they were having a really good time! I think as a performer, I'd really like a theatre gig.
JT: The thing is as well, they’re paying to see you, they’re coming to see you so whether they get rowdy drunk or not, it doesn’t matter because they’ve come to see you and they’re there to celebrate the music! The theatres are great as well as you get to go to the bar after the gigs and there’s only a select few people who have hung around to chat to you because they really want to talk to you and then that makes the conversation worthwhile!
HM: So tell us, what are some of your favourite gigs you’ve performed at?
JT: Oh my god, there’s a few that stick in my head! The first gig of each theatre gig I’ve done has always been mind blowing. The first time I did a pink floyd show The great gig in the sky, I was in the floral pavilion and it was sold out, so there were a thousand people there and I’d just finished a song and it was an emotional song anyway and I always give my everything when I sing it and then this WALL of sound of cheering hit me and I just burst into tears and I couldn't contain it! I’ll never forget that moment. Then the same thing happened at a festival we did with eight and a half thousand people and that was even bigger, a vacuum!! That was pretty amazing and then another gig I did was..so I started my career with my mum and I did 6 years of gigging with her and then she had two strokes and she had to stop and I had to go on my own. Then in 2016 we did a reunion gig for charity and got all of our old backing tracks out with our mini disc player and we sang Blink 182, Rock DJ by Robbie Williams and even Flying Without Wings by Westlife. Our song was When You’re Gone by Bryan Adams and when we sang it I burst into tears on stage cos all of these emotions of being a kid came flooding back. That was a really special moment getting to sing it with her again.
People I’ve worked with are really famous and also local legends and the last time I was in the studio before the Pandemic was actually with Gerry Marsden. That was pretty special because he asked me to do harmonies on Ferry Cross The Mersey and You’ll Never Walk Alone and so the last ever recording he ever made before he died, I’m on there! For me, it’s never really about the size of the audience, it’s about the reception you get because of what you’ve done and that’s what overwhelms me and that’s why I do what I do, it’s an amazing feeling.
HM: So I know you have already mentioned how you write your songs, you do the lyrics first and then add the music later on, has it always been that way?
JT: It’s just what has always worked for me. I have all the notes saved on my phone and backed up on the cloud just in case!! But I’ll just write poetry and then I’ll send them to my mum to see if it’s a song and then I’ll play around with the guitar and come up with a chord progression! Then I’ll go ‘what song does that suit, where should it be?’ and I'll look through my lyrics and try each one. Most of the album was me speciafically writing chords for each song individually. I never know how these things are going to sound until i record it on my phone and then I forget it the next day and have to listen back!!
RH: So for the songs on your album, did you write them all specifically with an album in mind or were they sort of pulled together to make an album?
JT: I just pulled them together! I knew I wanted to write an album and I started writing one in lockdown but I never thought I’d come out of lockdown with an album, that was a bonus! It wasn't the end goal because the savings I had were supposed to be for a house deposit so we’re gonna have to wait a few more years now! It gave me that freedom to write it because it wasnt on the cards.
"I never know how these things are going to sound until i record it on my phone and then I forget it the next day and have to listen back!!"
RH: Through Alchemy, you collaborated with a variety of talented musicians. Is collaboration something that you enjoy?
Yeah, I do! When I got started when I was 11, I was introduced to Gary Murphy who helped my mum buy me my first guitar. I joined his band when I was 13 and I’d do backing vocals on a couple of his songs and then go and then obviously it’s grown over the years and the last gig we did before the first lockdown was actually at the Epstein! I was playing guitar and doing backing vocals with them and doing the whole show, which was amazing! So I've massively grown with them over the last 20 years. We all bounce off each other and all have different ideas so it’s a great experience. When it came to recording the album, I thought I could play it all myself but I didn’t want to because I do love telling people what to do *laughs* but I also wanted lots of people involved so that when i gave them the briefs for each song, they all brought different perspectives to it which was great!
For the album launch, I'm wasn't looking for perfection. I don't want it to be exactly like the album, I want it to be something real because that’s what the songs are, they’re raw and real and whilst the album is a polished product, I wanted the live version to have that grit. So yes, collaboration is really important because if you don’t collaborate with other people you’re just stuck in your own lane and you don’t find inspiration from anyone. Like working with you (Helen) was huge, because I have never liked my voice with anyone else ever and when I worked with Helen I realised we had similar voices and she’s pitch perfect and understands the musicality behind songs and singing and so that was a big deal and great!
HM: I agree, I really loved working with you for my gig, it was great!
RH: That gig you both did together was amazing, I was like a proud mum, I loved it! *All Laugh*
HM: I’m the same as you when it comes to collaboration as well, I think it’s really important to find musicians who care just as much as you do about your own songs and want it to be a great performance. Like for my gig it made me so much more relaxed because i knew we had it all under control!
JT: Exactly! For my album launch band, they’re not a band that you would ever put together but I’ve chosen them because they’re the best at what they do and I think if you’re doing something like this, you need to just go for it!
RH: What are your plans for the future? We absolutely loved Alchemy, can we expect album number two in the future or is it too early to say and do you have a timeframe in mind?
JT: No, I never really like to set myself a time frame cos that suppresses creativity when you’re pressured but I do already have the second album finished! I think it’ll be whenever my money allows me to record it I'll be able to do it! It’s not cheap to make an album but I come from a family of grafters so if I’m going to do it, I’ll work for it!
HM: I suppose that makes it even sweeter when you finish it and get that CD in your hand because you know you’ve made that and you’ve worked really hard to get to that point.
JT: Oh definitely, I cried when I got the CDs! When the postman handed me them I told him he’d made my day! It’ll come, I’ll work hard for it and it’ll come! People have also asked me if I’m going on tour but I’ve not got that reputation in the originals scene yet, it’s something I need to build.
RH: I think there’s a great culture in the Liverpool Music Scene where people do just want to work together and collaborate with each other. So i think the more you do and gig with people your fanbase is only going to grow!
"It’ll come, I’ll work hard for it and it’ll come!"
HM: So jade, thank you so much for joining us, it’s been great to talk to you! Finally, how and where can people find you online and how can they buy their very own copy of Alchemy?
Thank you! I’ve really enjoyed it!
So if you type in Jade Thunder anywhere, I’ll show up! I’m on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and you can find everything on my website too, including Alchemy!
Thank you so much to the lovely Jade for being our guest! We thoroughly enjoyed talking to her and creating our dream throwback playlist!
In the meantime, make sure you give Jade a follow and go and buy your copy of Alchemy it is a stunning album and we cannot wait to hear more from Jade.
Make sure you join us next time for our next guest, we'll see you soon!
Helen and Rach x
Find out more from Jade Thunder here