Audio Landscapes: Full Moon Radio’s Jessie Jackson

Timothy Grisham / June 26, 2015
Photo Courtesy of: Full Moon Radio
Photo Courtesy of: Full Moon Radio

Full Moon Radio is the kind of local band that makes others jealous – remarkably driven, hard working, and beyond all else talented. Full Moon Radio also work in a decidedly community oriented manner, not only releasing their own music, but releasing and distributing records by other Olympia area bands on their Rock Therapy Records.

Formed in 2012, Jessie Jackson, Sarah Lynn and Ali Baker built on past bands that included a combination of each member together to build on existing chemistry to fuel the heir songwriting fireworks. In only three years the band has released a number of albums and EPs, and racked up steadily growing list of accolades.

Since releasing Best Mother the band has toured the Northwest extensively, proving that even during this digital age – hard work and constant exposure goes a long way toward endearing themselves in the hearts of many.

After finding inspiration from Juiliana Hatfield in the mid-90s Guitar player Jessie Jackson picked up the guitar crafting an approach to guitar playing which is riff heavy, with an ease of flow and originality that comes from a great self-taught method. “When I first picked up the guitar I did take a few lessons,” says Jackson, continuing, “But it was very dude oriented and he kept wanting to teach me some really lame music that a ‘man’ would think a ‘girl’ would want to learn – but was totally off course.”

Jackson’s first guitar, a black Kramer bought off a friend’s brother for $70 while in high school, was the guitar that she had learned many of her early riffs. After saving up paychecks from her job at McDonalds Jackson bought a new Jackson Kelly off the wall at Guitar Center. “This was back in the day when the Internet was around but there weren’t as many great music gear store websites to browse. So I searched for the most feminine and cool looking guitar that was on the wall.” By the time Jackson started her first two bands, the Petal Pushers and Fire Fight, Jackson was already playing through a Marshall JCM 900 full stack. “After playing in my first Olympia band, The Black Diamonds, I had to regretfully sell my Marshall when I was accepted into WWU and had moved up to Bellingham to live in the dorms. It is tough as someone who loves to play loud to have to part with equipment like that!”

Jackson played in bands and continued to work on her-own approach, as well as tone over the course of the next decade and a half in a self-taught manner. The self-described gearhead eventually wanted up her game and invested in both better equipment, as well as some practical tips to help get to a playing level she felt her next album needed. “I am a gear nut.” Says Jackson, “I spend a lot of time looking at gear online and trying to figure out what would be best for me. I am never 100% satisfied. As a female musician, a lot of men try to tell me what to play, but I like the art of discovery.”

Woven throughout Full Moon Radio’s songs is a very subtle and tasteful use of pedals. “During Vertebrae by Vertebrae I played though an Acoustic solid state head and started getting more into using pedals in this band. At some point I had bought a solid state Peavey head that I eventually sold to a pawnshop along with my Jackson Kelly because of the boyfriend I was dating, who was the 2nd guitar player in Vertebrae by Vertebrae. He liked to drink, we never had enough money for rent and he was always hocking stuff in pawnshops, so my gear eventually got included in that mess as well,” Jackson explains, “Eventually by the time Full Moon Radio started, I a 50 watt Lee Jackson Ampeg head because I LOVE it. I started buying more guitars, pedals and gear. My current pedal board consists of TC Electronics Polytune 2, Octophant Octave Fuzz, Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster, Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble, MXR Carbon Copy delay, and a Boss GE-7 Equalizer… These have all been on my board pretty consistently during Full Moon Radio.”

When asked about her gear Jackson says, “I’m pretty happy with the gear I use now. I’ve recently added a 4×12 Ampeg cab to accompany my 2×12 at the last several shows I’ve played and it’s sounding super full and near perfect to me. I like to customize my gear and have plans to replace the tolex on my head and cabs very soon. I just bought an Ampeg VT-60 head this past weekend for a back up amp because it was a great deal, it is real easy to get the tone the songs require.”

“While writing Best Mother I did take a few lessons from Christian Mistress’ Ryan McClain. I really wanted to improve my technique on leads and I found it a great way to improve my foundation that I worked to build over time,” explains Jackson, “Normally one of us comes up with the music side of the song and we work out the arrangement to fit Ali’s voice. So for me – the guitar is the songwriting impetus. The riff always comes first because I come from a rock perspective; I just wanted to make sure I could play all the riffs I was thinking of a little easier.”

Most articles on Full Moon Radio are quick to point out the bands gender, as if it was a cultural oddity. “Sometimes that can sound like a bit of man-dominated writing,” says Jackson, “But on the other hand it can also be a source of inspiration.”

For Jackson the 90s was a very inspirational time for picking up the guitar, “As a fifteen year old, when I saw or read about Bikini Kill, and a number of other strong female bands like Sleater Kenney, I thought, I can do this – I began to think about music for myself and not as a fan.” A lot of the music that inspired Jackson to travel north from California to settle in Olympia, Washington – where she eventually met Ali Baker and Sarah Lynn. While Full Moon Radio is only three years old, the band has all played together in two previous bands that ended after male members forced a split.

After taking time apart focusing on other projects, as well as personal lives, the band formed in their current configuration and name at the same time that Jackson was raising a young daughter. Motherhood is a large part of Jackson’s life, and informed the title of the latest Full Moon Radio album title, Best Mother.

“Motherhood keeps me busy, I’m always so busy, to the point that sometimes the only time I get to play music is at band practice and shows. I just have really different things on my plate, like being a mom – and a day job.” Despite this, Jackson runs the Rock Therapy Records label which released the past two Full Moon Radio records, as well as music by Ali Baker solo and the group Hot Cops. “The label is kind of an aside, I thought, okay start a label now, and then when I’m too busy or old to play shows, then I have a connection to music still and I can do that. But really the main focus is playing guitar and making sure the music we make holds up to my own high standards.”

Check out Full Moon Radio’s “The Crowd”:

Audio Landscapes explores the music makers, their tools, craft and those who support the work of musicians everywhere – from pedal makers, to record stores, pressing plants, and engineers we are all part of the audio landscape.

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