By Harriet Kaplan
Austin-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Jackie Venson is making a name with herself with her exceptional and adventurous virtuosity on guitar and gritty yet melodic soulful singing. The accomplished and ambitious Venson has released her new video, “Back to Earth” from her forthcoming live album, “Jackie Venson Live,” which is set for a fall 2016 release. Jackie recently spoke to BOC via e-mail about developing her craft as a singer/songwriter and guitarist stretching her creativity as far as she can, her musical education, influences, how she came to tour with national acts and talked her about her well-known father Andrew Venson that is a Austin music staple that gave her sage advice about her career.
How many albums have you released and would say you’ve grown as a singer/songwriter and guitarist alot since recording them?
Jackie: I currently have three CDs out, two EPs and one full-length album. I have definitely changed in my writing since the first EP, I have gotten much more adventurous with my song forms and time signatures. As for the guitar playing, my hands have gotten exponentially stronger. I still have much work to do but the year I toured with Belk, I played the acoustic guitar solo and as a result it bulked up my muscles and stamina.
What does your new song/video “Back to Earth,”represent to you?
Jackie: I wrote “Back to Earth” after a friend of mine mysteriously and rather tragically passed away. It’s my contemplation on the temporary nature of life and how it’s important to learn to really live in the moment and cherish what’s given to you before heading into the great unknown.
I read you didn’t finish the Berklee College of Music. You said youwere disillusioned there? Can you explain more about that? Do you think you learned enough of your craft to move on to the “real world”of music. Do you think you were sheltered there per say?
Jackie: I actually did finish Berklee, I have a bachelor’s in Contemporary Writing and Production. I graduated in three years instead of four so I attended from 2008- 2011. I was indeed disillusioned there, let’s just say I fell for the hype surrounding the school and boy is there a lot of hype. Nonetheless, after the first year and a half, after I joined my major, I did pick up some skills that continue to help me to this day. I wouldn’t say I was sheltered, I would actually say I was overexposed. I went there with excitement to be surrounded by other artists only to be met with the fact that it is just like any other school. A butt load of homework, projects, exams and deadlines not to mention the cut-throat mentality I often ran into with other students. It was hard for many reasons but honestly I believe I needed a hard experience in music to really be forced to decide if I could handle a career and life in music. I learned a lot and I have no regrets.
Who are your influences and how do you think they helped shaped your singing, songwriting and guitar playing?
Jackie: For songwriting, a big influence of mine is Stevie Wonder. He’s so free with his expression and never bends to anyone’s standards. Singing I’m very influenced by Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston for the same reason, they were so free when they sang. Guitar playing is Buddy Guy mostly because of his longevity, passion for his art, and of course, the wild way of playing the guitar. I’m all about being wild and uncontrollable and these artists are just that, they have a vision and they stick to it.
How did you come to play five amphitheater performances? What lead to you getting those shows? What did you take away from performing with well-known national acts?
Jackie: I was blessed to be chosen off of Reverbnation to do an audition for the Belk Southern Musician Showcase in 2014. They ended up deciding on me as a winner and as a prize package they sent me on a tour, in which they partnered with LiveNation, allowing me to play before very high-profile artists. I took away from that experience the fact that this career is a marathon and not a sprint. Dreams and goals take time and dedication no matter who you are or what level you’re on.
You are slated to tour the U.S. as a solo artist on your own. Where will the dates be and when? What can your fans expect? Who will tour with you as openers and how do you pick the artists?
Jackie: I’ll likely not have any opens and will be doing the shows solo with my looper and electric guitar, much like I did in the “Back to Earth video. Fans can expect much guitar shredding and to hear some new material. I’ll be in San Diego at the end of January and I’ll be in NYC the third weekend in May Be sure to check my website for venues and times.
Has having a well-known family member such as your dad, Andrew Venson, a Austin music staple, help or hindered your musical ambitions? What’s the best advice he has given you?
Jackie: My dad has been a tremendous help and I’m blessed to have him around. When I first started hitting the scene, he was the reason I could land any gigs at all. He also has hired me to play in his band from time to time ever since I was a teenager giving me band experience from an early age. That has been invaluable to me. The best advice he gives me is to just keep chugging along, that most issues can be outlived. Time is actually our friend not our enemy.