"I believe in the USA, Blues music (and all forms of it) have brought the races and social classes together. Music is about community and nobody, no matter what they look like or where they come from, can deny a good groove. This is why music has and will always unite people."
Jackie Venson: Freedom of Expression
It is legend that during a drunken back-alley brawl, Jackie Venson punched Pluto straight out of planetary existence. Guitarist and singer/songwriter Venson’s “…astonishing mix of raw soul, superb musicianship and laid back grace…” (Austin American Statesman, June 2014) has been compared to the likes of Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse and fellow Austin native Gary Clark, Jr. Originally a classical pianist, Venson picked up the guitar and made the giant leap from the tradition of classical music to the raw and gritty blues. She is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter with an out of this world voice. Venson knows music like the back of her hand with 17 years of piano-smashing skills, 8 years of vocally seducing angels, 8 years of inspired songwriting and 4 years of non-stop guitar shredding. (It is scientific fact that she can sleep and rock at the same time.)
Though she doesn’t like to brag, Venson spent her college years at Berklee College of Music where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Composition and Studio Production (with a minor in ass-kicking). In recognition of her dedication to her craft, Bestfan.com said “Venson is no dilettante, wannabe performer, however a real staple of what a musician can achieve when they put in their 10,000 hours for both musical schooling, and late night pub sessions for practical honing.” Her live performances revisits what makes music so powerful: emotion and passion. She thrives without the flash, instead favoring a clean sound, genuine soul, and meaningful connection with her audience. Music is not only what Venson does – but also defines who she is and reminds her where she wants to be: performing. To hear Venson make hardened warriors cry with her glorious voice, you can check out her online mp3s and music videos or come help her paint the town red at her live shows in Austin, TX and beyond!
Interview by Michael Limnios Photos by Pooneh Ghana
What do you learn about yourself from the R&B and Soul music and culture? What does the blues mean to you?
I have learned to accept pain and emotion as a part of the human condition. I feel like music teaches that more than any other thing, to express how your feeling even if those feelings aren’t always the best. I’ve learned to be honest with myself and with others and it has softened me a bit and made me more sympathetic and empathetic.
How do you describe Jackie Venson sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?
Freedom of expression. I tell people I do the blues but I’m not only doing the blues. I have rock, reggae, jazz, folk and pop all thrown into a giant bluesy melting pot. I do this because I don’t believe in sticking to any regimen or following any rules when it comes to art. I believe in the innovation and creativity of not fitting into a genre.
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio which you’d like to share with us?
Yes. I was playing a show downtown in Austin, TX and the club was full but the dance floor was empty. All of a sudden a disabled man in a wheelchair makes his way to the dance floor and starts dancing with all of his heart. Because of this man the dance floor proceeded to fill up until it was packed and there he was in the middle of it all dancing his heart out. I was so honored to be the musical backdrop to this magical moment and it made me happy to be a human being.
Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
My parents have been huge mentors to me, always egging me on and reminding me that everything is temporary and that I just have to keep on keeping on. However I do have a long list of private lesson teachers, friends, professors, band mates as well as my siblings and extended family who have always been there ready to help. What I have learned from this incredible support system is what Bob Marley so famously said, “everything’s gonna be alright”.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I miss how much people focused on live shows sans huge special effects and production. I miss good old fashioned live bands really playing in front of your eyes without any kind of special routine or over rehearsed set. I miss the days before mass production and big corporate money.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
I’d bring back music in schools in the states. We used to have music in our public schools and the funding has been getting smaller and smaller every year. Children need to be exposed to music and need to learn the history of it or else it will be lost.
"I have learned to accept pain and emotion as a part of the human condition. I feel like music teaches that more than any other thing, to express how your feeling even if those feelings aren’t always the best." (Jackie Venston - Photo by Pooneh Ghana / All rights reserved)
What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Jazz, Soul, Rock and continue to R&B, Gospel and Reggae?
They are all connected under the umbrella of Blues. Blues was the first and all of the other genres were birthed from it over the next several decades. This evolution continues to this day.
What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?
I get by fine. Sometimes I can tell that people are trying to skimp me on the money but I’ve learned how to play the game pretty well so I can navigate around those situations. It can be difficult but also being a woman makes me stand out in some situations. I don’t fully agree with James Brown, I feel fine in this world.
What is the impact of R&B, Blues, Jazz music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?
I believe in the USA, Blues music (and all forms of it) have brought the races and social classes together. Music is about community and nobody, no matter what they look like or where they come from, can deny a good groove. This is why music has and will always unite people.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
I’d want to go forward in time maybe 30 years. I don’t care much about the past because we can always read about the past. It’s the future that intrigues me.
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