Interview with Jackie Bristow: New Zealand artist on tour

 

Last week I received an email from the PR team of LA residing artist Jackie Bristow and if I could give her some coverage for her new album “Shot of Gold”. It’s now released in the US and NZ and I was happy to interview her. She’s a born and raised New Zealander but she spent time living and performing in Australia before a number of years stayin’ and playin’ in Austin. I spoke to her on October 11th before taking the stage at Austin’s One 2 One bar and music venue.

 

Let me tell you it’s nice to hear another Kiwi accent in Austin! I feel like I’m the only here sometimes. Did you feel the same when you lived in Austin for a few years?

I know, it’s nice, it’s comforting. In some ways it’s good having an accent, as you’re always told “Oh you have an accent! I love the accent.” And I loved living in Austin for four years, I had so much fun with the music and everything, but I did get homesick after a little while.

When did the homesickness first kick in?

It wasn’t until after a couple of years really. At the moment I’m still in America in LA but I have a huge New Zealand and Australian community of friends there. Some of them I knew from when I lived in Sydney and some of them old friends from New Zealand. It’s cool there in LA with the ocean and all but there’s no place like Austin, it’s a pretty amazing town.

Did Austinites back then know we name ourselves Kiwi’s after our native bird and not the fruit they see in the supermarket?

Yup, some did think of the fruit [laughs].

I was recently in conversation with some locals and the term Kiwi came up. I asked them if they think we’re named after the fruit or the bird and they all agreed it was the fruit that first came to mind.

Yeah I remember they were once Chinese Gooseberries to us.

That’s right. They’re simply kiwifruit now in NZ. We’ll have to spread the word about the bird.
And I read that you’ve been a resident musician of 3 countries now, New Zealand, Australia and also here in Austin. What influence did each country have on the songs you were writing?

I grew up in New Zealand and I’m originally from Gore, which is where I started out singing country music. So Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, I was into that sort of stuff. Then I got into pop music like Crowded House, Neil Finn and all that. Then I went to Australia where I got introduced to being a singer-songwriter. I had already written songs but before then I hadn’t shown anyone. When I was there I got introduced to Rickie Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin, Bonnie Raitt. My first album was more singer-songwriter on the pop side. I had a major record deal in Australia so they wanted a bit more pop with radio and commercial play in mind. But Austin really took a turn in my writing. I guess I got more influenced by the Roots and the Blues music here. I feel like my songs were influenced from just living here and hearing all the local musicians. And I was going out a lot because I was so excited with all the great music and I was playing a lot of shows and would go out afterwards. The music here has another level to it.

I read that you’ve played before a number of big names in American country and blues such as the Steve Miller Band and Bonnie Raitt. Is there a particular highlight you have from playing ahead of some of these artists?

Just doing it was pretty exciting. The Steve Miller Band was a highlight as we got an encore from the people there in El Paso. They were so great and exciting. And Bonnie Raitt because she’s been one of my musical heroes. And touring with Tommy Emmanuel in America has been pretty amazing. Some beautiful venues. To have their support and I guess you could say acknowledgement was always amazing.

A number of your songs have featured on many TV shows in NZ and Australia, and even on the Starbucks store playlist across the US! Would you recommend new songwriters equally pursue these avenues alongside their touring and recording?

Oh yeah. I’ve been quite lucky with Australia and New Zealand over the years where I’ve had quite a few placements on things such as TV shows. America is always hard in that regards, but it’s one of the things I’d love to do. So it’s with those placements that I didn’t have to travel so much. And I love traveling and catching up with friends, but it’s also nice to stay at home and work on your song writing and creating music. And to have someone cover your song is always a big help too.

For your new album “Shot of Gold”, what was your experience recording in Sydney with producer Mark Punch?

Mark is playing here with me tonight and we’ve been playing together for years. I actually went to visit Australia and we weren’t going to do any album recording, we just thought we’d do some demos as he had a nice new microphone and wanted to test out. And then we found it sounded really good. So it became an organic process that ending up becoming the album. Mark played beautifully on guitar and my friend Mark Collins is a great banjo player so he contributed on the banjo. It was the opposite to my other albums really. No click track or having multiple instruments all recorded before going into the vocal booth.

I listened to your past albums such as “Thirsty”, “Crazy Love” and “Freedom” which often had a full backing band, whereas “Shot of Gold” is a lot more stripped down and intimate. Is there a particular reason you had this approach for “Shot of Gold”?

Because I’ve been touring solo a lot I found people liked to listen to what they’ve just heard on stage. So it was really good in that way. Makes getting on radio harder but it does really represent what I do and who I am.

Is there an overarching theme to the album or is it a various combination of themes?

It’s various. “Shot of Gold” I kind of wrote for the underdog really. It was a bit of a tough time when I wrote those songs, but not a storyline to the album, more a bunch of stories.

How personal were some of your lyrics on “Shot of Gold”? Are you telling the stories of different characters or are they from personal experiences you encountered?

They were pretty much experiences of my own life. Quite personal. Sometimes I’ll think “Agh I don’t really want to sing this tonight!” Because you find you’ve changed years later but you’re still singing these songs. I normally draw from my own stories except there’s one song on the album called “Fallen Youth” and it’s a poem written by an unknown ANZAC soldier during the First World War. A friend gave me the poem and I put the music to it.

Is “Shot of Gold” simply a Country album?

It’s not a hard core country album. It was more the influence of American Roots and a little bit of a pop. Country is so broad in the US. In Nashville I’m not country, I’d be more singer-songwriter with folk country roots. Take a listen to my album and see if you like it [laughs]. I actually find I draw more from Emmylou Harris and Patty Griffin.

How much of the year do you spend touring?

About 2 or 3 tours a year. I’m playing a lot of shows in LA anyway because I’m making a living doing it. I normally go back to New Zealand and do a summer tour around February and March, and I did a summer tour here in the US. Then I’m doing this current tour until winter where it then gets a bit quiet around here. Will still play some gigs but not out on the road. It’s a quite a bit of travel.

How long have you been in LA? Where do you play most of your gigs?

I’ve lived in LA before in the past and I’ve been back there now for three years. Living around about seven minutes from Hollywood. I play in Hollywood quite a bit. And I drive up the California coast a lot playing shows at some very nice places. I do like California. But I’m going to Nashville later this year for a month and I don’t know what it’s going to be like. But I know Nashville is where the songwriter industry is.

What are your plans when you finish this current tour in November?

Driving through New Mexico and Oklahoma playing some shows and as I said will be staying in Nashville for a month. In February will head back down to New Zealand for the two Bonnie Raitt shows and mainly playing shows in the South Island. It’s always good to see my family on the way down.

You can check her out with Bonnie Raitt in Wellington March 30th and Auckland April 1st where all the profits are going to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

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