Graham Reid | | 6 min read
Singer-songwriter Jackie Bristow has appeared at Elsewhere many times for her consistently strong albums which exist comfortably in the country-rock/alt.country territory.
Hardly surprising given she has lived and worked in Nashville, Texas for so long that perhaps many people wouldn't recognise her as a New Zealand artist. But her song Rollin' Stone from her excellent Shot of Gold album featured in the TV series Brokenwood Mysteries and she opened here for international artists such as Bonnie Raitt.
She has also been on the same bill as the Steve Miller Band, Boz Scaggs, Chris Isaak and others.
But this is her homeland – she actually came from New Zealand's country music capital Gore in the South Island – and she returns for a tour taking in small towns and cities, and she will be showcasing new material.
Tour details are on the poster below but, although she has previously answered a different questionnaire we thought it time to get personal . . .
Where did you grow up, and with who?
I grew up in Gore, Southland NZ with my Mum and Dad and my younger sister Katrina and brother James.
Was music an important part of your childhood?
Music was a huge part of my childhood. I have had a passion for music for as long as I can remember. I was very lucky to have had an amazing primary school, St Marys Primary school in Gore, where our teacher Mr. Walter Hailes taught all his students guitar and ukulele and we learned songs to sing to sing at church.
Walter was actually my Nana’s cousin and Nana Molly Scully taught piano and played played at the Balfour church every Sunday. So music was always around us.
Gore being the capital of country music, and hosting the NZ Gold Guitar Awards, was a great place for my sister and I to start performing.
I was 11 and my sister was 8 when we first performed at the Gold Guitar Awards...this lead to meeting an amazing music community around the South Island. We joined the Gore Country Music Club and the Lower Matura Country music club where we were encouraged and had weekly rehearsals and performances and started singing at hoedowns and club meetings which became a very regular part of our lives.
For almost a decade my young parents Liz and Spike drove my sister and I, "The Bristow Sisters" all over the South Island to play country music competitions, rodeos, festivals. It was a very special childhood and an amazing grounding in music, playing and performing has never been a big career decision or life change, it has just been what I do and i have never stopped.
What are your earliest childhood memories of music which really affected you . . .
Playing dress ups when I was about 7 at family friends and setting up a stage on the steps for our parents to watch... and we would sing into a wooden microphone. Music always made me feel so happy and I was always singing. Also everyone on Sunday afternoon would go to our Nana and Grandads' in Balfour and Nana would play and sing the piano accordion and our uncles would recite poetry.
Was there a time when you felt it was going to be music and nothing else?
I had a very special childhood and an amazing grounding in music, I always had a big love and big passion to play and perform and it has never been a big career decision or change, it has just been who I am and what I do and i have never stopped.
When you started on your music career were people around you supportive or did you have to find those people?
Yes, people were very supportive, I’m not 100% sure my parents realised that I would never get another job, but they always supported me and were proud of my music and achievements.
The first song of yours which you really felt proud of was . . .? And why that one?
I started writing songs as a teenager and even though I was at this stage a regular performer on stage, I was singing mostly country standards. I was shy to share my personal feelings in my original songs, so I kept them secret and played them in private so I got no feedback on my songs and it was hard to gauge if they were good or not. When I moved in Australia I met a group of singer/songwriters and I met guitarist/producer Mark Punch who was producing an EP for me and said the only song out of the ones we had chosen that was worth recording was my song "Blue Guitar". This was the first song I played in public and recorded and it was the start to my songwriting and recording career. I’m proud of this song not because it's my best song, but because it’s the song that got me started and gave me the courage to continue to write and share my songs.
Any one person you'd call a mentor, angel on your shoulder or invaluable fellow traveller?
This would be my long time friend and music partner Mark Punch... Mark has been a huge supporter in my life and music career. Mark was the first person to recognize I had songwriting talent and he encouraged me and has taught me so much about playing guitar, singing and performing. He has been my music angel, my best friend and a protector in this very difficult business - someone I could trust. Mark is not the normal, he is a gentleman.Mark has played guitar, produced albums, and stepped back when I worked with other producers and band members and continued to support...he has believed in me when no one else seemed to. He’s been so loyal to me and my music and his belief in my songs has never wavered. We're both in Nashville now and 20 years later we are still writing and recording together and traveling around America and Europe touring as a duo. Mark is a one-of-a-kind musician and person and I was very lucky to meet him so young and I have been privileged to have had him at my side on stage for so many years.
Where and when was the first time you went on stage as a paid performer?
I can’t actually remember my first paid gig, but I do remember my sister Katrina and I winning $1000.00 cash at the Riverton Carnival when I was 15 and Treen was 12 years old, it was a lot of money back then and we were pretty excited. We invested in a DVD player so we could watch footage filmed, and improve our live performances.
Ever had stage fright or just a serious failure of nerve before going on stage?
Yes its awful, I have suffered from performance anxiety and pre-performance jitters on and off over many years. I have had a couple of moments not so much of stage fright but anxiety attack during a performance on stage. I have always managed to get it under control and get though the performance, but its scary and not pleasant and it is not rational, as it has nothing to do with the ability to perform... but is sometimes a build up of tension that comes to a head on stage. Luckily this is a very small percentage and the good times outweigh the bad.
What unfashionable album do you love as a guilty pleasure?
Any piece of advice you were given which you look back on which really meant something?
“ It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n roll”
It’s so true ... so many ups and downs and highs and lows.
It's after a concert and you are in a hotel room or back at home, what happens then?
Often after a performance I am buzzing so its hard to relax and go to sleep. I try to unwind by having a shower and maybe watching a show on Netflix so I can slow down and fall sleep to be rested for travel the next day and the next show.
Is there any fellow artist you admire for professional and/or personal reasons?
Bonnie Raitt ... a stunning singer, guitarist and songwriter.
She is so professional and has incredible taste in songs and musicians. She is so classy in every way. A queen in the music business, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to tour as her opening act twice in New Zealand.
And finally, where to from here for you do you think?
From here, well I am currently on tour in my beautiful homeland New Zealand, which fills my soul with lots of love and inspiration. If feels so good to be here and I’m thrilled to be on tour at home.
These days I am based in Nashville, Tennessee, and it's an exciting music town to live in. I am currently recording my 5th album ‘ Outsider’ in Nashville. So, when I get back there we will finish the album, with scheduled release later this year.
I am also launching a crowdfunding project very soon to help raise the funds to finish and launch the album. I am happy to share the first single ‘ Blue Moon Rising’ which is out February 14.
Over the past couple of years I have been working with a label and agent in Germany, with the release of my ‘Shot of Gold’ album we had 2 successful tours 2018 and 2019 and I am thrilled that my next album ‘Outsider’ is also getting a release in Europe and we will tour there again to support the album.
After that... I will continue to write songs, sing them, and perform them, and share my music ...and I'm hoping to also spend more time in New Zealand.