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9 questions with Jackie Venson

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Jackie Venson | Graphic via 6AM City/Photo by Ismael Quintanilla III.

This piece is part of our ATXtoday Q+A series. Do you know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.

Jackie Venson is an R&B Soul artist from Austin who Forbes named an “Austin legend in the making.” As a musician who plays the piano and electric guitar, writes music, and sings, this Austinite is a true gem. City Editor Vagney recently spoke with this multi-talented artist about her music and Austin roots.

Forbes has described you as an “Austin legend in the making.” How does that make you feel?

It’s really awesome, and I put it as a quote on my website, so I’m pretty stoked about it. But also, it’s just a story in progress. It’s not stagnant. From the moment they said that, three years ago, it’s still an evolving quote, when it comes to how it feels like to live it. There’s a lot of ups and downs, and it doesn’t always feel like I’m a legend.

Jackie Venson

In addition to to playing the piano, Jackie Venson is well-known for showing her amazing skills on the electric guitar. | Photo by Ismael Quintanilla III

How has being from the “Live Music Capital of the World” influenced and inspired your work?

I think that the idea to switch to the electric guitar was a subliminal thing. Electric guitar runs this town. So, I think that [out of] any instrument in the world [that] I could have chosen after the piano, I chose the electric guitar. I think that was because Austin, Texas is a subliminal influence on me.

Then, there’s also way more opportunity here than anywhere else. You just need to get a gig, a 30-minute something to test out some songs, even writing, and maybe get a show together because you’re trying to get into a bigger opportunity, but you don’t feel like you’re ready. Yeah, most places you’ll just have to set up your own venue in your house because like there’s only five venues in town, and they all only hire already established serious bands, or cover bands that can do three-hour sets. That’s almost every other city in America; there’s literally no opportunity to just be a baby band, trying to get to a place where people want to pay to see you. That just doesn’t happen in other cities, and there’s plenty of opportunities like that here, at least there were when I was cutting my teeth.

What kind of advice would you give to other local artists who find themselves aspiring to achieve your success?

I would say [get] as much private education as you can, like a teacher, or school of some sort; there’s only so much you can learn on your own. It’s a lot of stuff that I didn’t go through, because somebody just gave me a little cheat code. The playing, singing and writing, my dad told me to do it all myself when I was 13. What I’m saying is if you are a person and you want to do this thing right, knowledge is power. You need to educate yourself, you need to get a teacher, you need to get a mentor, you need to get both. Have a teacher to help you with an instrument, have a mentor to help you with the business, and have a separate teacher to help you with another instrument. Join a band, see how it’s run.

You’re a multi-talented musician. Is “R&B Soul Artist” the best way to describe the type of artist that you are?

The best way to say it is R&B Soul because when I play blues, there’s a chance that they [fans] probably like blues, but then when I play reggae, they [fans] probably like reggae, too. If you like R&B, you like all that stuff. I just do like, various forms of Black music; that’s really what I do. What I mean by Black music is Black-made music. I do various forms of Black music, but you can call it R&B If you’d like.

Jackie Venson

Jackie Venson is no stranger to Austin. She was raised in Northwest Hills. | Photo by Ismael Quintanilla III

Ismael Quintanilla III

What do you enjoy most about playing the electric guitar and piano?

So, the piano is the knowledge; it’s the theory. It’s the chord knowledge; it’s the harmonic knowledge. When I write a melody and I need to come up with background parts, I’m not picking that stuff out on the guitar; I’m picking that stuff out on the piano. It’s all visual on the piano. Music theory is based on the layout of the piano. The piano is a really amazing instrument, but there are ways that you can express yourself on the guitar and performance that you can’t really do on the piano. I like the piano for the knowledge and the guitar for the expression.

How did your father’s career as a professional musician inspire and influence you to pursue music?

I was just able to watch him have his music career. And you know, a lot of people don’t even know what a career in music even looks like, and I was able to know what it looks like by observing him.

Why do you find it important as an artist to write music, play multiple instruments, and sing?

It’s the only way to survive. The more people you have to depend on, the less likely it is that you’re going to make it because it’s a really, really hard industry, extremely hard industry… However hard it is for one singular person to make it in this industry, if you have to depend on other people to just make the product, which is the music, you’re multiplying that difficulty … It’s survival to be able to do it all yourself.

Jackie Venson and City Editor Vagney

City Editor Vagney (left) met Jackie Venson (right) after a show at Central Machine Works. | Photo via ATXtoday team

What do you hope your fans think or feel after listening to your recently released song “All the Crazy Things?”

I’m just trying to stretch the sound over different instrumentations. I’m just trying to be a little more organic and show people that the songs are not the arrangements, and that the songs do stand on their own.

Are there any other projects that your fans can look forward to this summer or later on this year?

Yea, I’m gonna come out with a new live album this year, “Live Love Transcends.”