Saturday 11 December 2010

The Bridie Jackson Interview: Part Three

Parts one and two of our interview focused on the Banoffee Pie Tour Collective and Bridie's track by track guide to songs respectively. For the third and final part, we delve deeper into Bride's life and inspirations...

How did it all start? How did you become interested in music?

I think it was the most predictable thing that could ever have happened. The way was paved for me really. My Dad's a composer and I was born with a kind of leaning towards music so it made sense. I tried other things but always came back to music.

So your Father is a that classical music?

Not exclusively, but yes, a lot of classical and orchestral work.

What's his name?

Andy Jackson

Have you ever collaborated?

A little bit; I think we’d both like to do more.

What about the rest of your family? Are any others interested in music?

No, not really. My Mum says she's completely non-musical and my sister claims to hate music! I find that unbelievable, it’s like saying you don't like food or something.

When did you write your first song?

I think probably when I was about three. I wrote a song about being stung by a nettle.

You were already anti-folk...!

Yeah, probably...I'd already started feeling uncomfortable and agitated!

I was going to ask if your first song has survived as a recording, but I suppose at age three it probably hasn't.

I don't know. Maybe my parents have a version of it.

Do you still have the lyrics somewhere?

I don't know if I do. I think it just went something like, 'De-bo, de-bo - - be careful of the nettles...' or something like that! I think that was probably it, really. A blues structure I seem to recall...

When did you get your first guitar?

When I was five. My Dad got both my sister and I guitars and gave us lessons.

When and where was your first performance?

Well, as a soloist, it was in a grotty pub in Newcastle on an open-mic night. I never would have done it but my friend Laura thought that I should so she just put my name on the list and didn't tell me. Then they called me up and I had to get on with it! After that, I caught the bug, big time, and couldn't stop.

So it was a good deed that Laura did for you there.

Very good, yes.

I presume you were very nervous when you first started?

Yes. I still get nervous now, but that’s good, it just shows that you care about it.

How nervous do you get now?

It’s much more manageable now. I just have a little run on the spot, jump around and dance and that seems to do the trick.

Before going on must be a very tense time. Presumably you just want the time to be eaten up before you can get on the stage.

Yes, it's better now though. I used to play on my own and I did that for years and years, but now I have a band it's so much more enjoyable waiting to go on.

When I saw you with your band, they were called 'The Puddleducks' but the name changes every night.

Yes, we do need a permanent name though.

Do you want to be 'Bridie Jackson and the - '?

Yes, and we've had various bizarre suggestions from people but we haven't quite found anything that fits yet, but I do really, really want to come up with something. So if you have any suggestions, let me know!

What are the names of people in the sometimes-Puddleducks?

We have Eleanor Mooney, singer and glockenspiel player extraordinaire; Carol Bowden is a singer; Sophia DeCastro sings but she's also a pianist; then we have Ally Heley, a violinist and singer, and then we have Ed, the only boy in the band, who plays bassoon, piano and sings. So it's quite an eclectic group really.

How does it work? Do they take turns for the various gigs?

No, everyone’s invited to them all but they are very busy, so we rarely have a gig with all of us.

Do you play any other instruments apart from guitar?

Yes - I play the French Horn.

How did that start?

My Dad suggested I learn because he thought it would be good for my sight reading. So he got me one and I liked it. It was never a passion but I liked doing it and I still play a bit.

On stage...?

No! Actually, I did play it once in a children's show I was in, but not in my sets, no. That would be a bit weird I think.

Does music pay the bills?

Yes, actually it does, which is amazing. But not just performing; I also work at The Sage Gateshead as a community musician. I teach early Years, run choirs that sort of thing.

What comes first in your songs? Is it the music or the lyrics?

It used to always be the music but I think that was because I was more unsure of my lyrical skills, but I knew I could do the music, so I would start with that. But now the two things sort of happily form alongside each other. Because I work long hours during the day, I don't have that much time to write songs. So I just have an idea, let it marinade and then I might come back to it, as long as a year later. Then when it comes to writing it, it's usually a case of it just spilling out because I've spent so long piecing it together, almost subconsciously. I think it's a style that has been developed through constraints, because I don't really have much time to write.

Do you ever have the old cliche, where you just sit down and a song appears, fully formed, in your mind? Everyone seems to have at least one of those.

No, never. Everything I write takes a long time.

What percentage of songs do you start and never finish?

Loads! And there’s songs that I give up on or that are no longer relevant so I stop doing them. A lot of songs are relevant only in a certain time in my life I think. Or songs where I go, 'Oh God - that's awful!' Sometimes there'll be one good line so I'll pinch it but the rest goes.

Do you ever have a song hanging around for years but then something happens in your life which makes you think of it and finish it off?

Yes, sometimes, And sometimes people will say, what was that song you used to sing? Why don't you do that any more...? So I bring it back in. That happens a bit.

Heroes and influences...

Oh, wow!

There's a curious list of influences on your MySpace page...


...which I have in front of me. Driving, getting to sleep lots, drinking gin, tales of triumph over excessive adversity - not just adversity -

- excessive adversity!

...and then a whole list of people. Are these all true influences?

Yes, they are.

How is driving an influence then?

Because it gives me time to think

Getting to sleep lots?

Yes, because you have great dreams which can set your mind off in interesting directions.

Have you ever woken in the middle of the night and had to have a pen and paper handy to write down new lyrics?

Yes, I've done that.

Drinking gin...?

I always find it gets the creative juices flowing - I don't know why!

Just gin? That's the only one that works?

Yes, it's the only one that seems to do the trick.

And then tales of triumph over excessive adversity - there must be more to the story than that.

I just always find it really inspiring. So many people give up when things are difficult and I think it's amazing when people don't, when they are actually given energy by their failure. I think that's so admirable.

That's a very healthy attitude to have but not so easy to maintain. Your list of influential people is wide-ranging. Dylan Thomas, Bat for Lashes; they are people from all different genres. If you hear a song on the radio, who really gets to you and makes you emotional?

Have you heard of a band called Sigur Ros?


They're amazing.The first time I heard them - I'm not religious or even particularly spiritual - but it was like a religious experience. I heard them and I remember going, ' this is incredible'. And a lot of classical music because I grew up with that and it holds alot of nostalgia for me. I really love Schubert and Elgar - I like the big, over the top moments.

Can music make you cry?

Oh God, yes! All the time! But good crying; happy crying.

Of your influences in terms of people, how many have you actually seen in concert or otherwise?

Not that many. Melanie I've seen; she was amazing. Ben Otwell, Loudon Wainwright, Bat for Lashes; I don't go to as many gigs as I should though.

Don't you? That's surprising. I thought with you working at The Sage Gateshead you'd have just stayed on.

Yes...I should really.

You've supported a number of big acts, such as Cara Dillon. How are such people towards their support acts?

It depends, I think. A lot of the time there are other factors at play. It's often the case that they are absolutely exhausted and sometimes they can't even distinguish one venue from another because they've been touring so much. I think also they are so used to sycophants and because of that are a bit jaded sometimes. But I've never had any experiences where people have been rude - ever. People are always - at the very least - polite and civil.

Which ones are particularly fun to be with?

I supported John Smith recently and he was really lovely, very supportive of what we were doing. Crooked Still - an Americana band - they were absolutely lovely. They all used to be scientists but were all musicians as well on the side. Then they started playing together and they did well really quickly and suddenly it just happened for them.. They had this lovely sort of 'We can't believe this is happening...'attitude and that's great, when people are still excited by what they are doing.

How was Cara Dillon?

Really nice. I didn't really talk to her very much. We just said hello, knocked on the dressing room and said good luck.

How do you get work as a support act? Do you have to start off by making the venues aware of you?

It does seem that when a venue gets you on their books - as long as you turn up and you are nice and on time - they tend to book you back. When I'm supporting someone like Cara there's less pressure on the venue as they know it will sell out anyway.

How do you feel when you are on the stage and it's apparent that a lot of the audience don't bother coming in for the support acts? I always do, but some don't.

Well you're a better person than me then, because I don't always. Shame on me.

How do you cope with the big gaps in the audience who only come in for the main act?

It is quite distressing but you have to be sensible about it. You’re not the main act after all.

I'd rather have them not in the hall than talking all way through the act. That's becoming quite a problem at gigs.

Yes, that’s upsetting.

It's the same at the cinema. Why do people go to see a film and then talk all the way through it?

They should just watch it at home! I know what you mean. I used to have to put up with that a lot – I’ve played gigs where literally I'll be in the corner of a pub on a Sunday afternoon, playing, and they'll turn the football on the screen behind me and then they won't turn it off. So I'll be playing and the football will be on behind me, with everybody cheering. Not at me though! But that's good because it toughens you up.

Can you still get upset with that sort of thing or are you hardened to it now?

I used to get really upset but I'm also really pleased that it happened. It gave me some humility and if I go to a gig now, I try to never talk. Imagine how they'd feel if I was talking as they are spilling their heart out? But it's good to have that experience. You've got to know that you are fallible and not everyone thinks you're great. You're going to have people that think your music is rubbish and that's fine. So it's good that you get a bit of that.

What future plans do you have?

A new album, which we are recording in February, then another tour collective. Keep playing with the band and developing the sound that we're finding, which is really exciting.

What can you tell us about the new album?

It will have some tracks on that are on the live album - but recorded in a studio instead, with new arrangements - and a few new songs as well. There's quite a few a cappella ones on there actually, which is something I'm getting more into.

How many tracks are you aiming for?

Maybe between 10 and 12.

Will you be ready for another track-by-track interview?

Yes - absolutely.

I'm looking forward to the new CD and the interview too. Meanwhile, if you missed our earlier features on the inimitable Bridie Jackson, here's your chance to catch up:

Interview Part 1

Interview Part 2

Review of the Banoffee Pie Tour Collective

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