Vintage Guitar - February 2018 - 29
of doing different genres, but I don't want to
lose people as listeners. I want to make the
songs more radio-friendly, so the guitar solos
aren't as jam-bandy.
People who find you on YouTube might
pigeonhole you as more of a blues artist.
"Soul pop" is a better description. People
who come to my shows expecting blues are
going to be sorely disappointed. I do one or
two blues songs, but for the most part it's a
crazy mixture of everything. Soul could be
considered a multifaceted genre, and pop just
because the melodies are hooky. It's easier to
carry the soul pop tag than the blues tag. Even
Gary Clark, Jr. isn't straight blues. He's a lot
heavier, but he can correspond to the blues a
little better than I can. My stuff is light and
poppy by comparison.
Did going to Berklee help you as a
Jackie Venson: Jinni J.
oul-pop stylist Jackie Venson has been
conquering the road-warrior touring
circuit, and gained an enviable spot on Gary
Clark, Jr.'s tour. The Strat-wielding songstress'
new EP, Transcends, extends her melodic reach
to a wider audience with a bundle of passion,
fretboard acumen, and conviction. With a
pleasing voice, an ear for melody, composing
chops, and emotionally intelligent lyrics,
Venson brings grit and a fresh perspective to
the pop genre, paired with a visceral guitar
What was your mindset when you began
Transcends is about how we all live our
individual lives. We all go through things
that are difficult, but we're all in the same
boat. We're all in it together. We're all going
through the same things, so why don't we just
forget about our miniscule differences and
come together. My Rollin' On EP was rather
bluesy, so I was centered around that. Then I
realized I don't write only blues. When I did
The Light In Me, I was like, "Well I also like
hip-hop, Motown, rock, and a bunch of other
stuff. I also like being able to sing a bit softer
rather than always cranking out rocker blues
tunes. That's when I realized that maybe I'm
not a person who wants to be tied down to
one genre. That's exactly what The Light In
Me was all about. There's something different
on every track.
The live album was like, "Hey, I can actually
play the guitar now! Check this out (laughs)!"
Rollin' On and The Light In Me had songs
that were really composed, but still long. The
live album was completely unleashed. On
Transcends, I wanted to take all of that and
fine-tune it. I want to stick with this endeavor
It was hard. Everybody was very critical. I
was coming from a place where everybody was
encouraging. When I get there I got smacked in
the face with reality. That's hard when you're
18, grew up in the same house your whole life,
and had the same friends your entire life. Then
you go to this school and they're like, "That
thing you're doing... That's not going to make
you any money or be of any use to you. You
can continue, but good luck turning that into
a job (laughs)." I was like, "Wow!"
I went in as a classical pianist. But just being
alive has helped me as a songwriter. Going
through pain helps me write songs. I went
through a break-up and I wrote a whole album.
I didn't learn anything new at Berklee. My
dad is a songwriter and he taught me about
forms and the different possibilities. You can
change the key, you can write a bridge, and
you can do a breakdown. He showed me all
the things you can do to vary a song after
you've gone through a verse and a chorus. The
emotion writes the songs for me. That's the
stuff you can't learn in school. You write songs
over and over again until you find your voice.
Your Strat is super-cool looking.
It's a Fender American Elite. I love that
guitar. I'm not a gearhead, but I like how
I can make the pickups go out of phase; I
love the sound of that. It helps thicken my
distortion sound. The humbucker really cuts
through. I have a Keeley modded Boss DS-1
and a Boss DD-7 Digital Delay. I usually use
it with a Fender Deluxe or Twin. If I'm lucky,
I'll use a Peavey Classic 30. That's the golden
amp for me.
You tour a lot.
I'll be touring all over the United States, but
mostly on the East Coast. Then I'm going to
Memphis for some recording. - Oscar Jordan