Independent Austin artist Jackie Venson is a pioneer to the new found Wild West of music.
By Samantha Greyson, Photos courtesy of Jackie Venson
Seven years ago, Austin singer and guitarist Jackie Venson was funding and booking her own tours, with little national recognition, still a ball of soft clay waiting to be molded.
“In 2016, I’d only been playing the guitar for five years,” Venson says. “So I was actually kind of terrible. I love this city because even when I was bad at the guitar, people here were so supportive. They would tell me that I was good, and it was so crazy because I just couldn’t believe them. I’m like, ‘You guys, how do you think I’m good?’”
Since her 2016 cover, Venson has toured numerous times, including in 2017, when she opened for Gary Clark Jr., showcasing her unique sound—a combination of electric guitar, drums and bluesy, clear vocals.
“The tour with Gary Clark Jr. [solidified]my touring career in a lot of ways,” Venson says. “I started touring in 2014, and it wasn’t until I went on tour with Gary that anything really made sense, that it looked like I could actually tour under my own name and actually make more than $100 somewhere outside of Texas or outside Austin.”
After the tour, Venson developed new stylistic techniques, as well as a new audience. Instead of attending open-mic nights in other cities, she was selling 150 tickets in Tulsa or the Twin Cities.
Now, she envisions herself as a pioneer of the “new” music industry. The old days of record labels and high-falutin producers are over.
Venson describes the COVID-19 pandemic as the “final nail in the coffin” for the old music industry, where one record label controlled an artist’s sales, tours and albums. As an independent artist and “pioneer,” she utilizes the internet to boost her career by posting on all social media platforms and sharing her music to a large audience.
“My whole job when I’m not on tour is to record more stuff and make more videos. That’s kind of the name of the game with the new music industry. It’s a mixture of quality and quantity; it’s large amounts of quality things. If it takes you five years, six years, seven years to get to a point where you have a lot of albums, a lot of music and a lot of videos, then so be it. I’d rather take longer and have it be more democratic.”
For Venson, the pandemic allowed her music to reach a larger audience.
“I released more music than I ever have before,” she says. “But that also led to more people discovering me that never had before. Then at the end of that year, I actually landed my first Austin City Limits TV taping, and it was because of all of the buzz that I had garnered. I shifted my whole career to the internet, made more music than I ever have in my life and also got more exposure than I ever have in my life. No label helps me get that exposure; all I did for that exposure was frequency.”
In 2020, Venson also began remixing her own music to create a calmer sound through her side project, Jackie the Robot.
“My songs all have really strong melodies,” she says. “A lot of people like those songs, but they’re really big and have a lot of energy in them. Some people don’t want that when they’re putting music on. They want something that will help them tune out.”
Jackie the Robot is a way for Venson to explore another side of music and release more of it.
“Let’s say you’re home and it’s one in the morning and you’re trying to unwind. You’re not going to put on some hyper high-energy rock song,” Venson says. “It’s going to be a slower hip-hop beat. It’s stuff that you can zone out to, and that’s what I want to cover with Jackie the Robot, because Jackie Venson’s music will never be that.”
To hear the changes in Venson’s music listen to Joy, recorded in 2018, and then listen to Evolution of Joy, a 2023 revamp of the original album.
“[In Evolution of Joy], everything is beefier. Everything’s bigger. Everything is more consistent. Everything is better put together, more organized, and the skills are better,” Venson says. “The techniques are all there presented. I’m excited about having Evolution of Joy as a foundation for who I am now [and]releasing more projects under that foundation.”