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Bridie Jackson is the full package. A gifted writer of melody and lyrics and an accomplished musician and vocalist, her image would not look out of place in a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Following a recent period of extensive touring, the rest of Britain is discovering what her native North East already knew – that she is an original talent, both in the recording studio and in live performance.
Her band, known as The Arbour, is no mere backing band.
They supply excellent musical accompaniment and delicious harmonies and it really is a group enterprise. The band’s use of bell plates has entered local folklore. They look like something you’d use to scrape the frost off your windscreen, but they make the most wonderful sound.
Bridie is the very opposite of a precious diva. She likes to kick off her shoes when on stage and draw the audience in. I met up with her to pose some questions and shoot the breeze…
Bridie, it’s great to have this chat. I was in the audience on the night your album, Bitter Lullabies, was launched at The Sage in Gateshead and there was a lot of love in the room for you. How has the album been received since then?
It’s been going rather well. We’ve had some great reviews, quite a bit of radio play and the opportunity to gig a lot around the UK, which has been great. We really enjoy performing to new audiences, as it’s a clearer reflection of what people make of you than if the venue is full of people who know you and are going to be nice regardless!
Music journalists like to categorize new artists that come along. For example, ‘Chamber Folk’ seems to be the buzz genre right now. Do you welcome a label or do you dislike it and how would you describe your music?
I think labels are fine, as they generally come from people trying to fathom something out and through a desire to explain it to others. I’m not sure we fit into any label very comfortably though, which must be a bit frustrating I suppose. As for how we describe our own music, I still don’t have the faintest idea. Free album to whoever can come up with something that covers it!
You’ve been compared to Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom. Are you flattered by comparisons or do they irritate you?
It depends on the comparison! I know some artists think comparisons are a result of lazy journalism, which I suppose it can be, but I think if done accurately, they can make your music more accessible, which can only be a good thing.
You’ve been doing a lot of gigs, Bridie. With all the travelling and performing, do you find it difficult to find time to write?
In some ways, touring is a really good space to write, as generally there are large chunks in the day when you’re not that busy, so you can really focus on getting things done.
I’m interested in your writing process. Do you have a routine approach or does it depend on your mood and circumstances at the time?
The only proper routine is making sure the ideas get ‘caught’ and archived properly when I have them. The actual creation is rather erratic and it can take months, even years to complete anything. It can often feel like the song isn’t all that much to do with me sometimes. I just have to wait for enough ideas to plop out so that I can actually write the whole thing. However, I’m always working on something and tend to be fairly dogged until it’s completed. Also, even if I have no inspiration whatsoever, I’ll still write most days, even if it’s just daft songs about dual carriageways and stuff… just to keep in the discipline of doing it I suppose.
Would it excite you to write with other people or do you prefer to write alone?
I generally write alone although I’m currently involved in a project called Riverrruns, which involves collaborating with other writers, mostly poets, and it’s been wonderful – a complete revelation, so I would definitely consider doing it again, for specific projects.
Some songwriters find writing lyrics a cathartic exercise. Do you share this feeling and do they serve to document your life?
Sometimes the songs document life events and they are frequently cathartic. The great thing about a song is you get to whinge on and it takes longer for people to tire of hearing it, which is handy.
It’s easier than ever to distribute songs and engage with fans. Do you think today’s artists have the best deal or do you hanker back to being an artist in the simpler days of the 1960s and 1970s?
It definitely assists the grassroots movement and allows artists to operate more independently, which is a very positive thing, so mostly, I’m in favour.
You and the band are certainly in harmony when on stage. What’s the dynamic like when you’re all hurtling down the motorway on a cold, wet morning after a few hours’ sleep?
I think bands on tour sometimes develop a bit of a ‘family on holiday’ dynamic, complete with ensuing social dysfunction, but we get on really rather well. I think in the last few months we’ve got very good at knowing when one or the other of us needs a bit of space, or support, etc., and as a result, it’s very harmonious. No gossip there. Boring I suppose…
Okay, Bridie, to wrap up, this is one of those job interview questions, but where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
On Desert Island Discs please! Or maybe that’s more a ten-year aim….
If this interesting insight into the life of a musician has whetted your appetite, check out Bridie Jackson & The Arbour’s album. Kick your shoes off, turn the lights down and see what happens…
For more information on Bridie Jackson, check out the Tumblr page.