BY ED GEBERT
Times Bulletin Editor
VAN WERT - For someone who is not a native of the United States, Jackie Bristow is getting to know her way around. The New Zealand-born singer-songwriter has been touring, writing, and recording since arriving here from Australia in 2005. She had spent nearly a decade performing all around her home country with her sister, singing in festivals and competitions.Bristow will be performing in Van Wert on Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Black Swamp Bistro. She took a rest while staying in Nashville this week to talk to The Times Bulletin about her music and her travels.
I'm from a really small town; really small as in pretty isolated on the south island of New Zealand. I went to Australia in search of something, but not sure what. I just wanted to be in the music business, in the music world. I didn't know I'd end up doing as well as I did do," she remembered.
Soon after arriving in Australia, Bristow found herself in the company of some of the best musicians in Sydney, much to her surprise. She began writing more of her own music and then landed a record deal with Michael Gudinski who is a legend in the music business in Australia. By 2002, she was ready to record her music for the first time.
"They sent me to America to record my first album," she said. "It was more just a calling of music, wanting to do music, but I didn't know I was going to end up being a recording artist and full-time musician and play pretty much only original music."
Since that time she has recorded two other albums and is in the process of recording a fourth at a Nashville studio.
"I'm a singer-songwriter, but I've had a lot of influences," she explained. "I've had influences from pop music, but also from folk music, country music, and blues. I'm a little bit of a mix of everything, and I do have some of the songs go one way and some of the songs are colored with a little bit of all of it. I don't know what genre I fit into but singer-songwriter."
However you want to describe her music and her style, Bristow has an amazing voice that seems to draw in an audience. Her songs highlight life's big events and overwhelming feelings that can hypnotize the listener. What inspires her?
"It's a lot of different things... it's just living. Then you have to express it," she related.
Bristow's experience in this part of the country is still rather limited. Her first trip to Ohio came last year when she played a show in Cincinnati. The Thursday show in Van Wert will be a step a little bit deeper into the heartland of this country. She makes her base in Austin, Texas these days. She does not regret her move from Australia to the U.S. at all, although she concedes she was not sure what to expect.
"It was like my moving from New Zealand to Australia, I just wanted to go and experience the traveling. Bristow remembered. "When I got here, I fell in love with all the history of music and the people and musicians that you meet. Then the audiences. I really like the American audiences."
Part of the reason for the move to this country was to give more people a chance to hear Bristow's music. She noted that there is a much bigger platform for the music of singer-songwriters here than there is down under. However, her music has caught on back closer to home. Her songs have been used often in film and television programs in New Zealand and Australia, and her song, This Is Australia was featured in that country's tourism campaigns for three years. Her voice can also be heard at more than 7,000 coffee shops throughout this country.
For Bristow, all the traveling, all the new experiences, the late nights performing, writing and recording are worth it. Not only that, music is her life.
"Well, you've got to make a living," she joked. "But this is the only way I know how to make a living: Writing, singing songs, and performing and playing guitar. But also I love it. I love performing, and I love writing. It is hard, but it would be hard to not do it too. It would be hard living a conservative life somewhere and not doing music. So I feel lucky."