Photo: Mike Coleman

Award-Winning Austin Native Jackie Venson Takes SXSW By Storm

To say Jackie Venson is having a moment is a bit of an understatement.

The Austin native and Berklee College of Music graduate, who opened for blues-rock superstar Gary Clark Jr. last year, won the highly-competitive Best Guitar Player award at the Austin Music Awards earlier this month, making her the third woman and the first black woman to take the coveted prize. Venson also has a new album, Joy, dropping April 5. She’ll be playing DC. July 18 at a Sofar party.

On Tap sat down with Venson ahead of her highly-accomplished and entertaining SXSW showcase at Cooper’s BBQ Thursday afternoon, where the 27-year-old rocker incorporated blues, soul, R&B, and reggae into a sound distinctly her own.

OT: Congratulations on your big award as Best Guitar Player at the Austin Music Awards. Being from a town that produced monster guitar players like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Doyle Bramhall II, Charlie Sexton and Gary Clark Jr., what does it mean to you to be recognized for this prestigious award?
Venson: It’s pretty crazy – it means literally the world. Austin’s a guitar town and it has a reputation for being a guitar town. It means the world and now I’m going to use it to try and springboard out of Austin, but obviously not forget about Austin. I’m always going to live here. I don’t want to move to L.A. and get lazy (laughs).

OT: How would you describe your sound? You’re hard to pigeonhole.
Venson: Blues, soul, R&B and reggae – that’s pretty much it. Oh, and a shit-ton of rock. Let’s be be real. It’s rock. Actually, if you force me to put one genre on it, I’d say rock. But it is kind of drifting into more pop stylings on the new record. It’s really poppy because I want to get out of Texas.

OT: Austin’s long been known as a blues town. Is it still a blues town, or is it beyond that?
Venson: It’s reputation is for blues and folk and Americana – that whole realm. But there is everything here. There’s an incredible hip-hop scene. It’s not like Houston’s (hip-hop scene). It’s small but mighty. There’s also an unbelievable world music scene here. There’s punk rock, heavy rock, and jazz. Lots of different music here.

OT: What’s next for you in the months ahead?
Venson: I’m dropping the new record, “Joy,” on April 5. And then I’m going to be doing the release party at the Paramount Theater on April 12. Biggest show of my career. Then, in April I’ll start my next record. I’m playing a big corporate gig in May then I’m going off to Europe on tour for a month. I’m doing 19 dates in 25 days.

OT: Tell me about touring and opening for Gary Clark Jr., a guy who is selling out Madison Square Garden and trading licks with Eric Clapton and other blues greats?
Venson: It was an incredible learning experience. It was really nice to see how touring works on that level. To see them deal with problems – things would happen and they’d have to fix it. It was great to see how the sausage is made when it comes to next-level touring. I learned so much – more than I can really track. It was absolutely priceless. He helped me open like 10 new markets and I’m going back to those markets – mostly in the Midwest – this summer. Gary’s a cool dude and his crew is really cool, so we all had a good time together. And the shows were LIT!

OT: Have you played DC. yet? We’d love to see a Jackie Venson show.
Venson: I have not. But I’m playing DC on July 18, it’s a house concert for Stone Room concerts. You should get on my mailing list!

For more information about Jackie Venson click here.