With 6 albums under her belt, international touring artist and Winner of Melbourne’s Best Busker 2010-2012, Jenny Biddle, fashions an infectious mix of indie folk, blues, and a hint of palatable country flavors.
The 5-foot-tall pocket rocket, feisty guitarist, poignant pianist, harmonica squawker, and recovering chocoholic has just released her SIXTH album “Wild & Free” worldwide.
Transforming the live music experience she sways between lyrically reflective to endearingly amusing; her witty stage banter and storytelling make for an electrifying live show. The striking female guitarist has hosted workshops at festivals throughout Australia & the UK. Now based in Scotland, the Aussie songstress is preparing material for her 7th album.
We caught up with Jenny at the Heart of Hawick Music Festival.
ASoulfulSound: Sydney to Scotland… how did that happen?
JB: I moved over for love… the love of…. weather. Hahah! No. I met my wife while I was busking at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I moved over and married her in woods in the Scottish Borders. It’s certainly been an adventure. I’ve since mastered the art of starting a fire with wet wood!
ASoulfulSound: Hawick seems to be a hotbed of local talent; can you describe the local music scene when there is not a festival on?
JB: There’s loads of talent in the Scottish Borders – from blues to traditional folk to experimental. Every Monday night in Hawick there’s a FREE local (and not so local) original music night called String Theory. There are fabulous music clubs like St Boswells Live and String Jam Club to name a few, and some great sessions like the Denholm Folk Club where people bring their poetry, music and jam in the night.
ASoulfulSound: When did you realize that music was your calling?
JB: At 4 years old, with a red plastic microphone in hand, I used to burst into the living room singing at the top of my lungs. Back then I was into Aussie legend Johnny Farnham and wanted to be just like him (minus the mullet). In my teens I struggled with depression and music became a way of coping, whether listening, creating or performing. When I finished a degree to become a primary teacher, I put out my first album 10 years ago, and have been doing music ever since. Occasionally I wonder if I should get a normal job, but the pull to music is too strong, it’s in my veins.
ASoulfulSound: Your CV includes guitar making… what drew you to that art form? Is you stage guitar one that you made?
JB: I’ve made two guitars with guidance from luthier Chris Wynne (Thomas Lloyd Guitars) – one course was in Melbourne, the other in Italy. If I had all the money in the world I’d just make guitars. What an incredibly unique experience, carving the neck, bending the sides and crafting an instrument from your bare hands. The guitars I’ve made are back in Australia at the moment – made a small body acoustic guitar (cos I’m small) and a huge baritone guitar (cos I have small-person syndrome). I’ve recorded with them on a few of my albums. You can read about the process in my guitar making blog here:
ASoulfulSound: Who were some of your early influences?
JB: I grew up on a lot of Aussie favourites like Missy Higgins, Kasey Chambers and the Waifs. In particular Cold Chisel (although I don’t sound like them) has influenced my songwriting – whether it be the attention to lyrics, the space in the song, guitar solos, and diversity across the record. There’s a good mix of “clean” rock, blues, modern folk, and country in those artists.
ASoulfulSound: Your latest Wild and Free is a beautiful collection of bluesy folk rock songs. Can you share your writing process, what inspires you? Do you have a favorite cut on the record, one that means the most to you? If so, why?
JB: Music has always been a way for me to express different feelings and themes – you can see this in the eclectic mix on the album; from melancholy piano ballads to upbeat blues, soft folk, country, and a random anti-gospel song to keep you on your toes. This album is a quest to find freedom inner demons and society norms – like the title track sings “I wonder who I’d be when I’m wild and when I’m free”. The songs have grown from journal writing and improvising on the piano/guitar, and melding the two together. My favourite song on the album is Years & Years. It took 2 years to finish writing the song (aptly named). The process of writing this was deeply healing and I’m proud of how it’s been captured in the studio – it’s not about elaborate instrumentation, but rather an emphasis on the lyrics and emotion of the voice. I’m hoping the album finds the people it needs to, just as albums have healed me.
ASoulfulSound: Guilty musical pleasures?
JB: Singing to cows. Try it!
ASoulfulSound: If you could collaborate with anyone (living or dead) who would that be and why?
JB: One of my favourite artists is Canadian singer, Kathleen Edwards. I love her lyrics and the way she uses her voice to enhance the story. She doesn’t just open her mouth to sing the words, she embodies the story… and you believe her… whatever the story is. I appreciate how she can compose from other people’s perspectives and this is something I’d like to explore more.
ASoulfulSound: Who is on your dream music festival lineup?
JB: Tracy Chapman, Kathleen Edwards, John Mayer, Alanis Morissette and me supporting them (what a dream that would be. Can you hook me up?)
ASoulfulSound: Ha! possibly! We’ll have our people call your people!