Rapid Fire Questions
At first glance, you wouldn’t assume her 5-foot-tall stature will burst into a fiery powerhouse of well-seasoned guitar expeditions. Intertwining savoury melodies with speculative lyrics, Jenny Biddle, wraps herself around her guitar, and like a marriage between body and instrument, she commands the guitar to talk “with uncommon skill and absolute self-assurance” (Syke, 2013). Her audience is compelled to join her on a voyage of passion and story in song.
Currently based in sunny Scotland, the Aussie indie blues & roots songsmith has handmade several acoustic guitars, plays a wicked blues harp, is a proficient pianist, can bust out bubbling banjo ballad if bullied, and if that isn’t annoying enough, she dabbles in graphic design for her albums and merchandize, releasing music and touring the world as an entirely independent musician.
Eight albums into her career, she admits she’s not attempting to write the next hit song, but instead fashions an eclectic mix of thought-provoking masterworks that give the feeling you’re in the company of an old friend. From the sweet lulls of folk, to her raunchier tunes, dirty blues grooves, and easy-going country flavours, she’s got a song for every mood, boldly confronting depression and anxiety and asking for your hand along the way.
Playing over 200 gigs every year since 2006, supporting the likes of Lloyd Spiegel, Jen Cloher, Tony McManus, Jeff Lang, and Cotton, Keays & Morris, and touring Australia, UK, Ireland, Germany, Canada and China, her stage presence is second to none. Her audience laughs and cries in all the right places, with a banter which is honest, direct, personal, affectionate, funny and utterly engaging.
We asked Jenny some Rapid Fire Questions Below
1. Rockin' Blues or Bush Ballad ?
Tough call! I’m going to go with rocking blues. I love a driving beat and lively guitar solo. But saying that, I do enjoy the odd banjo twang, and a down to earth country bush ballad. There are elements of both weaving through all my albums.
2. Dog or Cat ?
Another tough call! I’m allergic to both! Hahah! I currently have two cats named Tractor and Mouse (yes it’s awkward calling for them around the neighbourhood), both with very different personalities (one seems more like a dog!). Love them to bits!
3. Guitar or Piano?
Tough call again! I kicked off on the ukulele age 4 (which perhaps gave me foundations for guitar), then piano from age 5 and guitar from age 9. Learning piano was a chore for me, although today I am really grateful for the musical theory. I didn’t enjoy classical music, which seemed to be what they taught back then; nor was I drawn to reading music - playing songs as written seemed so restrictive and boring - and consequently I am not terribly good at reading music. I didn’t start enjoying piano till I stopped lessons and began improvising with jazz and blues. I didn’t have guitar lessons, so perhaps that’s why I gravitated more towards it - guitar became this place where I could explore, create and express myself, while finding my own way around the instrument. I’ve always found guitar a lot easier to create diversity in sound and genre - whether it’s rock, blues, roots, country, jazz, folk, and more. There are so many left and right-handed techniques, alternate tunings, percussive elements, acoustic/electric flavours, and I find myself to be more creative on the guitar. But other songs call me to the piano, so it depends...
4. Coffee or Tea ?
Tea is my go to... I must have about 8 cups a day! But it’s a great novelty in lockdown to be able to pop to a café and order a decent coffee!
5. What's Your Ideal Holiday Destination ?
Right now... anywhere! I’m really missing a tiny coastal village where I spent holidays with my family at a place called the Sandon River on the east coast of Australia. We have an old run down shack with mismatched furniture, right on the water. Life feels easy there, the sun, the salt and the sea. It’s where I learned to fish, surf, swim, kayak and more, and inspired the song “Village by the Sea”.
6. Beer, Wine, Liquor, Non-Alcoholic ?
Non-alcoholic. Chocolate is my preferred choice of poison!
7. Porridge or Aussie Fry Up ?
Mmm... let’s go Aussie fry up today, porridge tomorrow.
8. Car or Bicycle ?
Car. I have driven around Canada, UK, Australia, Ireland doing gigs. The car became my little bubble, my home, coasting from one adventure to the next, playing music along the way.
9. House or Apartment ?
Definitely house. I currently live in a cottage on a sheep farm in the Scottish Borders. It feels like the middle of nowhere, peaceful, picturesque, just how I like it.
10. Live Performance or Studio Work ?
This is a super tough call. I love the energy of live performance and hearing a little insight into the song/performer, but the detail, texture and clarity of studio work can be delicious. For my own creations, I go between the two. I long to hear my raw songs come into fruition with a band sound. I play a lot of different instruments myself, layering them up, and hire a few session musos for drums, bass and other surprises, and I’m over the moon to be in the studio creating an album. But I get a real buzz from performing live and connecting with the audience. I especially enjoy improvising - it’s like no two versions of the song are the same, just seeing where the moment takes you. My hybrid style of guitar playing, blending bass, chords, percussion and melody, stems from my desire to keep the song interesting for myself, while looking for ways to mix up what the audience hears from one woman and her guitar.
11. Performing Standing or Sitting ?
Standing. I find this helps with expression, plus and the odd overly enthusiastic stumble keeps it amusing for the audience!
12. Shower or Bath ?
13. Indian Cuisine or Italian Cuisine ?
Today I’ll go for Indian cuisine, please!
14. Country or City Living ?
Country! I grew up in Sydney, the most populated city of Australia. People admire its beaches, blue skies, and iconic, picturesque setting, but I never felt I belonged there. I moved to Melbourne, the musical hub of Australia for its opportunities, food, coffee, arts, and culture. I thought I’d find all the answers to life’s questions there. But it wasn’t until I moved to Wandiligong, a tiny town 4 hours north of Melbourne, that I felt like I’d found my place, and all the stress and worry fell from my shoulders. I remember visiting home later and seeing a sign at Sydney Airport car park advertising “Parking done the easy way!” and had to laugh and wonder if people from the big smoke have ever experienced easy parking. Needless to say, my song “Wild & Free” is about this realisation that I don’t really like who I am in the city.
15. CD or Vinyl ?
I grew up with CDs. I loved browsing the CD stores, flicking through. I remember saving my pennies over the weeks, months, to go to the store and buy that CD I’d been desperately waiting for. I’d listen to the album from start to finish, over and over, reading the lyrics and liner notes. Even the tracks I wasn’t particularly keen on became well loved as part of the whole album. I knew every word, every title, every detail. This mindful appreciation of music seems to have dissolved in a world of digital streaming.
More Rapid Fire Questions...