In the soulful house world Venessa Jackson was one of the most prolific artists around in 2020, with the hits seemingly just keeping on coming from her South African home. Despite everything going on in the world her Facebook feed was an ongoing tale of creativity and a sense of an opportunity being seized out of the chaos.
Having enjoyed playing the output of her efforts, I was determined to find out more about the person behind the music, and how she stays so positive. I was also curious as to why when she sings with such maturity how it was that she still seems to have newcomer status.
I started with my now-standard question of 2020…
How have you been in this funny old year then?
I cannot complain, funnily enough it’s been one of the busiest of my career. I think the lockdown has been beneficial for some and not so beneficial for others because for me, lockdown has forced people like record label owners and producers to be indoors with nothing else to do but browse music, watch movies and produce ideas so it’s given people within that field the time to check out my music and have more time to listen to my capabilities. And for those that have been focused on production it’s given them the opportunity to work with me whereas before, when life was normal, they never had the time to. To be honest with you this [year] 2020, it was very beneficial for me. I was really blessed and fortunate this year.
I’ve seen you mostly over the last couple of years but you’re clearly an accomplished singer – how did you get here?
I was put on the stage from a very young age; my mother was one of those obsessive mums and would buy every newspaper and every magazine and page through it for every kiddies’ contest with dancing or modeling or any talent contest [laughs]. She put me up in those contests from a very young age. I won my first competition, it was a dance competition and the prize was a vinyl [record] so my first vinyl was at the age of five and it was Kool and The Gang! I was so amazed by this and luckily enough my mother had this gadget that played this plastic circle (in my mind as a five year old). My mum would play it for me and I was so amazed – I was like “wow, one day I want my name on one of these!” It was on my wishlist from when I was very young, so music was something that I went into from a very young age. It was something that was just in me growing up. And then throughout primary school I participated in the community variety shows that we had in the area and I would sing there. Throughout high school I did the same thing so I would say it was just in my genes. I did music basically for fun for many many years underground, not even taking it seriously until I started getting bookings and I was like “wait, hold on, can I actually make a living out of doing this?” So in 2004 EMI broke my virginity into the business side of the music industry and from 2004 I’ve been building the Venessa Jackson brand from then. So when I’m referred to as an upcoming artist it’s just for those who don’t know how long I’ve been pushing this hassle! I’ve [sings] been around the world and I, I, I… I’ve been there, it’s just that many people are not aware of it. I feel that the music industry will embarrass you before it glorifies you and you’ve got to go through those embarrassing stages of where you get exploited, where you work for free and where you’ve got to promote yourself and all those things. I feel that I have done the groundwork and now I’m at the stage where I feel that I’m reaping the rewards for all the seeds that I’ve planted over the years.
I’ll be honest I know very little about the South African scene – what’s a like down there?
Oh we love to party! We love to party even in serious times. In South Africa you do not need a day, it’s like all the time. We are very happy-go-lucky – we’re called the rainbow nation for a reason because people from all over the world are here and we are living together in harmony, just like happy-go-lucky and we are partying!
I really want to visit now!
Oh you must! [laughs]
I’m curious about your style – I think of you as an amazing mix of house diva and blues, where does that come from?
I think [it comes from] the music that my mum used to listen to. I used to listen to whatever my mum played whilst she was cleaning the house and she played Billy-Ray Cyrus, Dolly Parton, UB40, Gladys Knight, she was obsessed over Tina Turner [laughs], Anita Baker… I think listening to all that and me being me, the kid that loved imitating, and I had a very good memory as well and I was very very talkative… So I think writing and singing, there was no other way to go. I think the music that my mum listened to had a major influence on the music that I do right now. I never went to music school or anything like that, I’m just learning as I go along. As I get new productions on a weekly basis, the melodies are guiding me into singing a certain way. I’m like, “Wow, I’ve never sung in that key before!” I’m still learning about myself and my vocal abilities even after all these years. It’s crazy.
You’ve been enjoying yourself with a variety of different producers, for example Yam Who and Mark Brickman – how’s that been?
Oh my gosh, so much fun! The first one was Push Through that I did with Luisen, then Yam Who did a remix as well. But the majority of funk and disco tracks have been with Midnight Riot and Mark Brickman. I’ve been having so much fun and I’ve found out from these type of projects that the flow and the writing and the storytelling and the concepts behind the stories are so exciting you could picture yourself shooting a music video or even having a movie from the storyline in that it’s so entertaining and interesting. I’m really having lots of fun in that genre.
You clearly are – best of luck and thanks for talking to me today!
Thanks for your support, I really really appreciate it!