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Jenny Biddle

Melbourne’s enthralling folk/blues minstrel Jenny Biddle is all set to launch her third record Hero In Me this weekend. Prior to the album launch party at the Thornbury Theatre we asked the famed busking extraordinaire about her approach to live performance and songwriting, recording with former Thirsty Merc guitarist Sean Carey, and the fan-funding which ultimately facilitated the album construction.

When playing live, Biddle isn’t completely concerned with executing the songs exactly the way she’s written them.“I don’t think I’ve ever played a song the same way twice,” she says. “There’s something about improvising that sets my soul alight. As a kid I was taught to read music, to play the piano, and hated it. I found the process soulless and mechanical. I’ve always admired musos who get a bit of sheet music in front of them and, bam – they can play it, but I’ve always played by ear. I’ll extend moments, moods, and take the song where I am on that day.”

 

Biddle has played over 200 gigs every year, ranging from impromptu performances on the side of the street to large-scale festival appearances, but she certainly has a preferred gig environment. “I’ve played in loads of spaces, including the grimy club, on the back of a truck, and the festival stage can be such a buzz,” she says. “But some my favourite gigs are the intimate ones where you can interact with every single person in the room. Sometimes that can be house concerts in people’s living rooms.”

 

As for the album material, the process was one of a gradual unfurling, rather than one major writing block. “Some musos work well under pressure but I’ve never been good at setting aside time to write a song like a homework assignment,” Biddle explains. “I get this feeling in my veins that tells me I have a song inside and if I have access to space and time, the magic is allowed to happen. Hero In Me is a collection of my favourite tunes over the last four years. I certainly had a tough time culling the list from 20 down to 12 (as that’s all the recording time allowed), but I picked tunes that had a variety of meanings, genres, tempos, tunings, and feels.”

 

The album was recorded with Sean Carey, who clearly made a significant impression on Biddle. “Collaborating with Sean has got to be my favourite musical experience to date,” she says warmly. “Sean and I just clicked; he’s on my wavelength. They are all my tunes and I got to play a stack of instruments on the album but Sean made them bigger and better. He’s such an easy guy to work with,” she says. “Talented, efficient, understanding, experienced. It was such an enriching musical journey.”

 

The record was fan-funded, and Biddle put a lot of effort in to making sure she’d formulated the best possible campaign for her fans. “I used Pozible to crowd-fund the album,” she begins. “I did a lot of research before starting the campaign, including going to a crowd funding workshop, checking out other people’s projects and bouncing ideas off friends and other musos. You really need to put together an enticing video and a variety of prizes, then it’s all about getting word out to your fans through your mailing list, social media and website. I was overwhelmed by the amazing support from people. One lady pledged $2,000 to support the album. All the pledges hit home about how much music means to people. This album wouldn’t have happened without all the support.”

 

BY AUGUSTUS WELBY

JENNY BIDDLE launches Hero In Me on Friday March 15 at The Thornbury Theatre.