The life of a touring and recording artist once seemed a world away from Gore native Jackie Bristow - but life has come full circle as the country rock and roots musician returns from Texas for a summer tour. Gwyneth Hyndman reports.
Jackie Bristow says her lust for New Zealand food doubles when she has been away from Southland for a long period.
And not even some good old-fashioned Texas grub can satisfy the craving that only a meat pie or a cheese roll can fill.
Smoked brisket, chili con carne and deep-fried beer (yes - this can be found at the Texas State Fair) is all behind Bristow for a few months, as she enjoys a bit of a working holiday before heading back over to Australia to do what she has been doing best - sing her heart out to crowds of 15,000 on the CMC Rocks the Hunter Festival stage in March.
Until then the Texas-based Bristow plans to stay close to home for much of the summer to perform with friends, and also soak up some camping and beach time with family.
The more relaxed touring schedule comes after a year of opening for artists she had only dreamed about playing with while growing up, like John Waite, Marc Cohn, John Oates, Rick Springfield and Art Garfunkel.
The American country music business can feel soul-less to newcomers, but Bristow hasn't been deterred and while the big stages are an obvious aim, it is also the quiet takeovers of coffeehouse airplay time that musicians would kill for - a rotation of songs from her third album, Freedom, played in 7000 Starbucks across the US last year.
Toughening up has been necessary. Yet its her tenderness when she sings about the thrill and the loneliness of running from one hemisphere to another, that has opened doors to big opportunities.
"To have the level of recognition I have now has always been my dream. Now that I've broken into [the music business] I hope it continues to grow.
"There are times when it is painfully lonely. And it's hard work, especially in these times . . . when I say I've ‘made it' I don't mean I've become famous . . ."
Whatever success is - and Bristow sounds like she is shrugging as she says the word - she is living in that now.
None of it has happened by sitting back and letting the big breaks come to her.
In 2012 she packed up her Honda and drove from west Texas to New Mexico to play on stages, bars and cafes. A return to Los Angeles and a road trip up the coast led her to the vineyards of Santa Ynez and up to Chico cattle country, before a long haul back to Austin. In November Bristow recorded her fourth album in a Shreveport, Louisiana studio with producer Brady Blade.
He has also worked with the Dave Matthews Band and Jewel. Recording in a world-class studio was an incredible experience, she says.
Blade was able to help her grasp something that had been elusive on more polished albums.
The album will be released mid-2013.
"It was very organic and raw - it captured the intimacy of a live performance. I think [the latest album] is the truest to who I am."
Much of the album was inspired by the moves she has made and just from what she has absorbed in Austin, a city that she says has been good to her.
Bristow said she is planning a shift to Los Angles this year, to be close to the ocean - which she has missed, living in Texas - and to be near the film and television opportunities.
"You have to be optimistic," she says. "You never know what's going to happen next."
Bristow will appear with special guest Mark Punch at the City Gallery in Invercargill on February 8, at 8pm. Tickets are $25 and include a glass of wine.
Bristow and Punch will also play at the Heriot Hotel in Heriot on February 9 and at the James Cumming Wing Lecture Theatre in Gore on February 14 and at Carrick Wines at Bannockburn on February 15.
- The Southland Times