Venessa Jackson DHLA innerview


Riding the "Nu Wave"
Venessa Jackson long road to recognition
By Nyasha Themba Dhliwayo

As a sweet-voiced girl, Venessa Jackson used to cherish the fleeting moments she would perform at community events, school  and even in front of family and friends.
            "I used to rent out my song book during free periods at school, and use the money to buy TDK cassettes to record music from the radio," says Venessa about her love affair with music.
            As destiny would have it Venessa would eventually navigate her way to becoming a respected vocalist and songwriter.
            Fairytale story right?
Well not quite.
            Venessa has had to slay her fair share of industry dragons, sing her way through personal and professional growing pains while simultaneously making sure the bills are paid and her sanity maintained.
            On the eve of her birthday, we sat down to chat to the diminutive songbird about a career spanning over a decade and the exciting developments up ahead.

DHLA: Our VVIP invitations to your Birthday Tour are still in the mail (wink wink) but that won't stop us from talking about this tour...What exciting events have you lined up?

Venessa: To be honest I changed my mind about a full blown tour.. 

I just had the kick-off in Durban at the Warehouse since that's my home town and another in Pietermaritzburg at 033 with Infinite Boys as they are also November babies, so I'm joining them on their tour as well. 

I did not want to invest in a full blown tour because every step you take towards growing as an independent artist is an expense. 

So especially since I want to release my personal body of work in 2019 I am focusing on investing in that rather than a birthday tour.
DHLA: A little bird chirped in our ears that you will be turning a certain age between 35 and 37...Quite frankly we dismissed this little bird's "lies" because you don't look a second above 21. 

How have you managed to remain so youthful while some of us are now firmly listed in the "balie" category!?

Venessa: Yes I am turning 36.

Thank you 4 the compliment!
I thank my mother Thembekile Mbili for the good genes, may her soul rest is peace.
I try to eat as healthy as I can and have had honey daily for years. 
It has many properties that are beneficial for your body.

DHLA: Birthdays are often the best times to reflect...Looking back on your career what are some of the things you now know that you wish you knew back when you started?

Venessa: Split sheets! Laughs 
Chasing producers for split sheets for productions done years ago is a nightmare, especially if they don't see or understand the importance.

I also wish I had knowledge on business process and legalities involving copyrights, but I guess every artist starts out as a "virgin" in the industry and learns as they grow
That's why I ensure I attend as many workshops and conferences as I can to learn and network

DHLA: Talking about learning, at what stage of your career would you say you are at right now?

Venessa: I am evolving. 
I am finding myself and exploring so many new sounds and elements

I have changed from just writing songs to express my emotions or what's on my mind, to writing songs as business due to the demands of my work

DHLA: That is quite an evolution but let's say you didn't become an artist, what do you see yourself doing?

Venessa: Cooking is my next love after music.
I love food and being in the kitchen so it would be something in this area.

DHLA: You are quite passionate about influencing the world through your music. In what ways exactly do you want your music to impact the world?

Venessa: I highly believe in the power of the spoken word.
Music is a powerful force that connects us in a special way, therefore we can use it to spread messages of peace, love, hope, awareness, motivation and love.

I feel these are the main ingredients needed to rehabilitate humanity which at the moment has gone astray.

Given this desire to connect with your listeners, what's the most touching thing you have had a fan say to you.

"I was about to end my life but after hearing your song it gave me hope," is the best compliment I have heard from a fan.

The song was "Sleepless Nights" produced by DJ Lesh SA and Fam..*.
Since venturing into the industry in the early 2000s, your first substantive breakthrough came in 2008, where you did songs with Djtwitty Philani Khuzwayo (Up and Down; Starlight), which was part of an album that was released under EMI. Many people would have given up by then.

DHLA: What kept you believing that your time would come?

Venessa: Well, when something is in your veins you are blinded by the love you have for it.

Nothing can stop you.

Every negative curve your journey directs at you therefore is a learning and preparation step towards your growth
If you have the bigger picture as your main focus you won't be affected by anything that happens along the way.

DHLA:  It's not like you were twiddling your thumbs "waiting" for a breakthrough to smack you in the face...what were you up to and how were you paying the bills prior to breaking out in 2008?

Venessa: From 2009 I left Durban and moved to Pietermaritzburg.
            That's when I really started hustling.

I was managing BP Garage and marketing clubs and performing at private parties for delegates among other hustles.
            I used every opportunity my voice gave me to build a network full of people that I could learn from or work with.
            There is so much ground work that needs to be done and many don't understand this.
I also used to be so confused listening to interviews from artists saying they have been in the industry for 10 to 15 years yet we are only getting to know and see them now.
            Now I understand
That's where you get the legendary artists "from the underground".

DHLA: What lessons did you learn from this "struggle" period?

Venessa: I always say treat your releases like seeds.
            Don't give up on the seeds you plant.
Invest in them and be patient in .them.
            They will not all bloom at once.
Every fruit has it season
            For example a track titled "On it" By Muvo De Icon and myself was released in 2015 and only March 2018 did it top Traxsource AfroEssential Top 100 coming it at Number 9.

            You would think that after two years there is no hope
The fact is once you become prominent, the media and public start digging into your profile to see what they could have missed, so released music is an investment.

DHLA: Being "married to the hustle" all love related calls from prospective partners are going to voicemail for now, but when you have locked down the hustle what attributes will you look for in a partner?

Venessa: I want to have a man I can build an empire with not one who's going to argue about who must text who first on WhatsApp!
            Simple as that.

DHLA: Relocating to another city is always a major move. What lead you to packing up your bags and moving to Pretoria in 2015?

Venessa: I felt suffocated in KZN.
            I was not learning nor growing.
On a municipality booking in Mount Frere Eastern Cape is where I met Sipho Masanabo, CEO of Side Productions.
            They were responsible for the stage and lighting for the Maskandi Annual Festival and I was booked for the after party.

            Sipho was so impressed with my performance he expanded his company and added "Side Recordings" and that's how "Venessa Jackson and Nu Wave was born.

            That's why I moved to PTA.

DHLA:  What did you (and possibly still do) find initially fascinating about Pretoria?

Venessa: In my own words I would say PTA was my classroom.
            I had to learn before going out into the work field which is Joburg
I now need to put into practice what I have learnt.
            Taking the theory and practical experience into account I will be more prepared for what's about to come.
The worst thing is reaching momentum and not being ready.
            Many artists are destroyed by this.

DHLA: What did you (and still do) miss about KZN and the music scene there?

Venessa: I miss my daughter mostly.
            My hustle keeps me away from her but she is so supportive and understanding.
Every move I make has her name on it.

DHLA: You have been a part of a number of collaborations. Which particular collaborations stood out to you?

Venessa: To be honest I'm proud of all my releases.
            I can't say one was better than the other.
 The productions were easy for me and I had freedom to express myself however I wanted without being dictated to.
            I love the fact that the producers all trusted me enough to make me apart of their journey.

DHLA: Your musical journey has included a stint working with a band (Nu Wave, which included Dr Moruti and KOJ a bassist from Nigeria). You've said that the two years with the band molded and taught you many important things.
What are some of the key lessons you drew from this period?

Venessa: Keys are so important for me
            Kelvin aka "KOJ" used to give me one-on-one sessions in studio.
He would play his bass guitar and make me sing different songs and I would take notes on description and identify certain keys.
            It helped me identify my range so if I hear a beat I can tell you immediately if I can work on it or not.
            Dr Moruti also taught me a lot about the business side of the music industry and packaging myself as an artist.
            It was such a privilege working with these two.
I thank Side Productions CEO Mr Sipho Masanabo for uniting us.

DHLA: Ms Jackson recently made her debut on the small screen! Tell us about the experience of featuring in Rhythm City?

Venessa: It was an overwhelming experience because all the time in primary school we used imitate Boom Shaka, so being with Thembi Seete on stage was a childhood dream come true!
            The scene was shot twice because the first time I started singing in the booth I came on the show as the new artist for "Red" the record label run by Thembi and Doc(On the show).
            Thembi started dancing and the director said "CUT Thembi this is not a club scene!"
Her response was "Yes I know but this song wow!"
            For me it was tons of fuel and a sign to keep on moving
The song titled "Awe" is produced by Dr Moruti and I plan to release it before or during the next election campaigns.
            My Album title is "Venessa Jackson the Nu Wave" (A combination of myself and what I have learnt put together).

DHLA: What a debut! Are we likely to see you make appearances on television or films?

Venessa: There definitely are more plans in the pipeline regarding TV and the film industry

DHLA: No artist likes performing before small crowds, so when the stage is yet everything is in order for a full house but for some reason there's just a handful of people do you call it off or do you rock it like there's no tomorrow?

Venessa: I believe to always perform your best
            That engineer that on site, to the cleaners to the security guards, to the barmen and waitresses.
            They have phones and are your key to create a digital audience for you
I leave no stone unturned.
            Yes at times it is overwhelming to perform for chairs but if you live by  certain rules you will NEVER let yourself down .
            You never know who is watching you and where your break through lies, so I always do my best

DHLA: What kind of venues and functions do you most enjoy performing in and at?

Venessa: I love outdoor performances.
            People outside are more free and relaxed
The aura and energy the audience gives off from outdoor is powerful.

DHLA: You've mentioned that some of your musical influences are from other genres; Dolly Parton (Country and Western) and Bob Marley (Reggae)...

Given these influences are we likely to see you venturing into other genres?

Venessa: I don't ever want to limit myself when it comes to music
            As long as I can connect with it I'm down for it irrespective the genre

DHLA: In terms of projects have you lined up over the next few years?

Venessa: Well at the moment I'm sitting with a file with almost 50 tracks.
            As I use songs I replace them with new ones.
So in all honesty I'm ready for anything.
            Moving is sealed in blood especially when you independent.
You make your own rules.
            My passport is a "virgin" laughs as I have not left SA borders.
So my goal for 2019 is to tour abroad.
            I have been expanding my network by collaboration with international record labels and producers which in itself is another dream come true for me

We have absolutely no doubt that Venessa will continue riding the "nu-wave" that she has created and we still will keep our fingers crossed that those VVIP tickets to a future birthday tour will be extended to the DHLA team!

#VanessaJacksonDHLAinnerview #DHLAinnerview #DHLA


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