Having shared the stage with Neil Young, Cowboy Junkies, UB40, Elvis Costello, Neil Finn and Tommy Emmanuel, Stage and Screen’s Jacqui Walter isn’t fazed by much. After more than 28 years as a musician, including some 13 years touring, she’s seen the music scene from all sides – the good, the bad and the ugly.
What began as a chance meeting at a local pub in 1997, ultimately turned into a trio called Bluehouse. Fast-forward to 2001 and Bluehouse were based in Nashville and touring the United States with some of the biggest names in the business. Described as ‘heavenly harmonies and pop folk with grunt’, Jacqui and her gal pals have had five sell-out seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, independently produced six CDs, played at too many music festivals to remember and circumnavigated the world more than 20 times.
So when Jacqui joined Stage and Screen part time in 2010, there were no questions about her credentials or her ability to understand the travel needs of performers. For Jacqui it was a natural segue to combine her love of music and travel – and while she is now Senior Business Development Manager, music is always there in the background.
Jacqui has drawn on her many industry based contacts and strong music knowledge to manage the travel for musos and performers across a range of industries. And while some things have changed greatly over the years, others have stayed the same. Jacqui says it’s much easier and more affordable for bands to tour overseas these days – with more airlines and more competition. While on the other hand, venue bookings still fall over, tour dates change (a lot!) and touring is still a 24/7 job. Plus when touring logic often goes out the window explains Jacqui – “you can try and book a tour travel schedule that makes sense geographically, but because you are relying on the availability of venues it rarely happens - and nothing goes smoothly”.
The good, the bad and the new
We asked Jacqui what has changed since she first hit the music scene.
What’s the best thing about touring as a muso?
Performing – you get instant gratification from the audience and you’re forced to just be in the moment. It’s like a form of mindfulness because you live second to second – and if you’re lucky you also get paid for it!
The worst part of touring?
Not finding time to write new music – and to practice and hone your craft. As independent musicians we were so busy getting from one show to the next – we’d pack up all our gear after a gig and then drive eight hours to the next destination. It really takes it out of you!
How important is touring?
With more and more Australian venues closing, musicians need to look further from our shores to attract an audience. Europe, Canada and the United States are popular touring destinations for local artists.
How has touring changed?
The local and international festival scene has exploded and it’s a really important way to get exposure. Plus there are also more places for up and coming artists to showcase their work - like Canadian music week and locally, Big Sound which champions new talent - and Stage and Screen are really proud to partner them. From a travel point of view, technology and Apps have made it so much easier to manage travel from your smart device – but there’s still no substitute for having a great travel manager on the end of a phone!
Your advice for new musos?
Don’t pay attention to what other people are doing. Be original and authentic - and find a unique voice that resonates with your audience.