Jenny Biddle by Sue Barrett

Singer/songwriter Jenny Biddle’s Australian tour kicks off in Sydney in early November. Now residing in Scotland, Biddle has new songs that reflect her Scottish experiences, as well as Australian-focussed songs, like ‘Our Darkest Day’ (about Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday bushfires).

What do you like most about Scotland?
Tunnock’s Teacakes – WOW! The accent. Trail walks through beautiful countryside. Castles – you can explore old ruins without trespass laws, overcautious warnings or fences. And green like you’ve never seen.

And what are you missing about Australia?
Decent avocados. Caramello Koalas. Sunshine. BBQs. Wi-Fi/internet. Petrol prices. We have it way better in Oz. Being surrounded by Aussie music: Liz Stringer, Cold Chisel, Sal Kimber, The Waifs, Missy, Kasey Chambers. And my mum – Hi Mum!

Give us examples of new words in your vocabulary
Bonnie. Lass. Wee. Ay. “Oh stop your blethering”. Blether means long winded talk with no substance.

How conducive is Scotland to song writing?
I’m in the gorgeous countryside, an hour south of Edinburgh. I find it peaceful and safe to create and experiment. Living in Melbourne’s CBD, I felt stifled and imprisoned. But then again, being happy in love isn’t so conducive to song writing. Song writing is always a delicate concoction of components.

Tell us about some of your new songs
I just got a Nord digital piano. And I’m in a piano writing phase!

Mildew Blues: Country singers keep singing about stormy times. And every album needs a light-hearted sing-along song to distract us from our woes. ‘Mildew Blues’ is an upbeat blues groove about the drabness of winter (which seems to last nine months a year in Scotland).

Believe in Yourself: A song writing group in Australia called The Writers Patch set composers the challenge of writing a gospel song. I’ve written an anti-gospel song about believing in yourself rather than a god. I’m wondering whether to put it on the next album, with a massive gospel choir.

Bridge has Burned: I pulled together a number of people’s experiences for this song about how life can suddenly take an unexpected turn through things like sickness, divorce, accident, chance meetings.

When you perform in Scotland/ Ireland/ England, are there certain words/phrases that you need to explain?
Yes! Bogan. Arvo. Wobbegong. Chuck-a-sickie. Bevvy. At first I worried that audiences wouldn’t understand me, but they seem to laugh in all the right places. I’m hoping they find the Aussie twang exotic, so I bung it on (there’s another term that needs explaining). The main problem is when THEY talk to ME. I came across a farmer in Ireland. Not understanding a word he said, I nodded politely, saying “yes” every now and then. Apparently I agreed to marry him.

Of your songs, which have received the most positive response in Scotland/ Ireland/ England?
That would be ‘Tailwind’: Then I burned all of my bridges/ I find myself alone on my knees/ Can I just send you my wishes/ On the tailwind of this summer breeze

In which ways are the Scottish/ Irish/ English music scenes different to the Australian music scene?
A lot is the same: Top 40, clubbing, singer/songwriters, people enjoying live music. But there’s also a lot of traditional music (and dance). In Australia, I guess we can think of folk music as The Waifs, but there’s something far more ancient in the UK/Ireland. People love their music…they just spend a lot more time enjoying it indoors.

Tell us about your upcoming Australian tour
I’ll be touring for two months across the Australian summer (choice!) – Tassie, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and places in between. I can’t wait to get back and share the new songs. I’m also thinking of doing a Q&A evening, to get to some nitty gritty personal stuff.

And what is coming up for you in 2017?
There’s the Cygnet Folk Festival in January 2017. And then comes album #6!

By Sue Barrett