Jackie Bristow Shares the Story Behind “Blue Moon Rising”

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Jackie Bristow’s new single, “Blue Moon Rising,” came out of what she calls “a spontaneous songwriting party.” 

The Nashville singer-songwriter wrote the song–premiering today on American Songwriter–while visiting her parents in her native Gore, New Zealand. She had just gone to see fellow New Zealander Ivan Clarke’s gallery, in Queenstown, and was particularly inspired by the painter’s ‘Lonely Dog’ series, in which anthropomorphized dogs and cats inhabit a fictitious universe called Port Alveridge.

“I wrote this song for fun when I was home visiting my parents in my hometown in Gore, New Zealand, inspired by Ivan’s art,” Bristow tells American Songwriter. “I became aware of Clarke though my mum Liz Bristow, as she is an amazing artist herself. At the time she was repped by a very good friend Bob Martin who was working with Ivan Clarke as well. Mum took me to Ivan’s gallery in Queenstown and I was so drawn into the art and I loved the story behind the paintings.”

Bristow wrote “Blue Moon Rising” in her parents living room during an impromptu songwriting session.

“My dad absolutely loves the blues–and I have not written many blues songs,” explains Bristow. “I wrote it with a blues feel for my dad, and while I don’t normally write songs with an audience, Mum and Dad and my sister were enjoying it so much I just went ahead and wrote the song in their living room. It was a spontaneous songwriting party.”

“Blue Moon Rising” is a sauntering blues number that pairs Bristow’s crisp, country-pop vocals with equally strong guitar, horn, and vocal contributions. Bristow takes her time as she varies the delivery of the song’s final refrain–“We gonna rock all night long”–with knowing confidence. She stretches the words out with a low, round vibrato that perfectly complements Tabatha Fair’s bright back up vocals.

“Back in Nashville, my producer Mark Punch added all the guitar parts, my good friend Tabatha sang some killer harmonies, and JT Thomas played organ, but the track was calling for a real live horn section,” explains Bristow. “Mark wrote the horn parts, as he has always been a huge fan of Stax Records and the Memphis Horns, so it ended up with that sort of vibe.”

For Bristow, the presence of a live horn section marks a new direction in her songwriting, and the horn section will also be featured on other songs on her forthcoming album. She credits a friend of a friend–Nashville studio musician Sam Levine–with setting all of this in motion.

“I was so lucky to meet Sam in Nashville through my friend Rick Price,” says Bristow. “Sam put the horn section together with some of the finest players around. I absolutely love the horns on the song and it’s a real departure in sound for me, and has taken the album into a different direction for many of the songs which is very exciting for me.”

Bristow began performing “Blue Moon Rising” last year in Europe. She tracked the song in Germany following positive responses from audiences.

“I started playing this song live last year at festivals, mostly in Germany and the audiences were really loving it,” says Bristow. “My record label and agent in Germany said they would love for me to record this song so we tracked it in Germany on our last day before we headed home to Nashville.”

Bristow’s forthcoming album will be her first since 2016’s Shot of Gold (her previous albums include 2011’s Freedom, 2007’s Crazy Love, and her 2002 debut Thirsty). She cites Bonnie Raitt as an influence, and has opened for the blues-rock legend twice. 

More recently, in 2019, Bristow released the single “Without You.” As with “Blue Moon Rising,” “Without You” was written in New Zealand but recorded in Nashville. It’s a bittersweet love song that sees the New Zealand-born singer-songwriter crafting some of the most beautiful, compelling Americana today: “I’ve been struck by love / it went straight to the heart,” she sings in a mournful lull, as slide guitar gradually gives way to violin, viola, and cello parts. “The world I know / would lose its color / without you.”

Taken together, the singles reveal Bristow to be a versatile songwriter with a penchant for finding inspiration in whatever’s around her–including those ‘Lonely Dog’ paintings.

“Blue Moon Rising” is out now.

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