Jacqui Walker: Amidst the ballads and impassioned lyrics, the instrumental breakdowns within songs, Jacqui Walker’s ethos shines through like a red hot sun.
“I’m a rocker,” she says confidently, knowingly, as if there was no question of her type. “I’m a blaring guitar-loving chick. I just love rock & roll.”
It wasn’t always this way. Though the crunchy keys and amped up boogies found on her self-titled debut emote rock & roll in its truest, Walker, came by way of the style in a rather atypical fashion. A Long Island native raised in Philadelphia, she was a student at the University of Pittsburgh when she got tabbed to perform as the jazz queen Billie Holiday in a one-woman performance of Rob Penny’s Crawford Grill Presents Billie Holiday. Walker still remembers the way the crowd took to her – most notably her father. “He was crying after the show,” she recollects. “That’s when I decided that singing’s what I had to do.”
Walker transferred to the University of Tampa and started studying music, getting into classical piano, guitar, jazz, tap, ballet, and voice. She hopped on a compilation CD that turned Depeche Mode into techno, then segued into live funk and soul via her first band, Grin. A move to Hollywood followed. There, she fell in with three bands – first, Tenbone Martini, then Urban Family Dog and If 6 Were 9. The latter, an homage to Jimi Hendrix’s 1969 Axis: Bold As Love classic “If 6 Was 9,” found Walker ushering out of funk and into rock & roll. “It was the black girl singing rock music,” she explained. “The whole Jimi Hendrix thing. It was a great feeling. The strength and confidence in the vocals, mixed with the crying guitar solos and gut-wrenching climaxes still get me every time.”
Walker embarked on her solo career after moving down to Texas, and has since shown a renewed energy and focus. On stage and behind a microphone she’s at home and at her most comfortable, whether out opening for famous figures like the Neville Brothers or Morris Day or in a juke joint nightclub back in Austin.