Jennifer Batten has played guitar for two of the biggest and most discriminating artists of all-time: Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck. In addition, she has carved out a successful solo career with a one-woman show. I was lucky enough to be front and center in Austin at the MeowCon conference where she was speaking about her career.
In a candid interview with Beth Marlis (photo below) here’s some of the perspective and insight Jennifer shared…
- As a kid she would take a 60’s electric guitar around her neighborhood and pose like a rock star
- At 12 she announced that she wanted to be a professional guitar player- the fact that it was a competitive business meant nothing to her.
- Jennifer attended Guitar Institute in California and spent five days a week in lab woodshedding what she learned in class. There were 60 guys and Jennifer and she was super-scrutinized as a player. She was the first female graduate.
The Big Call
- She was called for the Michael Jackson audition and when she ‘got the gig’ she said it was like “being transported into another world.” She learned the songs from cassettes and rehearsed with the band before she ever met Michael. When she joined the tour he was at the peak of his career, selling one million records a week.
- When the band went to Tokyo, Michael shut down Tokyo’s Disneyland to hang out with the band without all the ‘riff-raff.’
- The first complement that she got from Michael was “I like how you’re playing the Beat It song.”
- Jennifer said that Michael was a genius with his awareness of the audience, and he understood that "music was a foundation to a larger theater production- just a backdrop to the show.”
- One of her career highlights was in 1993 playing Super bowl 27 in front of 1.5 billion people with Michael.
- Jeff Beck was her guitar hero and she was hoping to meet him at one of Michael’s shows, but he canceled. She called him and said she wanted to meet him anyway and get an autograph. A few months later, he called her and said “let’s do a record.”
- She ended up ‘forcing’ an audition on Jeff, then going out on tour with him in 1998.
- Jennifer commented that Jeff is one of the most creative people she has ever known, and he never rests- he is always growing. He even once played a song on a whoopee cushion when they were hanging out.
Advice to Live (and Rock) By
- When it comes to guitar, Jennifer maintains it’s important to find your own voice as a player and plant the knowledge you gain in your subconscious.
- Jennifer also said that it’s important to love it, and stay balanced. Don’t let the negativity and jealousy drag you down. Put your art out there and you will draw the audience you draw.
For more information about Jennifer and her touring schedule, visit her website.