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Jillian Jacqueline interview

The rising singer-songwriter talks about her Side A E.P., performing in the UK and more!

Jillian Jacqueline
Credit: Patrick Tracy

Jillian Jacqueline has been building a serious buzz the past year by releasing a series of songs with accompanying music videos, which culminated in the release of her excellent E.P. Side A.

Recently Jillian was in the UK for Country Music Week, where she performed four times over the course of the week. By the week’s end she was one of the most talked about artists after wowing Country music fans with her songs.

I sat down with Jillian to talk about her bold songwriting, discuss her recently released Side A E.P., and to find out how she’s feeling about coming back to the UK in March for C2C: Country to Country.

The audience at the Drake White and Kip Moore show last night was crazy. What was it like for you opening for them?

It was really, really fun. It was our first full band show this trip and we were just all super excited to play. I was surprised. You don’t know what to expect because I’ve never been here as an artist so to see people in the front knowing the words and seeming really excited to be there…it was emotional. There was a moment where I looked at a girl in the front and she was singing God Bless This Mess and she was tearing up and I was like, ‘oh no, oh no, don’t make me cry!’ It’s just felt like a really warm welcome here and obviously through social media I knew there were some people here that had heard my music. They were saying ‘come, we can’t wait to see you!’ but you don’t expect to play a show and have people actually know who you are. It’s felt really cool.

During Country Music Week you’ve opened for two of the biggest shows of the week, that both sold out in minutes. Did that make you nervous or are you excited to play to such enthusiastic crowds?

Oh my gosh! It’s great. It’s makes me want to come back every single month. It’s a little different in the US I think because you guys, from what I’ve gathered, have heard my music already and have really invested in the E.P. In the US it’s just more saturated and there are more artists so there’s less of a concentrated listening to what I do. I still feel like I’m kind of getting there with the US but here I was really surprised that people knew the words. Knowing that people are actually paying attention is unbelievable. I will definitely be telling everyone on my team that we have to try to come back as much as we can just because it feels like people care. They’re buying the merch and they’re learning the words and that’s all you can hope for as an artist.

 

You’ll notice tonight everyone will know every word to every song. We see it time and time again at C2C when an artist plays a song they wrote recently and everyone knows the words…

How?! I played a new song last night that I never played live before and it’s not recorded anywhere. Today people that were there last night were singing the words and I don’t know how they learn them that fast. It’s crazy!

Let’s talk about E.P. Side A. I’ve been listening to a lot and it’s quite bold lyrically and brave. I hear things in your music, particularly in Reasons, that you don’t generally hear people singing about. You look at relationships from different perspectives. Let’s start with Reasons. It’s really refreshing to hear somebody saying, ‘this just isn’t working’. How personal and raw was that for you?

Extremely. I think the reason why that song really has resonated, if it has at all, is because it feels both sides of the story can probably relate. In any relationship when there’s two people that love each other as people but they know it’s just not working, nobody wants to be the first one to really admit defeat and say goodbye because it’s hard to be the bad guy. I think the fact that I tried to write it from the perspective of being super open minded and objective and fair, I think that resonates.

It’s not saying like, ‘you’re the bad guy. How dare you do this?’ It’s more like we both have to admit that this isn’t working. It takes two people to have a relationship. When you said it feels ‘bold’ it’s funny because I’ve been writing in Nashville for seven years and it really took me a minute to find my groove with my producer. He and I started writing very heavily from the very beginning but when we would bring other writers in, there was a lot of times where I was like, ‘well that just didn’t work’ because I wanted something so specific as the outcome of the song and I felt sometimes it would get pulled into a more commercial or safe place. I felt like, ‘man that’s not really how I want to say it’ and I wanted to say it a little bit weirder and odd.

What I found is that when I started writing more exclusively with him and very specific other people, that’s when the songs really started to become completely 100 percent like, ‘yes I haven’t ever heard this before and this is how I want to say it’. I appreciate you listening and gathering that from it because you it wasn’t an overnight thing it. It was years of writing and really figuring out how to do that.

I really like the approach you’ve taken in regards to releasing your music. By releasing a song every few weeks, you really caught me off guard. I thought I had a handle on you after the first song but each song showcases a different side to you. Was that a conscious thing that you wanted to show the range and versatility you have as both an artist and a writer?

Yes for sure. It’s so interesting to hear from your perspective because I don’t know what it feels like to someone on the other side just receiving the information. I think about that a lot you know? What is it going to feel like for them? This is all they know so far and then here’s another thing. Is it going to be jarring or is it going to be really exciting? When we put out Bleachers, I think we were all a little bit like, ‘Oh here we go’ because it’s so different. I feel like it was carefully doled out in pieces where you you knew Reasons and then Hate Me is like a similar storyline but it’s a little bit more country sounding maybe or however you want to interpret it.

Bleachers is the curveball and it shows a more universal fun side because I do have that. That song was really just like throwing paint on a canvas. It was so much fun to paint this almost Gwen Stefani/No Doubt type of vibe when we did it. I think I think I like to keep it interesting and I definitely didn’t want to put out two songs where people were like, ‘oh yeah I understand. Like I get it!’ I wanted people to get to know the depth of the project.

Hate Me is my favourite of your songs so far. If you hear blubbering and wailing in the back when you sing it later, that’ll be me…

It’ll be me too (laughs)

Sorry in advance! Again it’s another example of how bold you are with your music. What’s the story behind that one?

I wrote it right during during my break up with my ex and we both live in Nashville and so there was a lot of, ‘OK how are we going to pull these lives apart after five years or are we going to get back together? What’s really happening? What’s going on?’ I think there is this moment that dawned on me when we had a conversation and I’d gone over to his house and it was like, ‘God it would be so much easier if we weren’t trying to be friends and make amends and make it work, I just really want to be angry. I want to be fuming and pissed off and so mad that I never want to see you again!’

I tried to hone in on that and I had the words ‘Hate Me’ written in my phone. I think they were part of another sentence but I was in with my producer and we were just talking about what we were going to write that day with Hillary Lindsey, who is incredible. I was nervous. She was coming in and I was like, ‘oh God I want to have a really good idea for Hillary. She’s so amazing I want to impress her’. That chorus, the way you hear it. We actually said it all at once very conversationally and he played the piano and I just started singing over it. In 30 minutes the whole chorus was done.

Hillary got there 30 minutes later and we were like, ‘OK so if you hate this it’s totally fine, no pun intended, but we came up with this thing and we played it for her and she was like, ‘oh my God that’s really, really cool’. She has this very disarming personality, as many great songwriters do, and she started talking to me about the details like, ‘what can you tell me? What did you see in that conversation? What did you feel?’ That’s where things like the coffee cup from Portland come in and all these real examples. She really helped us to make it extremely personal and real. The first five times I played that song out, I was crying. The vocal that you hear in the recording is the first, that was the day we wrote it. That was vocal! I firmly believe if you capture something in its essence right as it’s created, there’s just an emotion that doesn’t ever exist again because then you start analyzing it. The performance I feel is extremely raw.

 

During your performance last night, you announced that you’ll be coming back in March for C2C…

Yeah I just found out yesterday and I’m so excited. We’ve been here for five or six days and today Don’t want to leave and go back home. It’s really fun that we get to come back in just a few months. I don’t know much about it. I’ve never been. People have told me some stuff, just details of what it’s going to look like in the arena and what to expect but I’m assuming it’s just going to be a bigger version of (Country Music Week), which is really, really cool. I just want to meet more people that are listening to the music. I’m just excited to play.

The C2C crowd is very, very enthusiastic and passionate. They will do all of their research before it starts so they know all of your music…

That’s unbelievable. I don’t think we really have a festival quite like that. Where I’m from, for everyone that goes it’s like a lifestyle. Something like Stagecoach you have so many artists that people want to see specific artists. There’s a 100,000 people but (C2C) feels like you’re going to be in a room and all these people are friends. I love that.

Now that Side A is out there, what’s next for you? Will we be getting a Side B at some point in the future?

The Side A title I decided to use because it sort of says to people there’s something else coming. The funny thing is when I signed my record deal last year in October, I recorded the full album in November. There are 16 songs completely done. These first six that you’ve heard, are just the first few. I’ve written more since then so the intention is to complete it with a full album so Side A will essentially be pulled into a bigger project. We don’t know quite how that’s going to unfold yet.

I just love the freedom that we have right now to kind to dole stuff out as we want to. If a few months go by and I feel like people want another song, I can give them another song. We’re on a radio tour for 13 more weeks. The radio single doesn’t go for ads until January. The E.P. is more just a way of giving people something to have until we start moving forward on the rest of the album. I can’t wait for you to hear it. I know there’s songs that are on it that I’m like, ‘oh my gosh I just want to put this out now because I’ve lived with it for a year’. I’m like, ‘oh my god. Please go let me write more songs and get rid of these!’ but you have to have patience I’m learning. Patience is a virtue (laughs).

Jillian Jacqueline’s Side A E.P. is available to stream and download now.

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