Scottish duo JuBillee are about to be the next big thing in UK country.
The group – formed of vocalist Justine Wilson and singer, guitarist and pianist Billy Warren – have already seen chart success, with their single Don’t Make Me Look Into Your Eyes topping the iTunes Country Chart and reaching the Top 40 in the UK. Now they’re preparing to release their debut album, You And I, on 6th November.
Ahead of the album’s release I spoke to Billy and Justine about the process of making the record, their new single Bed Of Lies, the success of Don’t Make Me Look Into Your Eyes, working with legendary producer Billy Farrell and more.
How would you describe your music?
Billy: Well we would say we’re country-pop with a bit of attitude. That’s what we like to say.
Justine: With a bit of a twist from normal mainstream country.
Your new album You And I is coming out on Friday – what can you tell us about it?
B: Yeah, well the album really comprises of multi-writers. There’s a lot of writers involved on the album. So some different styles but obviously all still country-pop. What else can we say about it really?
J: There’s a good mixture in there between your country pop, there’s really quite poppy sides to it…
B: Yeah, we’ve got a rock edge as well.
J: There’s one of them that’s quite kind of line dancey, so it’s quite country. There’s some country ballads. It tells a whole story.
B: Yeah, it does, and it’s a very dynamic album. Very good.
I’ve read you had about 80 per cent of the record done before you went into the studio and then things evolved. Was that something you’d planned or did it just come out of the recording process?
B: Well basically when we were approached some of the songs were already written by others. So the songs were kind of sent to us from the other writers, which we really loved and we took them on. And then the others we wrote ourselves, and it’s something we put our own interpretation of, our own stamp on when we went into the studio.
Congratulations on the success of Don’t Let Me Look Into Your Eyes. Did you know it was special when you were putting it together?
J: We did get a good feel from it. Obviously we’ve gained a lot of fans via Facebook over the past couple of months, and we obviously go Facebook Live every Sunday. We were performing Don’t Make Me Look Into Your Eyes every single week and the comments were getting better and better. People were setting it as their ringtones, they’re like, “I want this to be my wedding song”. So we knew people really loved it. People were going, “I know all the words and I’ve only listened to it a few times”. The feedback was amazing. So when it did so well, obviously we didn’t expect that.
B: We were surprised but we weren’t surprised. We were surprised how well it did but we weren’t because it’s such a good song, such a feel good song, and from the moment we heard it we knew it was a winner.
You’ve mentioned the Facebook Lives – how have you found the shift to online performance from in-person shows?
J: It’s something we’ve never, ever had to do before.
B: Yeah, it was just the whole thing with the lockdown. Believe it or not, when we think about it we don’t understand why we didn’t ever really do it. Nobody had ever really went live – people were so busy gigging at the weekends and we never really got a chance. So when we had the lockdown we said, “you know what, let’s go live”.
J: To begin with we were doing it for ourselves.
B: Yeah, just to keep the voices moving. And to our surprise the very first week it was like 600, 700 people watching and from there it just gained wings.
J: It’s phenomenal.
B: Yeah. Now we’re at like 2,000 plus viewers every week. It’s brilliant.
J: It’s our lives now. We can’t not do it any more.
I also wanted to ask about Bed Of Lies which is your new single. Can you tell us more about that?
J: Well that’s a bit… Billy’s in the doghouse, ain’t you? [laughs] Actually we personally didn’t write that song. We got asked that question because obviously when the video came out and it was matched up to the audio, it was like, “Did something happen?”
B: “Was Billy a bad boy?” But no, absolutely not. We don’t really know the motives behind that song. It wasn’t us that wrote it.
J: But we absolutely love it. It’s got such a story.
B: So good, yeah.
J: And the music video to go along with it, just the whole thing is like a melty song. It’s one of those songs you just kind of secretly fall in love with.
I also wanted to ask about your songwriting – do you have a typical approach or does it vary depending on the song?
B: Yeah, well I would say… people write songs in different ways. I like to start off with hooks, I like to start off with building up whether it be a one-line hook, whether it be a three-note hook, it doesn’t matter what it is but you build on the hook and then you start your structure. I personally like to do the music side and the melody side first before I do the lyrics. Other people like lyrics and adding music to the lyrics. I find when you’ve got the music in front of you, you’ve got more of a dynamic look into what sort of lyrics you would need to go with that pattern.
Were there any songs on the album that were particularly easy or particularly difficult to write?
B: No, I think it’s all really the same. It’s just we have to get into the zone when we’re doing stuff. If we’re not in the zone, we find it difficult. It’s like everything else in life, isn’t it?
J: There were some that started easy but then it grew arms and legs and ended up being very complicated and quite difficult. There’s some that start quite slowly and then it just ends up easy.
B: Yeah, there’s a song that I wrote and it just didn’t fit on the album. Sometimes these things happen. Sometimes your style can be slightly different and it’s not gonna suit the album, so the song didn’t quite make the album. But again, maybe next time around. You never know.
Do you ever get writer’s block? And how do you deal with it?
B: Oh, yeah [laughs]. Writer’s block, again it comes from so much going on in your family life and not being able to shut off at certain times and other things on your mind. So it is quite difficult. But at the same time, when we’re writing, I’ve got a terrible… I can’t shut off sometimes and I’ve gotta get up during the night and do things.
J: I’m like, “What are you doing? It’s five in the morning” [B laughs] and he’s like, “Sorry Justine, this song just came into my head and I had to write it down”. I woke up one morning and it was about half four in the morning, he was lying in the bed beside me with the earphones on. He’s set up all the stuff and I’m like, “What are you doing?” and he was like, “Sorry I had to”.
B: So yeah. You get writer’s block but you also get…
J: Moments of madness!
B: Moments of madness, yeah.
You’ve worked with Billy Farrell on this album – what was it like working with him?
J: Phenomenal. He’s a lovely, lovely man.
B: He’s a lovely man, loves JuBillee as well by the way.
J: So approachable.
B: So easy to work with, knows his stuff inside out. And he really did bring a great production and idea to the songs featured on the album. Fantastic. To just know that somebody as big that’s worked with the Corrs and wanted to work with us and produce our stuff, it’s just so good.
What’s the one song you wish you’d written?
J: Oh wow! I’m stumped for that one.
B: I would say a few of the Evanescence songs. I think they’re very my sort of… I actually listen to them sometimes and think, “I could have wrote that. And I just wish I had” [laughs]. It’s things like that, “I wish I had thought of that first.” But there’s so many good songs that you kind of wish you’d written. But I’d say a couple of Evanescence songs – My Immortal, Lost In Paradise.
What would be on your bucket list as a band – people you’d want to work with, places you’d like to play etc?
J: Well the big aim would be selling out Hampden [Park].
B: Selling out Hampden, yeah.
J: That’s the goal! [laughs] That would be amazing.
B: Even firstly, as you were saying, who d’you want to work with and whatever, I don’t think any kind of producers and stuff come to mind. I know people say, “I’d love to work with will.i.am”. It’s not so much that, but we would love to start off even supporting a major act. Getting asked to go and support Shania Twain at Hampden…
J: Oh, man!
B: …would be just phenomenal.
J: Life changing.
B: That’s where we’d start and we’d just take it as it came.
J: Yeah, take it baby steps to get where you need to be.
B: Yeah, well the next step is the album’s coming out the 6th of November.
J: Yeah, we’ve got an album launch coming up – there’ll be a live stream for that because obviously in the current situation we can’t have a physical album launch, so we’re all adapting to the situation we’re in right now and we’re doing the best we can. And after that when the album’s out and we’ve had the launch we’re gonna start focusing on writing our second album.
Have you got any idea of what the next record will be like yet? Is it going to be similar to this one or something totally different?
J: Well on the next album we’re definitely gonna be writing a lot more because we’ll have more time. Over 80 per cent of our songs that we have written, so we’re probably gonna go with a similar approach but who knows how you start getting into it? It can completely turn around.
B: It’ll still be of the kind of pop/rock/country style. We have a real identification with these kinds of songs. We’re not really massive country fans as such…
J: Not your hillbilly style.
B: But we do love, as we mentioned Shania Twain…
J: We’re kind of heading towards sassy country, rock…
B: With the energy.
J: Yeah, as you’ll hear on the album it’s very in your face…
J: Quite sassy, attitudey, fun people.
JuBillee’s debut album, You And I, will be released on 6th November 2020 on Vacancy Records.
The band will also be performing a Happy (Half) Hour for Destination Country patrons on Thursday 5th November at 8 PM – click here to register and find out more.