Interview: Jillian Jacqueline

by Ceylan Kumbarji
Interview with Jillian Jacqueline

Jillian Jacqueline has called a few places home. Philadelphia, where she was born. New York, where she toured with Kenny Rogers as a kid. Nashville, where she’s been for the past ten years or so. But now, she has one more place that feels like home… London.

We sat down with Jillian while she was here finishing up her shows with Kip Moore, where she told us how comfortable she feels in the city: “It’s a home away from home”, she says. She also loves to perform to fans in the UK, but this took her some time to get used to.

We found out more from Jillian about the differences in performing between the US and the UK, what she is working on at the moment and how important her emotions are to her music…

“It feels like more of an intentional relationship, I talk to a lot of the UK fans. They’re much more attentive. It’s almost unnerving, if you’re not prepared for it. I’ve realised now it’s more out of respectful, and wanting to listen to every word you’re saying. They’re paying attention to the lyrics in a way that you don’t often get in the States.” – Jillian Jacqueline

Taylor Magazine: Tell us a bit more about how you find performing in the UK, and how this differs to performing in America?

Jillian Jacqueline: A lot of times in America, country music is associated with partying. You know, ‘it’s Friday night, let’s get drunk.’ This isn’t my version of country, and even in the UK if there’s a huge amount of people, it still feels intimate. Kip’s show at Cadogan Hall in London felt like a living room. It’s such a special thing, it’s so cool.

Taylor Magazine: And how did you start in country music – what’s been your journey so far?

Jillian Jacqueline: I grew up listening to country music – my mum is from South Carolina. My sisters and I formed this little family band when I was about 9 years old, then I went on tour with Kenny Rogers for about 5 years.

Fast forward ten years, and I moved to Nashville right after college. I kind of dug into songwriting, I knew I wanted to get as good as the great songwriters in Nashville. I absorbed as much as I could and then I started writing. Waitressing, bartending and writing as much as I could. I would do photography on the side to pay my bills. And then a publishing company came along, then a label after that. 

I feel like I got lucky enough to start my career with music that I really believed in. I know that’s not always the case for people. You get into the system, and you end up putting stuff out and later you’re like now I’m going to put out a record that’s actually me. I’ve never had that.

Taylor Magazine: How important is it for you to put emotion into your music?

Jillian Jacqueline: So important! I cry all the time on stage. The other night I almost couldn’t sing God Bless This Mess because it’s still such a real thing for me. That song, and that message – I have a hard time getting through it. You can’t put a mask on and go on stage. I’m walking on stage and exposing my heart. No hiding.

I also get nervous before I perform, every time. Even as a little kid, I would get butterflies. It’s this fun, nervous high energy. You want to get out there and embrace it. Take a deep breath, settle into it and have a good time. It’s enjoyable anxiety – if that’s a thing!

Taylor Magazine: Has showing your emotions always been an important factor for you?

Jillian Jacqueline: From day one, the first song I released as a single was very personal. Reasons was about my ex and that break-up, so I think being able to introduce myself in a very brutally vulnerable way. When I released that song, everything was still going on with my ex. It felt very real and raw. Here I am, fully exposed. I think people feel that, and expect that. It’s been a good challenge for me to keep sharing my story and writing exactly where I am as an artist. Not compromise for the sake of what I think would work on the radio.

“Yeah I definitely know what that feels like. I’m very much a title-orientated writer. If I think of an idea that’s great for a song, I chase that. I’ll mould the song around that. But other times it’s also melodic. I’ve gotten into seasons of writing where I’m focused on the melody. Then it’s, what do I want to say?” – Jillian Jacqueline

Taylor Magazine: You’ve recently collaborated with Keith Urban on your song If I Were You – how is it to work with big names like that?

Jillian Jacqueline: It’s such a special thing. I was so nervous when I worked with Lori McKenna and Hilary Lindsey – those are two people I looked up to for so long. I went in the room with half a song written cause I wanted to impress them. But now that we’ve written more and gotten to know each other, it’s such a luxury with people that are craftsmen of what they do. I learn from them every time I get in the room. And that’s really important too as the artist. I have a story to tell, but I always want to be a student as well, and try to learn something new every time I write a song. It’s been such an incredible gift to get in the room with people like them.

Taylor Magazine: Who would be your dream collaboration be? 

Jillian Jacqueline: John Mayer would definitely be up there. I really love Troye Sivan, I think he is so brilliant, I love his last record. 

Taylor Magazine: Who is on your playlist right now? 

Jillian Jacqueline: Jade Bird and Brandi Carlile – I’m loving them right now!

Taylor Magazine: Do you have a favourite song that you’ve written? 

Interview with Jillian Jacqueline
Photo Credit | Alysse Gafkjen

Jillian Jacqueline: For some reason, I feel like Hate Me was always a favourite of mine because I felt like it came from a place that was very scary and very real. From what I’ve heard from people that have gone through something similar, they say that they’ve never heard it said in that way, and that is such a huge compliment as a songwriter. I wrote it in a way that they needed to hear, but didn’t know it could be said.

Taylor Magazine: There’s a big wave of female empowerment in country music right now that’s come out of the difficulties female artists face in the country scene. How do you feel about your connection with other female artists and songwriters? 

Jillian Jacqueline: It feels like you have an extra backbone, like if anything happens, that you feel is unjust or not respectful, you feel like you have an army of people behind you. And we all feel like we’re going through similar things in the country industry and it’s good to feel we’re not alone in it.

Taylor Magazine: It’s been almost a year since you released Side B, and two since Side A came out. Have you changed as an artist? How do you feel looking back on your work?

Jillian Jacqueline: Well, obviously I’ve experienced a lot in the music industry and my personal life that I knew nothing about when I wrote those songs. I’m probably in a more self-accepting phase of my life. I’ve chosen the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with, there’s not that energy of searching and I feel like I don’t foresee a bunch of heartbreak coming now…

I think there are still themes of fear and anxiety for the future that I’m still working on. So that hasn’t necessarily changed, it has maybe lessened in a few ways. And career wise, a lot has changed. Been a lot of roller coasters so, I think I have a lot more to say about that experience. There is also a lot that I haven’t explored yet too!

Taylor Magazine: So, what’s next?

Jillian Jacqueline: I’m making a record. My second fan club party which I’m really excited about. It was so special last year. Then basically just making the record, so I’ll go into hibernation mode. I have a couple of shows with Little Big Town and doing some festivals over the summer but it’s really record time.

Taylor Magazine: And what will this new record say?

Jillian Jacqueline: There’s too many themes to even say in one sentence, but people who have gotten to know me and my music will feel like it’s another step into my brain, and they’re also going to be on this journey with me, through my marriage. So they’ll get to hear all those stories and experiences that I haven’t got to touch on yet.

Having had a taste of some new material at her headline show in London back in June, we can assure you that the next era of Jillian Jacqueline is going to show a whole new side of her, while keeping that lyric vulnerability we know and love. Follow her on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook to get the latest news and updates on her new music.

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