Julia Jacklin On Her Upcoming Album, The Intricacies Of Songwriting And Getting Famous Fast

Julia Jacklin’s slow, swung alt-country folk music is fast approaching the bright lights of international stardom. Her songs are rich with imagery and nostalgia, pairing her deadpan coolness with her razor sharp wit. Her singles Pool Party, Leadlight, and Coming of Age have already been met with wide-open arms both here and overseas, and the release of her debut LP is only a few sleeps away. Blue Mountains-born and Sydney-based, Julia Jacklin has had an exceptionally busy year performing intimate solo shows through to massive festivals in front of newfound fans all over the globe.

Currently in the midst of a huge UK, European and US tour, she managed to find some time to have a chat to us on a Michigan roadside, mid-pit-stop-dinner. We touched on the intricacies of her songwriting, having to grow a thick skin in a short amount of time, and the awesomeness of Father John Misty’s torso stacked on top of her legs.

“I’m trying to just focus on this tour,” she says “I feel like if I look too far ahead right now I feel slightly overwhelmed so I’m kind of going week by week right now. But I’ve also been told that next year is really going to depend on how well the album is received which is equally exciting and terrifying… I think a lot will come down to that. We’ll see in a months’ time if it goes well or not!”

The momentum that her career has gathered over the last few months would be startling for anyone, even Julia, who is a particularly laid-back kinda lady. But, she explains, “It’s pretty insane how much time for self-reflection there is on a tour like this. A lot of driving and flying and a lot of time to think and a lot of experiences that I have haven’t had before. Just trying to get a thicker skin, I think.

“Playing shows this much, you know, I’ve never played this many shows in this short amount of time. And all in very different environments, different gear, different sound quality, different audiences, and having to constantly adjust to that and not get down if something doesn’t go as well. Back home, you know the venues and you know what works…. If the show isn’t amazing, [I’m] not letting it get me down, just move on and focus on the next show.”

Still, even being so far from home and playing to so many new audiences, she has noticed a following that’s starting to cultivate, now.

“We played this show at the End of The Road Festival, which is in the UK, and we weren’t really expecting anyone [to be there]… We were on at 12:30pm on Saturday, so it’s very early, you know, everyone was gonna be too hungover. [That time slot] is a hard slog at a festival… We were gearing up for just a few passed out people lying on the grass in front of us or something in the tent. But, when we walked from backstage out onto the stage the tent was absolutely packed and they weren’t letting any more people in and it was actually over 2000 people watching.

“There were people singing along to a couple of songs. The UK are super supportive in terms of radio play too, which I wasn’t super aware of, so I think that just kind of hit home.

“I also saw a few people [in Canada] singing along to Pool Party so that was cool. It was a nice new festival to meet new fans and make new fans and stuff… Electric Picnic Festival was very muddy, extremely muddy. We were playing on a stage that was near the trippy electronic forest area. So we had quite a few messed up people covered in fluorescent paint stumble in and then sway right up front. But it was very cool.”

Alternating between playing with a full band to playing solo throughout this tour takes some getting used to, she says, “it’s pretty weird. It’s one of those things where you just kind of have to really adjust and not feel like the songs are inferior. When you play it with such a full sound and then you take it back to solo, you can hear the band when they are supposed to come in and when they don’t you’re like ‘ugh’. It’s a bit anti-climactic. But it’s good, it’s challenging.”

Jacklin played solo at a little open mic night in Redfern on a brief visit back to Sydney a couple of months ago, which she explains was important to her. “Especially when you’re playing shows like I am right now, I can’t really afford to get up there and try out new stuff that might or might not work. I really love open mic nights still, as ways to focus on the craft of songwriting and not get so caught up in the showiness of being in the industry I guess, and it all being very strategic [with a] focus more on the other things, not the actual creative process. I’d been craving going back to the Sunset Sessions for ages. I hadn’t been for a long time. I really cherish those nights. I’m definitely going to try to squeeze one in when I’m back. I’ve written some songs on the road so I’m going to try to give them a spin.

“I’ve been writing quite a bit on this trip actually. It’s been good. I’ve been wondering if touring would be a good environment to write. Some people say that it’s just terrible (laughs) like they need to be in just one place for a while. But, I’ve found that I’ve had a lot of time to think and to run over new ideas and stuff so it’s been really good for that… I played with this band called Big Thief, in Germany. Their songwriting was just mind blowing. It was one of those things where you’re just watching a new act and listening to brand new songs that are so amazing and it makes you go ‘oh man! That’s just so incredible! I need to go back to my hotel room and work on something’.”

She explains the way writing developed for her as a kid. “I always kept a diary, that’s been something that has been with me for a really long time. But it took me a while to put that into my songwriting, ‘cos I guess I started writing folk music and I felt like I had to write very seriously, about things that didn’t really mean anything to me, but sounded like a proper folk song. But I started to realise that when you are a bit more honest and you inject your personality into your music it always seems to pay off a bit more. People connect to it a lot more… I think it takes a long time for people writing music to eventually realise that a lot of the time it’s you that’s different to everybody else. That’s what’s going to make your music stand out, just because you’re not anyone else. ”

Julia Jacklin’s upcoming album was recorded in New Zealand along with the filming of her video for Pool Party. The video for Leadlight, however, was filmed at her old Blue Mountains high school.

“My Mum is a Japanese teacher at Winmalee High. She was my Japanese teacher, so she pulled a few strings… It was really cool. I spent a lot of time in that school hall because I did band and all the talent quests and performance assemblies and musicals. So I definitely sang a lot on that stage as a kid. So it felt cool to go back there quite a few years later to film a music video. I didn’t think that would be something that would happen.”

And when she lands back in Australia for the summer, there are a few festivals on the cards. “I’m really looking forward to that,” she says, “I’ve never really played an Australian festival before actually… All these Australian festivals coming up are my first Australian festivals really so, I’m really keen to feel a bit more a part of the Australian music scene, ‘cos I feel like I’ve been away a lot this year in other areas of the world, so that’ll be really nice.”

And with so many goals being kicked this year, who is the ultimate person to share a stage with, considering just about anything may now be possible?

“Father John Misty. He helped me a lot with my lyrics a while back, so it would be cool to play a show before him… He’s not aware of this. His songwriting helped me, I should say… It was so weird [when he tweeted a picture] of my legs and his torso. So yeah, who knows? I don’t know if he just saw the legs and has no idea who I am, or if he heard some music.

“Hopefully both, but maybe just the legs.”

Julia Jacklin’s debut album ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’ is out October 7th

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