Interview: A Conversation with Julia Jacklin

At the time of sitting down with Julia Jacklin, she’s just one performance and a few hours away from her first extended break in over a year. Wrapped up in waterproofs and sheltering from the rain inside one of End of the Road festival’s finest makeshift gazebos, it’s easy to see why she might be excited to leave the touring behind for a while.

 

“I’m actually flying to Croatia tomorrow. I’m spending a week by myself on this island and then I’m going hiking in Slovenia for two weeks. It’s just something different. No looking at my phone. Connecting with the outside world beyond music world; it sometimes feels as if it doesn’t exist.” This time last year, Julia Jacklin was here at End of the Road ahead of the release of her debut album Don’t Let the Kids Win. “I’ve been on tour pretty much constantly since then. I’ve been home a couple of times but not for that long at all. It’s been a baptism of fire.”

Nearly twelve months on from Don’t Let the Kids Win, new material beckons as Julia continues to write her sophomore album. With new releases in the pipeline (including today’s “Cold Caller”), Jacklin tells me that her next record is in process.  “I’ll hopefully be recording it early next year. I’m kind of going away for this time to finish writing it.”

With such clear themes of coming of age – quarter-life nostalgia and the consequences of getting older – her debut record came from the perspective of a young woman entering into a new phase of her life. Given Julia has now had a year to come to terms with being a professional touring artist, how then might her new life have shifted the sound and topical content of her upcoming material? “At the beginning, it did influence it a lot,” explains Jacklin, “I was writing songs about being away and touring, but I quickly realised those songs were kind of shit… I don’t want to write about being a musician. That sucks. Once I actually got used to touring; that’s when I started writing better songs. A lot of the stuff I’ve been writing about is just the relationships around me, which have changed a lot over the last year.”

Going from working in a factory in Sydney whilst playing the odd weekly gig in local pubs, suddenly Jacklin was touring the world, playing potentially six nights a week. With little time to adapt to her new life, it was a shock to the system at first. “At the beginning, it was quite hard managing the emotional highs and lows. It’s quite unnatural to spend that amount of time with a group of people. You’ve got to click into that professional mode really quickly.”

Much of Jacklin’s success in turning bedroom recordings into a recording contract can be put down to her attitude before getting signed. “I had a very strong idea about how I wanted to be represented before I had any kind of label interest,” she explains, “I never really thought about being signed. I just had my head down, working really hard on my music”.

For many unsigned artists, it can feel at times like songs and hard work aren’t enough. I ask Julia what advice she would give to bedroom artists who want to turn their passion into a career. “I think it’s really important you develop your image and your social media presence from day one,” she says after a long, thoughtful pause, “labels and managers want to see that they can take you as someone who has a really clear vision”.

As an artist who continues to direct her own music videos, there’s certainly no sign of Jacklin’s creative vision waning. The video for “Eastwick” was the latest in a line of visually striking videos she created and directed herself.  So is this something we can expect to see on the next record? “I don’t know,” she admits, “the only reason I think it’s worked is because we’ve had no budget and we’ve just had to make it work. I feel like I’m good at directing myself and maybe my singular friend… but I don’t know how good I’d be at directing more people if we had more money next time. I’d like to, though. It’s been really fun.”

Realised thanks to budget limits or not, Jacklin’s visual conceptions for new videos evidently remain a part of her creative process. “For the next record I’ve actually thought about the music videos before I’ve written the songs. I’ll have these ideas and think ‘that would be a sick music video…but what kind of song would work with that?’… maybe I’m in the wrong business.”

Coming full circle at this year’s End of the Road, the festival has been an important marker in her development as an artist. “When I first played here it was really early days,” she says, “I hadn’t released my record yet and it was one of the biggest festivals I’d ever played. We were on at midday and we thought there’d maybe be a few people sitting on some rugs or whatever, but it was a packed tent and the crowd was really attentive and respectful. It was the first time that I felt ‘oh, this is going well – people are responding well to this’. It gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year.”

The journey in between 2016 and 2017’s EOTR has provided Jacklin and her band with some memorable moments. She recalls her first visit to Glastonbury in the midst of a European tour. “I got a really bad stomach bug right before the festival and we were sleeping in these tiny tents,” she smiles as illustrates the scene, “I looked down at Glastonbury and I felt like I was looking down at an army waiting for battle in Game of Thrones. There’s just this loud, low bass – I felt like I was about to go to war”. In the build-up to the festival, co-organiser Emily Eavis took a shine to Julia, announcing her early. “Emily was really great in promoting my music, which was really cool. Looking back, I wish I’d explored the place more but my stomach pain was so bad. Each step would send a sickening pain through my entire body. I kept thinking ‘I’m at Glastonbury, this is a dream come true. You MUST enjoy this.’ I’ll do it properly next time.”

A critically acclaimed debut album left Jacklin in high demand elsewhere, at festivals and venues around Europe and the US. “I remember when I saw all the festivals I was playing and all their line ups. I was like ‘sick! I’m gonna see Radiohead, I’m gonna see Feist, PJ Harvey etc’… but literally every single person I wanted to see I’ve missed because we’ve come in at different times. I don’t even look at the line ups anymore. If I can see just one thing each time it’s a bonus!”

As well as getting in the way of plans to watch favourite bands, an intense year of constant touring can leave little time for a person to breathe. What then does this upcoming break mean to her? “Honestly for a while, I just want to live in a lonely, solitary cave,” she laughs, “after having human interaction non-stop for so long I’m travelling to get some time to myself and to decompress after this year. I’m so sick of seeing my own face everywhere I go. I’m sick of having to listen to my dumb voice. I don’t want to get my photo taken or think about putting up an Instagram photo or how I’m gonna look on stage… I just want to forget what I look like for a month.”

Right now, on the day Julia Jacklin released her latest single “Cold Caller”, she’s probably hiking in some Slovenian mountain range. There’s no doubt that her break is an eagerly anticipated and much deserved one, but it’s also likely to be a productive one. Seizing it as an opportunity to continue writing as well as rejuvenating, it’s the perfect opportunity to escape the distractions of the industry and take time to collect her thoughts – both personally and musically. One thing’s for sure, we can’t wait to have her back.

TOUR DATES

Latest single “Cold Caller”

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