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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Julia Jacklin discusses her accelerated breakthrough in the music industry

Just one year ago, 25-year-old Julia Jacklin was a factory line worker making essential oils in a Sydney suburb. Today, she is an up-and-coming alt-country musician, selling out shows on her first international tour.

Jacklin will release her debut solo album, Don’t Let The Kids Win, Oct. 7 via Polyvinyl Record Company (which also works with artists such as Alvvays, Deerhoof and Generationals). Her music is unique in its seamless blend of genres: Alternative, country, indie, rock and folk influences are all present on Don’t Let The Kids Win. While Jacklin’s sound does not tread new water, it definitely swims away from predictability.

Despite making waves in Australia and the U.K,. how Jacklin will fare on her tour’s North American leg has yet to be determined. She received positive reviews from a few American media outlets following her first U.S. performance at South By Southwest earlier this year. While she was still unsigned at that point, NME Music Blog declared Jacklin to be one of the festival’s standout artists. NPR even compared her to the likes of Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen. Luckily for Madison, Wis., we can judge for ourselves what the hype is all about when Jacklin comes to town this week.

Wondering what propelled Jacklin so rapidly to a position that many in the music industry covet, but few accomplish, I spoke on the phone with her about her come-up.

DC: When you began to play music as a solo artist two years ago, did you expect to find yourself releasing an album and touring internationally so soon?

JJ: Definitely not. Not at all. It happened a lot quicker than I was expecting for sure…It’s been a very big learning process in a very short amount of time.

DC: Where did you envision yourself today, career-wise?

JJ: I think my expectations changed dramatically as I got older and more aware of how the business works…when I was younger, I did have dreams of being successful, but what I thought “success” was then isn’t what I think it is now. I found it dangerous to have high expectations. So, in the last couple years I’ve been trying to just…work really hard, put my head down and then be kind of surprised along the way, instead of setting my hopes really high.

DC: Can you share your updated definition of success?

JJ: A couple years ago, I would have defined success as getting a record deal. I have a record deal now and it’s great, obviously, and it’s allowed me to do a lot. But now, my idea of success is to be able to play shows with people I really admire, and it’s releasing a really great second record, things like that. It’s more about the creative aspect than the market side of it that you think will completely fulfill you when you aren’t in the industry yet.

DC: Is there a certain person, organization or method you credit your current successes to?

JJ: I have a great team around me. I have a really great manager. There are a lot of cogs in the machine, you know, booking agents, label people and promoters that you don’t really see from the outside at all, working very hard to make it happen.

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I worked really hard on making my output consistent with my aesthetic, my music videos and my social media presence, which is really important. It’s shitty to say, but it’s such a huge part now of making sure that you’re putting out a really strong, or at least just consistent, image. I think I’ve done that and I think it has benefitted me. People can kind of grab onto [your art] a lot easier when you figure out what kind of artist you are.

DC: Your website says that you never knew playing and writing music was something you could do. Was that because you lacked faith in your skills, or because even the most talented musicians can have trouble breaking into the industry?

JJ: Both, definitely both. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone personally who was a musician. No family or friends who were doing it…I didn’t have a close role model to help me. And I had a late start because I didn’t pick up the guitar until I was 19 or 20. Learning to actually play and write well takes a lot of experience and time, so I didn’t think it was something that could fit into my life or my career.

DC: Don’t Let The Kids Win speaks thematically about running out of time—time to put out music, to accomplish your life goals, etc. Is this feeling of running out of time still with you now?

JJ: Yeah, it is. I’m not sure if that will go away. I’ve gotten better with how it makes me feel, though … I still feel that awareness [of time passing], but it doesn’t make me panic anymore. It kind of drives me forward.

DC: Recording your first album before the age of 25 was a life goal of yours. What goal do you aim to achieve next?

JJ: I’d like to put out my next album, a good follow-up to the first and do it by the time I’m 28…I’m not trying to look too far ahead right now because I feel like when I do, I get too overwhelmed and I start freaking out a bit.

DC: What would you say to people who, like you, have put deadlines on when they should achieve their dreams?

JJ: I think that’s the worst thing you can do is let it defeat you too quickly. The best thing to do is if you genuinely feel like you’ve left it too late, just give yourself like a year and forget about that. Forget about all that shit and work really hard. Then just see what happens. That’s what I would’ve regretted in the rest of my life, if I’d let that feeling get to me. And, you know, there’s so many stories about people who don’t get their break until they’re in their 30s or 40s…it doesn’t have to be a super youthful game if you don’t want it to be.

DC: What has been your biggest learning curve so far as a solo musician?

JJ: Probably just letting the little things go. When you’re playing every night, and you’re doing interviews a lot and you’re feeling very overexposed, in a way you can over-think, especially as a solo artist because it’s all in your name and your reputation. If you mess up a song in one gig, or you interview and feel like you’re misrepresented or you say the wrong thing…you have to just try to brush it off and focus on the next day. If you let that get to you at this level, when you’re doing so much, you just won’t be able to do [this job].

DC: Part of being an artist is giving yourself up to media to interpret and critique your art in ways that are mostly out of your control. What is one takeaway you would like our readers to know about you and/or your music?

JJ: I think I just want people to know that my album is kind of a snapshot of my early 20s, and that’s what I wanted from it. It’s my experiences and my views on the world at the time, which will obviously change. I feel extremely happy and privileged that I am able to do this right now. That’s hit me very hard in the last couple weeks.

Julia Jacklin plays at The Frequency Sept. 21.

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