If you have read any of my pieces on Jillian then you will know I have become a bit of a mega fan. Jillian is a phenomenal artist and quite possibly one of the strongest females to emerge in country music for a while. Her EP Side A is perfection and Jillian is the sweetest.
Jillian came over to the UK to be a part of Country Music Week and she became a fan favourite. I caught up with Jillian before her show with Drake White and The Big Fire at The Borderline. In a room full of people including her label, management and band, I felt completely comfortable as they were all so nice and friendly. Chatting to Jillian I almost forgot that there were about six other peole in the room. Jillian has the ability to make you feel relaxed and make you feel you can talk about anything. I even came out of the interview stating “Totally want to be her best bud” ha!
Jillian’s interview was interesting to me, find out about her music, her UK shows and who her song God Bless This Mess was originally going to be recorded by.
Hi Jillian how are you? Welcome to the UK. How has your week been so far?
It has been good; we flew in on Sunday night, so we have been here for quite a little while. I did have some jet lag, I’m not going to lie! I have been struggling a little bit with my schedule, just because every time I’m eating I feel like I shouldn’t be, so I haven’t been hungry. Monday night I had insomnia so I didn’t sleep the entire night and that kind of just threw me off for the rest of the week.
Is this your first time here?
No, I came twice before with my family for vacations but this is the longest that I have been here and honestly I never really saw much of it when I came before. I think I saw all the landmarks, but this time we got to see some more neighbourhoods. I went to Notting Hill; it was so gorgeous, we went for dinner there a couple of nights in a row, just because I really liked it.
You have a done a few shows already – how have they compared?
Yes, this will be our fourth show – and our last. It has been amazing! The first day was a really great acoustic set and was the first time that I really noticed people singing the words and stuff. A girl at the front knew all the words – and I tried not to cry.
That must have been amazing; were you expecting people to know the words to your music?
No, I had no idea what to expect, but throughout twitter and stuff you see people commenting and saying things. I did notice a couple of months ago that it seemed like people were liking the music in the UK, so I was excited to come over.
Did you know much about the Country fan base in the UK – or even how big Country music is in the UK now?
Yes, I have noticed that. I have been speaking to a bunch of people whilst I have been here and they are kind of saying that each year it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. It feels like people are really appreciating the artists and the lyrics.
Yes, we are an attentive crowd and we will know every album track and even songs you have sung once – next day, we will know the words.
Why do you think that is?
I think we have been deprived of Country music in the UK for so long that we go out of our way to find it.
That is amazing!
It has been really, really awesome just to watch how people who originally started listening in April and May, when we first put out Reasons and Hate Me, were really excited for more music. I didn’t know what to expect when we put those first songs out and then it came around August/September and we were like, ‘God, I want to give them more’, because people are really seeming to like these songs. I have a whole album finished. so I have about sixteen songs done, but I didn’t want to drop like sixteen songs at once, so I thought it might be cool to give people this first wave of music in an EP. The incredible thing is, you don’t really know as an artist what people are going to really resonate with because I feel like as humans we are a little bit diverse and people haven’t really flinched on that, they have accepted the EP and then kind of seen who I am and I feel like they can really appreciate that.
Yeah, it is almost like a taster in a way I guess?
How hard is it to pick songs for an EP?
It was a little tough. The first four were already decided because we really loved those first songs as the introduction – and then the next ones would be Holier Than Thou and Sugar and Salt. I really just felt that Holier gave the EP a roundedness because it’s got a little bit of sarcasm in it and it shows my brasher sense of humour, which I liked. Then Sugar and Salt – I just really love that song – and, based on people liking to hate me, I felt that they would really resonate with that song as well! Also these first six songs kind of work as a unit and then the next songs all really work well together in terms of tempo and ballad and all that.
So will you bring a ‘Side B’ out or just an album?
Yeah, I named it Side A because I wanted to imply that there was more coming. I am not sure what that is going to look like, I don’t know if it is going to be called Side B, but I do know that it is going to be a full project.
Cool. I love Bleachers!
Oh you do? Good!
Are you going to be performing that tonight?
Yeah, that was the curve ball and we are going to do that tonight, yes. Haha, I love that you love that song, I had a lot of fun with that one.
What was it like to write with Lori McKenna, as I hear she is a hero of yours?
She was one of those writers that when I moved to Nashville, I idolised. I could not get enough of her albums and I just thought that she was so incredible, because she writes a lot alone. Her stories are so intimate and particular and just very unique – honestly a lot of artists can’t cover or sing her songs because they are so specific. She is so warm and so down to earth; she’s a mum and she has been really, really sweet to me. I was at her house for about a day and a half in Boston and we wrote four songs. It was just an outpouring of ideas and inspiration and I think it’s because she is kind of like a mother where she makes you feel safe and comfortable and you can talk about your feelings – so, yeah, she is wonderful!
We had her over for a songwriters’ round a while back and when she finished singing, the others would just sit there staring, mouths open and then say “ Yeah, we don’t want to follow you.”
Haha, they got all googly eyed? Haha, she has that effect and she is so humble, I mean literally her song ‘Humble and Kind’ is just who she is.
And you wrote God Bless This Mess with her?
Tell us a bit about that song as you said several times that it is very special to you.
It is and honestly, I don’t know if I mentioned this on stage, but when I wrote that song I didn’t intend it for myself. It was pitched for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and they had it on hold for a year, so I didn’t even think about it. I was like, ‘It’s not my song, take it.’ Then they didn’t cut it, but it just kept popping up with my management who were like ‘It’s such a special song’, but I didn’t know if it would fit the whole perspective of the album. Then I sat with it when we were in the studio recording the album and I was like ‘I think I just need to get out of my own way here’ and let go of my ego about it and stop trying to make the album look a certain way, and let this song shine, because it’s a great message
Yes, and it is so beautiful.
Would you say your sound/style has changed much since Overdue and Keep This Safe?
Yeah, would you say? I am curious.
Do you know what? I was listening to them the other day and trying to decide this. Yes and no, I would say the new songs are more upbeat and more pop infused whereas the other two had more of a traditional side but at the same time, I think they would still fit on your EP.
Totally, yeah. They were definitely a snap shot of who I was at the time when I wrote them. I think as you get older, at least for me, I have just gotten a lot braver with what I am willing to say. I love those songs, I just think that as a songwriter I have tried to intentionally push myself and be more vulnerable with my writing.
Rolling Stone named you as one of Top Ten Country Artists You Need To Know; that must be pretty awesome?
That was really cool, that was like one of those ‘call home to your parents’ things and be like ‘Oh, my God – Rolling Stone’. It was awesome!
What other songwriters would you like to write with?
So many – oh, my gosh! I would love to work with Sia; I think she is so incredible. I would love to write with Ryan Tedder, I really admire his melodic sense. Vince Gill I would love to write with again – I only got to write with him once with Richard Marx and I would love to just get one on one with Vince, because anything he sings I like, his voice is like butter; it’s amazing.
Yeah, oh gosh! I learned so much from her about how to not put pressure on something, because she is like ‘Oh, whatever, yeah.’ She is very easy going. When I get into a writing room I can be a little like ‘This is what I want to do, this is how I want it to sound.’ and I have to kind of get out of my own way and out of my own head. I learned a lot from her about just relaxing, but yeah, I do learn a lot. It’s an interesting thing as a songwriter – you want to stick to what feels good to you, but you also want to keep your mind open to learn new things.
You opened for Ryan Adams – that must have been cool?
Yeah, I am like a huge, huge fan. When I got that phone call I nearly passed out in my living room because I was so excited. The whole experience was like cloud nine. It was surreal; it just felt like to be recognised by someone I admired so much as a songwriter and artist was really cool. His audiences were incredible and very respectful – yeah, they really seemed to connect with the music, which was interesting for me, because as a Country artist I didn’t think it would really translate but it did.
I guess he can be seen as on the cusp.
He is on the cusp for sure!
I love a lot of his stuff, especially with The Cardinals – but his cover of 1989.
I know right, that was a brilliant move on his part.
I can’t wait. I will be on the Spotlight stage inside the arena.
Will you be doing any other shows – any pop ups?
I don’t know yet, but I think we are working on other pieces.
Oh, I hope so; I would love to see you do one of the after parties.
Yeah, I will do anything they want me to do. I am so excited.
Can we get a hint at when to expect the album?
Definitely next year for sure, I don’t know when, but I would guess spring, summer. I am ready to get it out.
Thank you so much for chatting with me today. – It has been an absolute pleasure and I cannot wait for the show tonight.
Lovely to talk to you too, thanks so much. I will see you out there.
Purchase Side A by Jillian Jacqueline here