Kwame Anderson
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Dancing For Yourself Ain’t Bad: An Interview with Julia Jacklin

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Julia Jacklin. Photo: Nick McKinlay


“Age considers, youth ventures.” - Rabindranath Tagore


While I’m not familiar with the person who made this statement, I do agree with the sentiment. Julia Jacklin released her debut album Don’t Let The Kids Win last November, and while the songs were not specifically about youth, they were about being young. Being young is not to overthink, it is to embrace the fall because wounds heal, it is to love hard as a result of knowing little of love but also of believing in love, because youth is a wide open field; it is unmarked terrain, it is possibility and hope.


“It’s all my own story,” notes Jacklin. “I guess I don’t yet write from not my own perspective because I think the beginning, like when you first write songs, it’s always better to write what you know. I think it requires a lot of skill and a lot of practice where you can get to the point where you can write from other people’s perspective and still make it personal or make it make it translate. So I guess wrote all of the songs from my own perspective, but I wrote it at a time in my early 20s, a time when I think you’re going through a lot of changes. One minute, you think you’re like a great, interesting person and the next day you can feel completely boring and completely lacking in anything particularly interesting about your personality. So I think that [the songwriting] is more a reflection of the changing state of me during that time.”


“These new lines on my face, spell out girl pick up your pace, if you want to stay true to what your younger self would do.” - “Motherland“


Here are the stories of inebriated friends (“Pool Party“), out of town trysts (“Same Airport, Different Man“), dancing alone to find solace (“Sweet Step“), people watching and cheap wine (“Small Talk“) and the like. I’m not a fan of the term “alt-country,” but I can see finding a place for Jacklin’s music, very much influenced by folkier rock and maybe country. But when one hears a song like “Leadlight,” a Patsy Cline kind of flow, a love song; “I love you my darling, I do, but I can’t let possession make a fool of you,” because of course in happenings of the heart, “I can’t promise that I’ll be here to see this whole love through.” Don’t Let the Kids Win, if it is coming from a first person perspective, is very vulnerable when sometimes the play of day is to be guarded to preserve one’s self.


“It’s definitely not something you think about when you’re writing music, like, ‘Oh, I’m going to have to perform this feeling every night,’” Jacklin states. “Or I’m going to have to perform these words night after night, especially for this record because I didn’t expect it to lead me into what I’m doing right now, I guess. It’s a bizarre thing that I’m sort of still getting my head around. I went through a stage like a month ago where it finally hit me how this whole thing works, but you do sort of end up feeling like you’ve manufactured or commercialized a feeling that you had at the time that was really beautiful and small and have to perform it every night. You don’t revisit it every night — I don’t — it’s more you feel like you’re a bit of a fraud or something, performing a song that you don’t have an emotional connection to anymore, night after night. But I think that’s kind of the part where you’re like, ‘Oh right, I am doing this as a profession now,’ and that’s just kind of one part of it. You have to figure out ways to rethink the song and reconnect with them for the audience’s sake. It’s not about you anymore and what you want or what you feel about a song.”


“Same airport, different ride home; Last time I went to my mother’s, this time to my own.” - “Same Airport, Different Man”


“I don’t have too much of a problem singing about myself in front of people because I feel like my experiences are pretty similar to a lot of people,” adds Jacklin. “I don’t think I say anything that’s like, really embarrassing or really mean, so I don’t have too much of a problem with it these days, you know. I’m a young person and everyone I grew up with talks about themselves all the time, so it’s not really unusual.”


Julia Jacklin will be in town Saturday, May 6 at the White Oak Music Hall, opening for Andy Shauf. The show is some ways the final stage of the cycle. You are no longer alone, or in a controlled space (now by you, anyhow). You are there amongst others sharing a personal experience, possibly even getting see the human on and off stage who has captivated a bit of your mind and heart. It can beautiful or horrible. But it’s an experience, for the artist as well; for you it is treasure, for them it is, perhaps, Tuesday or Saturday, or what day is it again? Some go for the flash, making the song larger than life to give the song a new life or maybe just life, but the realness is the song. It is much easier to make a production than it is to let the song stand on its own pyrotechnics.


“For me, I think it has a lot to do with the genre that I write and play, that I never really worried about that because it’s so much about the songwriting, not just about the sonics,” Jacklin notes. “Definitely in the beginning all I cared about was that we performed the songs well and people could hear the lyrics. I can totally understand the people who spend a whole lot of time in the studio making things sound a particular way, but for me, I didn’t really do that in the studio. It wasn’t about trying to get the best guitar tone or trying to get the best vocal tone, we were just more like, ‘Let’s just make sure that the feeling is there and the vocal performance is there and everybody’s like very immersed in what the song’s about.’ For me, that’s always been way more important than worrying too much about the sound component, as long as everyone’s playing their parts right and people could hear it, that’s good for me.”


“I’ve got a feeling, that this won’t ever change, we’re gonna keep on getting older, it’s gonna keep on feeling strange.” - “Don’t Let The Kids Win“