“Our rate of consumption and the rate of creativity are not running in anyway parallel. You record this album, and you take years writing the songs, and you take even more years just even getting to the point where you can write songs, and then you record it, and then you go through this entire PR thing to bring it out, and then you bring it out and I just feel like people are going to be like ‘cool’, listen to it, then: ‘nice, alright what else is happening?’ It’s like what!? That took me years. Shit!”
Welcome to Aussie chanteuse Julia Jacklin’s, sort of, quarter life crisis.
We’re sat in a lifeless grey meeting room at the Berlin office of her record label, Pias. We’re here to talk about Jacklin’s debut album Don’t Let The Kids Win, now that she’s set to join the ranks of Australia’s recent musical resurgence, spearheaded by the likes of King Gizzard, Tame Impala and Courtney Barnett. Jacklin’s debut is a collection of thoughtful, country-tinged folk or folk-tinged country songs that intimately examine a life still unfurling. It already feels timeless.
What you won’t know from listening to the songs is that they owe a lot to Miss Britney Jean Spears, specifically a random documentary Jacklin saw, by chance, as a kid.
“It’s a strange beginning, but It’s totally true. I still remember sitting on that couch and watching that Britney documentary and being like, ‘Shit, you gotta get to work, she’s already winning awards and on TV and a celebrity and she’s only eleven’. That really made me get singing lessons.”
Born in the rugged New South Wales region west of Sydney known as The Blue Mountains – literally loads of epic mountains and dramatic scenery – Jacklin is charmingly sincere, properly funny, with a the kind of effortless charisma that doesn’t require bells and whistles.
Splitting her time between her parents, Jacklin says growing up “wasn’t a very remarkable childhood”. Embracing the limited opportunities on offer, she joined the local dance school – even though she was super bad at dancing, and enrolled in high school musicals. “I never got a main role or anything,” she laments, “I was just in the chorus and always wanting to get the main role but I never did. I floundered a bit because I wasn’t very good at the things that were on offer.”
Getting out of the mountains changed everything for her. “Starting to go to high school in the city and meeting new people and meeting people who had parents who were musicians, that blew my mind. Even meeting people at school who were 16 or 17 and were like, “We’re in a band, we play in bars” and it was just like, “WHAT!? You’re the coolest person I’ve ever met in my life!” The only time I’d ever played in a band was playing Avril Lavigne and Evanescence covers at the local church comp.”
Jacklin wound up studying to be a social worker. Struggling with guilty feelings about jacking in school to put her musical endeavours first, she felt like it was a selfish move to write about her emotions instead of choosing to help other people. In the end she did quit and found herself working part time on a factory line for essential oils. Determined, she wrote a bunch of songs and headed to New Zealand’s Sitting Room Studios to record the album with producer Ben Edwards.
“I recorded it and then I came home and I went back to my factory job and I didn’t have a manager or a label at that point or anything. I didn’t feel very good about that – I suddenly felt like, “What if I don’t get any support for this?” I put so much into it financially and emotionally.”
Thankfully that support was found and Jacklin has released that first collection of songs. Don’t Let The Kids Win isn’t your typical breakup record, instead it’s about growing older, worrying about multiple things like not achieving the right stuff and failing at relationships with people – your parents, siblings, friends, partners. Just don’t call it a crisis!
“It’s about realising that you’re not going through a very special thing,” she shrugs. “You think when you’re younger, “Oh my god I’m dealing with all this stuff and it’s so dramatic” but then you realise that everyone goes through the same shit really. Get over yourself! You’re going through the basic stages of human life. That’s what it’s about, it’s not some freaked out person who is flailing around. I’ve just been a normal twenty- something person who is going through normal things and just happens to be singing about them in a certain way. Maybe it’s not a quarter life crisis, maybe it’s a quarter life realisation period.”
Is it actually a blessing to not be 16 and releasing your debut? Do you feel better equipped to articulate yourself?
“When I see artists who are 18 and they’re touring and super famous I’m like, ‘Woah, you’re experience of life is so different to most people’s’. I think it would be quite scary to be doing this. Especially doing press. If people were asking me these questions when I was sixteen I would’ve just said some pretentious, stupid, narcissistic bullshit. So I’m very glad I’m able to think properly, even though I’m tired and jet lagged at least I’m not an asshole anymore.”
One of the tracks on the album, Pool Party, is an undulating shuffle that seems to be about a disappointing lover who turns up high to a pool party, is about a true life experience?
“It’s the kind of song where you blend quite a few things that happened into one narrative. I was a Girl Guide and my mum was the leader, so we used to have pool parties at my house because we had a pool. I just remember – this isn’t exactly what it’s about – but my neighbour, he had a friend who was a bit older than us, and he was just a bit creepy. I remember he just used to always suddenly be at the pool with his towel being like, “Hey guys I didn’t realise you were all here having a party,”’ and there’s all these pre-pubescent girls swimming around… he was probably 13 or 14 but it was always just a little, what are you doing? I ran into him at a pub like 2 years ago. He’s turned into an interesting character.”@JuliaJacklin